Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the Lord your God.(Leviticus 19:4)
We read these prohibitions against idolatry, and too often we quickly pass over them. After all, idols are nothing more than man-made stone statues or carved pieces of wood, right? While idols can be created by human hands, idol worship is far more pervasive and serious. Idol worship is dangerous because an idol is anything we elevate and worship above God in our hearts.
Idols come in many different shapes and forms. Some idols are made of wood. Others are made of metal. But in western culture, some idols are even made of flesh and blood. Because in America, we’re tempted to idolize our children.
You may be thinking — correctly — that the Bible teaches children are a blessing from God. Children indeed are a blessing (cf. Psalm 127:3-5). Children are not the problem, and having children is not the problem. However, when we elevate children from a good thing to be celebrated to a god thing to be worshiped, we begin to dip into the dangerous waters of idol worship.
Many of us have been swimming in these dangerous waters, and we are not even aware of it. Here are four symptoms of a heart that has idolized children.
Symptom #1: Parents believe their children can do no wrong.
Our culture tempts us to believe that our children are in a state of perfection. American parents may not say it outright, but we often act like our children are incapable of messing up, sinning or doing wrong. When our children do wrong, we parents may try to shift the blame to another source.
When we act and think this way, we insinuate that our children are sinless beings.
Symptom #2: Parents believe their children have ultimate authority.
Children seem to run the show both inside and outside the home. Children that are worshipped as idols have absolute power. They determine what they want to do and what they do not want to do. They dictate their schedules, and if they don’t like a person that tries to hold them accountable, parents make sure that the other person changes in order for their child to get their way. A child that is worshipped will even tell the parents where and when they want to worship at a local church.
With this symptom, God doesn’t have the ultimate authority; our children do.
Symptom #3: Parents believe their relationship to their children is supreme.
The idol worship of children means that children are the supreme relationship in the life of the parents. This typically is observed as the best-friend parent model. Parents who worship their children place their children above growing in their relationship with God and with their spouse in order to be a best friend or “cool” parent.
Parents who idolize children make the relationship with the child their only focus in life.
Symptom #4: Parents believe they must sacrifice everything for their children.
Idols always require some type of sacrifice to be appeased. Parents who idolize their children spend everything they earn (plus some) to generate materialistic happiness in their children. They will sacrifice all of their time and energy to make their kids successful in some type of worldly pursuit like sports, music or academics. No resource is spared to elevate the success and happiness of their children.
Parents who idolize their children are unable to say the word, “No.” Instead, they sacrifice everything at the altar of their children.
Moving Beyond Idolatry
So what’s the solution? The solution is that we repent of the idolatry of children and place Jesus Christ back on the throne of our hearts. We must remember that Jesus Christ alone is sinless and that his sinless sacrifice on our behalf makes him the only worthy object of our worship. We must affirm that Christ has been given all authority and that his divinely inspired Word is the ultimate source of authority worthy of submission.
We must live out our faith through obedience to his authority, not the authority of our children.
Our relationship with our children is only temporary, but our relationship with the Lord is eternal. Thus our relationship with our children should never top our relationship to God — or even our relationship to our spouse.
We must sacrifice ourselves to live for Jesus Christ even in our parenting. This means that we are to raise our children in the ways of the Lord. We must sacrifice our lives to God, and teach our children that a life of dying to self for the glory of God is more satisfying than success or materialism.
As we begin to repent of our child idol worship, the world will see a gospel-driven type of parenting that may in fact be used as a tool for sharing the gospel to a world that is watching. We will parent with grace, instruction and biblical wisdom. The world will see that we don’t serve the idol of children, but the resurrected Jesus Christ that reigns on the throne of our hearts. The world needs to see our hearts shout to the Savior who is the sole object of our worship.
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power, and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! (Revelation 5:12)
This article originally published on Jan. 23, 2017.