Most days I spend as a referee. I intervene in squabbles and arguments. I settle disputes. At times, I even prevent all-out wars. And on really bad days, I cast off my referee’s striped garb and jump into the ring myself, arguing right alongside my kids. If you have children, it’s likely that you are a referee as well. You might have even resorted to wearing a whistle and calling out penalties. Maybe you’ve thought to yourself, “What is going on around here?” and “Why is there so much conflict?”
The Idols of our Hearts
James speaks about the quarrels and fights we have in James 4:
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people!” (4:1-4)
What is the source of all our fights and quarrels, even those in our own homes? Our idolatry. We fight with one another because of the idols in our heart. This is true for our children as well.
n idol is anything we love and serve more than God. It doesn’t have to be constructed of wood or stone, as the idols spoken of in the Bible. The idols we most likely worship are things, success, money, affection, control, and the like. For our children, their idols might be fun, friends, toys, video games, being liked, and succeeding in sports or academics. Tim Keller defines idolatry as: “An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.” There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship” (from Counterfeit Gods, pages xvii-xviii).