When we hear the word “idol,” our mind usually goes to wooden statues or golden calves in the Old Testament. In the Bible, idol worship seemed to be a recurring problem for God’s people. Is “idol worship” an issue today? Do God’s people still struggle with ascribing worth and worship to created things rather than the Creator Himself? Absolutely!

The wooden statues have turned into lake houses and season tickets to college football games. The golden calves are now manifested in little league sports, school activities and family get-togethers at Grandma’s. I have noticed the most common idol facing our society is family. Sadly, many do not have the right understanding of the proper role family (biological and spiritual) should play in the Christian life. Instead, many have (perhaps unknowingly) placed family on a platform above or equal to the worship of God (private and corporate).

Just like all other idols, unless family plays a submissive role to God, it will destroy a Christian’s walk with Christ and rob the family of what it needs most: to see mom and dad, grandpa and grandma living out their faith by loving God and loving people.  

God is pro-family. One of the major factors facing American society is the breakdown of the family. Our culture desperately needs a revival of gospel-centered families. God never calls us to renounce our earthly families; rather, He calls us to place Himself as the top priority in life. Here are a few questions that might help one diagnose whether family has become an idol:

• How often do you choose to miss church worship services for family events? Has it become a consistent pattern?

• Which would you rather have: A straight “A” student who earns a scholarship or a child who becomes a strong and growing follower of Jesus?

• When crisis arises, what brings you more contentment: prayer or having a close family member to talk to?

• Which excites you more on Sunday: worship with your faith-family or lunch with your blood-family?   

• What factors led you to your current church: your kids being happy and going to church with their friends or everyone growing deeper in their faith?

• Who do you seek approval from the most: your earthly parents or your heavenly Father?

• Is it easier to talk with an unbeliever in your family or a fellow Christian at work?

• Does talking about this subject upset you? Do you feel yourself becoming angry and defensive? Or, are you truly searching the depths of your heart?

One of the clearest verses in the Bible on this topic is Luke 14:26. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.”

Of course, He is using hyperbolic (exaggerated) language to emphasize His point. But His point is clear, isn’t it? How strong is your allegiance to Him? How total is your devotion? How far are you willing to go to follow your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

Andy Waits is associate pastor over students and recreation at First Baptist Church-Springville.