What’s a family idol or household god? Does anyone still do that? Join AMBrewster to discover what your family idol may be and how you can dethrone it.
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Listen to the following episodes on Apple Podcasts by clicking the titles.
“Family Worship” series (starts in episode 191)
“How to Know if Your Child is Addicted" (episode 114)
“Parental Blindspots: Tim Challies Interview” (episode 35)
“Are There Failure Philosophies in Your Home?” (episode 61)
“The Most Potentially Destructive Influence in the Life of Your Child” (episode 42)
“5 Ways You Take God’s Job” (episode 22)
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I’m so glad you’re here with us today. I praise God for the families with whom He allows us to interact. Recently we’ve found that if you search “The Best Christian Parenting Podcasts” on Google, you will find that Truth.Love.Parent. shows up at the top of the list.
This has allowed us to connect with many new families, and every single time you subscribe or share or tell friends or search for us on Google or rate and review us, more and more people are able to discover us.
Now, I was talking to a listener recently and — though this wasn’t her intention — I was reminded about how repetitive the openings of our show are. I hope you long time listeners bear with me as I make similar opening comments each week, but with all these new parents joining us, it really is helpful to introduce them to who we are.
So, with that, if you’re just joining us today, I hope you feel welcomed, and I pray that you’ll find our content thoroughly biblical and thereby extremely practical and relevant to your parenting today.
Now, today’s episode title may sound anything but practical or relevant for any families in first world countries. But, if you stay with us, I believe you’ll discover that today’s topic is abundantly beneficial for all parents regardless of the size of their families or the ages of their children.
My name is Aaron Michael Brewster; I’m the husband of one, father to two, and surrogate dad for up to eight at-risk teenage boys every year. This year we hope to minister to our 51st teen boy in the past 5 years.
This podcast is an extension of my ministry at Victory Academy for Boys. It started as parenting resources for our Victory Families, but the Lord has allowed it to carry His Truth all over the world.
So, thank you for taking the time to join us today. And I only have two more things to mention before we can jump into our content.
The first is that we have Scott and Mindee to thank for making today’s episode possible. They are two of TLP’s Patrons. You can become a Patron for as little as $1 a month. It’s super easy and safe to donate to TLP. We utilize PayPal for all of those services. Just click on the “5 Ways to Support TLP" link in the description of this episode.
And lastly, please know that we produce free episode notes and transcripts for the vast majority of our shows. All you have to do is click on the link below to be taken to TruthLoveParent.com where you can find our blog, Taking Back the Family, as well as a bunch of other parenting resources.
Again, thank you for joining us; let’s talk about this idea of your “family idol.”
If you’re new to the show, some of these concepts will need explaining, and I do plan to review them. But you can also listen to our “Family Worship” series to have a better foundation for the content we’re studying today.
Any time I cite a previous episode, you will be able to find it linked in the description of this episode so you can find it easily.
Let’s start by looking at a passage from Zechariah.
In Zechariah 10:1-2 we read, “Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, from the Lord who makes the storm clouds, and he will give them showers of rain, to everyone the vegetation in the field. 2 For the household gods utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies; they tell false dreams and give empty consolation. Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd.”
All throughout the Old Testament we read about how the pagan countries and — frequently — the children of Israel would choose to worship idols made with hands. They may have been fashioned out of wood or metal or stone, but the Bible has some very descriptive and aggressive words for idols and the people who would worship them.
Of course, this tends to be foreign to those in Western civilization because comparatively few have any kind of this tangible idol worship in their family’s history. But it’s important for all of us to acknowledge that there are billions of people in the world who are actively worshipping statues and figurines or the gods they’re designed to represent. And many of them live in America or Europe or Australia or Russia.
It’s very real, and perhaps this has been a big part of your family past or personal upbringing. Maybe you even clicked on this episode because you’re intimately aware of the idea of family idols.
Well, I want this to be applicable to and helpful for every family regardless of your background. So, let’s start with a review discussion concerning the nature of idolatry so that we’re all on the same page.
I’m not going to quote and unpack all the Scriptures for this A. Because there are too many, but B. Because I did a ton of that in our “Family Worship” series. Surprisingly enough we also talked about this in GREAT detail in an episode called “How to Know if Your Child is Addicted.” That is an extremely important episode all parents need to hear, regardless of the age of your kids.
Here’s how it works. We’ve all heard messages about how people idolize things like money and power and sex and popularity and intelligence and sports, but — if you’re anything like I — then those similes never quite felt right. How many of you could ever picture yourself offering an animal sacrifice on an altar to a car? Or a sports team?
It seems silly not simply because pagan practices like that are foreign to many of us, but because it’s not really about the object. It’s not really about the car. It’s not really about the food. It’s not really about the sex or popularity. It’s not about what you give those things; it’s about what those things give you.
So, I like to use this illustration. God created all people to worship something. That one characteristic dominates our makeup. So, when we’re born we all have an altar in our lives. But this altar isn’t set up for something, it’s set up for someone. And that someone is self.
No one is born into the world praising and worshipping God. We all come out as pagan self-worshippers. And there’s no one else in the world who worships us. We’re the only ones.
So, until the day when we realize our position before God and submit to Him, the only thing we’re capable of worshipping is ourselves. And what do we offer on that altar? What do we sacrifice to ourselves?
We eat what we eat, wear what we wear, and drive what we drive because we believe it will satisfy us. It will make us happy. It will feel good. We hang out with the people with whom we hang out because we’re offering them on the altar to self. We take the money and power and popularity and put them on the altar to self because that’s what makes us happy. It makes us feel good.
But, praise God, the day He does a miraculous work in our heart and we accept His free grace through a saving relationship with Him, for the first time in our lives we have the ability to worship something other than ourselves.
But it’s not as if the first altar to self is torn down and replaced or repurposed. That first altar stays there, but the Holy Spirit builds a new altar in our lives. Now, for the first time, I have a choice. I can take my game system or my girlfriend or my favorite sport and I can offer it to self — like I’ve been doing my whole life — or I can enjoy those things to the honor and glory of God as an act of worship and a living sacrifice to Him.
Now, often we knowingly refuse to offer God what is due Him and we consume our lusts upon ourselves. James 4:3 reads, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
And sometimes we’re like Cain. We think we’re offering something to God, but it’s really more for us, and God’s not pleased because we’re telling God this offering is for Him as we set in on the altar to us.
But, by God’s grace and through His power, as we mature into the image of Christ, we become better and better at denying ourself, taking up our crosses, and following Him in obedience, and more and more of our lives are daily sacrificed to God.
Now, two interesting things happen when people die. The believer enters an amazing state where the first altar to self is completely obliterated, and all we have left is the altar to God. And by God’s grace we’re glorified and able to perfectly fulfill the purpose for which we were created for all eternity . . . the praise and glory and magnification of God.
But the unbeliever faces a much more dire situation. You may think after what I said about the believer, that the unbeliever is left with his altar to self for all eternity. That is not the case. The two things that make Hell what it is are: 1. Eternal separation from God. But 2. Because Hell is what it is, there is absolutely nothing there that anyone can offer on the altar to self. These creatures, created by God to worship something are eternally stripped from the ability to worship anything. They can’t worship God. They can’t worship self. And that is Hell.
So, when we talk of idols, the reality is that you are your own worst idol. Even pagan statues aren’t really the false god being served. Those statues and amulets and shrines are actually the items the unbeliever offers on their altar to self. Those things make the unbeliever feel good. They make the unbeliever think they’re doing what they need to do. But their final authority isn’t the rock, it’s their own mind convincing themselves that they need to burn that incense and sacrifice that animal.
Ken Collier says, “There are just two choices on the shelf, pleasing God or pleasing self.” I like to say, “There are just two choices on the shelf, worshipping God or worshipping self.”
So, you are your own idol. And the things you do, say, feel, think about, and desire are the things at your disposal that you can offer as an act of worship to yourself.
That means that everyone in your family is worshipping something because that’s how God created them. But whom are they worshipping?
Let’s say that they’re worshipping self, either because they’re not born again or because they’re saved sinners like the rest of us. At multiple points every . . . single . . . day, everyone worships themselves. So, it’s very valuable — as a parent — to determine what sacrifices your children regularly struggle giving to God.
Perhaps your kids are bossy. Maybe they struggle with lying. Maybe it’s sexual lust. Or perhaps they refuse to eat their vegetables. Those are all things your child regularly wants to sacrifice to himself or herself. And it’s the thing with which they regularly struggle for which they’re probably known — unfortunately.
But, today we don’t want to focus on the individual struggles. Today we want to focus on the Family Idols. That’s right. The idols for which the entire family is known.
In Genesis 31:19 and following we’re told about how Jacob and Rachel and Leah and their kids sneak away from Laban’s house. And we learn in verse 19, “Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father's household gods.”
Then, later in the chapter, we find that Laban has tracked down the runaways, and though he tries to guilt-trip Jacob for leaving without allowing him to stay goodbye to his daughters and grandchildren, and further tries to make him feel even worse by suggesting that he had been the best employer in the world, in verse 30 he asks, “And now you have gone away because you longed greatly for your father's house, but why did you steal my gods?”
And then he commences a search through all of Jacob’s things while Rachel conveniently hides them by sitting on them and complaining that she can’t stand up because “the way of women” was upon her.
Now, that’s an example of a bunch of figurines or tokens that Rachel and her family cherished because they were the family’s household gods.
What are your family idols; what are the items or behaviors that your family cherishes and regularly sacrifices on your own altars?
For those of you who prefer multiple choice options for questions like this, I suppose we can say that entire families can struggle with a certain sin just as easily as an individual can.
This means that an entire family can be made up of impatient, gossiping, gluttonous, hedonistic, complainers. Now, perhaps you have a family popping into your head as we speak because it seems that — no matter how large their family is — they all seem to struggle with the same things.
Now, can you take that same investigative eye and turn it toward your family?
Please allow me to start. My wife and I are both easily tempted to use caustic, cutting speech. Not surprisingly at all, our children struggle with that same approach to family talk. God forbid, those who know my family may find it easy to see that sin issue rise to the top because it can be exhibited in all of our lives.
Some families are very judgmental and pessimistic. Some are too passive and emotional. Some are disinterested and lack self-control. And some are arrogant and always believe they know what’s best.
So, what’s the point?
There are two realizations with which I want us all to walk away today:
1. The most detrimental idols in your family are the ones you all use in worship of yourselves.
And 2. You don’t know what you don’t know. If your family has a communal struggle with the same vice, it’s possible that none of you can see it.
Let’s deal with both of these observations at the same time.
Since Family Idols are the things with which most of your family members struggle, you can assume it started with you and your spouse. As your kids see you worshipping yourself with that idol, they will naturally want to worship themselves with that idol.
And since its second nature for you, it will be hard to see their struggle, and — if you do address it — not feel like a hypocrite while you do so.
Our very first Special Guest on Truth.Love.Parent. was Tim Challies. As he and I discussed parental blindspots, I asked about his family and if he knew what some of his own blindspots have been. He wisely responded that blindspots are things we can’t see.
He then went on to talk about how having loving community in your life is a fantastic place to discover your blindspots. Just like you can see the struggles in another’s family better than they can, other parents will likely be able to see your family’s struggles better than you can.
But sometimes we don’t have people who are equipped to see our struggles and help us through it. And even if they can see the household idols in our family, sometimes they unkindly think they’re being kind by not wanting to be honest with us.
So, what are some ways you can identify the family idols in your home? Ask yourself these questions:
What are some things that make everyone in your family angry when it’s taken from you?
What are some things that make everyone in your family afraid when it enters your life?
What are some things that make everyone in your family sad or depressed when it occurs?
Any time we have a sinful emotional response to a situation, we can know for certain that we’ve identified one of the items we use to sacrifice to ourselves.
Let me give you a personal example. When I was younger, I got very angry when people didn’t do things the way I thought they should. I would think they were stupid, and I would fight with them to get them to change the way they thought about the issue.
Why did I do that?
Even when I wasn’t with them my anger affected how I interacted with others. Why would another person’s choices make me so mad I couldn’t shake it?
Sometimes it was personal offense. I may have been annoyed they didn’t take my advice, but more often than not the root of my anger was fear for the individual. I believed I was right, and if they took a different path, it would hurt them. I was afraid about what would happen to them, and I communicated that fear through anger because I didn’t know how to handle it.
But what was I offering on the altar to self? I was offering the delusion of control. You see, I didn’t worship control. I worshipped myself by trying to control everything I could. If I valued something, I would want to protect it. If the person I valued started making choices I thought were bad, I would become afraid that this thing I wanted to control was slipping through my fingers.
Now, I have to admit that I came to these conclusions over much time and with the help of others, but it was so important for me to understand. I wasn’t sacrificing the genuine sovereign control to God. I was trying to offer sovereignty on the altar to self.
If your family is always pessimistic and judgmental, then it’s possible your family struggles with the sovereignty of God and the love of God. When we give God the trust that’s due Him, we will see the world and the events of our lives through redeemed eyes. We’ll see them as divine acts providentially bestowed on us for our conformity to Christ. That is a wonderfully beautiful Truth! How could we ever be pessimistic seeing the world through those lenses?
And if we’re being judgmental, then we’re offering sovereignty and judgey communication on our own altars because we’ve subconsciously deemed ourselves in God’s place to condemn. We need to relinquish that job back to God and trust Him.
Some episodes that may help with this are “Are There Failure Philosophies in Your Home?,” “The Most Potentially Destructive Influence in the Life of Your Child,” and “5 Ways You Take God’s Job.” Each of these episodes may help because they deal with struggles we all have that often go unseen. And since we have such a dramatic influence on our kids, it’s easy to assume that the things we sacrifice to ourselves will become the things our kids learn to sacrifice to themselves through our example.
But before we end today, I want to offer hope.
Yes, your sinful self-worshipping tendencies can and likely will easily be passed on to your kids. And it’s probably a decent bet that unless you’re paying close attention or have loving friends who are, you may be completely ignorant of the massive Family Idol in your house.
But there is hope.
Consider what God says about Josiah in II Kings 23:24. We talked about Josiah in the “Family Worship” series. Please check that one out if you haven’t already.
Josiah was one of only two Jewish kings who removed the high places from their own lives as well as did everything they could to remove the high places from the lives on his people.
But listen to how God describes his triumph: “Moreover, Josiah put away the mediums and the necromancers and the household gods and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem.”
His first step was to help his people out of their low tide by making it easy for them to do right and hard to do wrong. He identified the problem and worked to remove it.
But he also knew that to replace false worship, you must institute God worship. The passage continues, “[He did all those things] that he might establish the words of the law that were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord.”
As we honestly look at our lives, we must honestly compare it to what God says in His Word. Only then can we see ourselves for who we really are.
And listen to what God says about a king who tries to tear down the household gods by replacing it with the True God: “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.”
Isn’t that how we’d like God to describe our parenting?
Unfortunately, it was too late for Judah. Verses 26 through 27 read, “Still the Lord did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him. And the Lord said, ‘I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and I will cast off this city that I have chosen, Jerusalem, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there.’”
But that doesn’t have to be the fate of our families. Let’s address these Family Idols of self sooner rather than later. Let’s identify the sacrifices each of our families is prone to steal from God and offer to self. Let’s turn to the Lord and establish His Word in our homes.
Please share this episode with your friends, and join us next time for an extraspective look at National Family Day by observing “The Battlefield on Which the Family Will Be Lost.”
We’ll not only discuss the battlefield on which our families may be lost, but we’ll discuss tactics for winning the war for the spiritual safety of our family.
Josiah did everything he could, and it was wonderful, but it was too late. May we redouble our efforts — regardless of how much time we have left with our kids — to help them turn from the puny god of self and submit to the loving Creator of the universe.
So, to that end, I’ll see you next time.
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