Can I Idolize What I Prioritize?

I made a comment Sunday about how we can idolize what we prioritize and received a couple of questions. After I had written that line for my sermon, someone passed on a blog post to me that may help answer the question.

The blog post is called "Can I Love My Child Too Much?" You can see the original article HERE.

But here is is reposted:

Can I love my child too much?

A number of years ago, as a homeschool mother, I sat with some ladies
offering comfort and encouragement to another mom we knew who wanted to
homeschool, but whose husband was against it. She would not go against
his wishes, but it was hard for her. This woman was certain that her
life as a mother was doomed to failure unless she homeschooled. An
older and wiser woman commented saying, "Be careful that you don't let
homeschooling become an idol."

This was not something I had really considered before. As I thought
more and more about it in the ensuing weeks, I did see how homeschooling
could become an idol. Furthermore, as time went on, I began to see that
our children, themselves, can become idols in our hearts. This is not
an attempt at an in depth discussion of the topic; that is beyond the
scope of any one blog post. I do want to share, though, some thoughts
about the reality that our children can become idols.

Idolatry is a sin; we know that. The first two of the Ten Commandments make this clear (Exodus 20:2-7).
In Exodus 32 when Aaron and company proceeded to make an idol of gold,
God's anger burned against them. We are not to worship anything but
God. Our lives are driven by what we worship; if it is not God, it is
surely something else. For some, it might be success; for others, it is
money and possessions; some are driven by the praise of men, or even
something as inconsequential as having an home that looks like something
out of a magazine. And yes, for some, it can be their own children. The point is, something rules in our hearts, and unless it is God, it
is an idol.

We love our children. We sacrifice for them. We stay up late with them
while they are sick, tend to them and nurture them. We have
inexpressible joy in them. Normally sedate women will become ferocious
lionesses when someone wants to hurt their children. There is spiritual
blessing in having children. It is not wrong to love our children.
However, sometimes, as we love them, it is difficult to see when we
have crossed the line and begun to love them more than God. Ultimately
what happens is that their happiness and our good relationship with
them becomes more important to us than our righteousness, our obedience,
and our relationship with God. The result is sin as we seek to serve
our child who has become more important to us than our God.

When our children are more important to us than God, authority in the
home is affected. Unless a husband shares his wife's tendency, there
will be inevitable conflict between husband and wife.  It also creates
an unhealthy relationship between child and parent. A child needs love,
teaching, and discipline from his mother and father, not worship.
Aside from the obvious assault on God's holiness, idolizing a child can
poison a family's relationship. In the end, a child will not thank you
for setting him up an idol; he will resent you. No human being can
take the pressure of being the centre of someone else's worship.

How do you know when this is happening?  What are some signs that we may
be making an idol of our children? This is not an exhaustive list, but
here are a few thoughts.
 

1. You excuse your child's bad behaviour. It's always
someone else's fault. You excuse their sin instead of addressing it.  You don't believe your child would ever lie to you or do what that
person said he did. You blame the youth group for not teaching them
better or their teachers for polluting their minds.
 

2. You can't bear it when they are angry with your discipline. When you do impose consequences and boundaries, and they react badly,
you try to appease them because you don't like their anger. You don't
like the conflict.  You will go out of our way to avoid it, even if it
means neglecting to impose a godly standard.

3. You try to shield them from mistakes. As they get
older, you interfere with giving them freedom to try and fail at things.
You jump in and fix things before they have to deal with the
consequences. This may take the form of constantly intervening with
people to whom your children are responsible, like a teacher or a
leader. Instead of letting them take responsibility for something, you
micromanage how they handle it so that you don't have to see them fall.

4. You struggle to let them go. Now, I realize that
releasing our children to be independent is hard. I've done it three
times now, and it was hard every time. However, when the grief begins
to infiltrate other areas of our lives, and incapacitates us, we're in
trouble. If God cannot fill the spaces they've left with their absence,
we have to wonder where our true worship lies.

In all of these situations, the root of the problem is that we are
looking to our children to fill what God is meant to fill. Our hearts
were meant for one God, and one God alone.  If our
children replace Him, we are putting ourselves at risk, and putting them
on a pedestal.  When they fall, which they inevitably will, it will
devastate us.  We are not called to neglect our children, but to love
them.  That, however, does not include loving them above God Himself.

Perhaps this notion seems ridiculous to you.  After all, can we ever love our children too much? 
Perhaps you can't believe that anyone would do such a sinful thing.
All I can say to that is, "been there, done that." Perhaps I am the
only one foolish enough to get caught up in such a business. I suspect
not, though. I am not unique by any stretch of the imagination. As
painful as this revelation was to me, and as difficult as the fallout
was, I learned so much about God's grace; more than I'd ever seen
before. And it takes God's grace for us to love our children as we
should.

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