Idolatry. Likely, when this word comes up there are thoughts of Indiana Jones replacing the golden statue with a bag of sand — what? Just me. Okay. What about Heston yelling at the bottle tan extras fawning over a golden calf in Technicolor? A little closer I guess.
Okay, a dictionary definition is useful here.
noun plural noun: idolatries
love, or reverence for something or someone.
synonyms: idolization, fetishization, fetishism, idol worship, adulation, adoration, reverence, veneration, glorification, lionization, hero-worshiping
What the dictionary doesn’t tell you is that it’s a sin. God was so angry Moses had to talk him down from wiping out all the Israelites for distinctly the first definition. Exodus 20:3 is pretty clear about this — No. Other. Gods.
The second definition holds a lot more subtlety. In English, the word idol is often used in exchange with hero and the verb idolize has come to mean “look up to”. This is where synonyms are helpful. Glorification. Fetishization. These are unhealthy mentalities that get closer to the concept. Still, I think we can do better with the definition.
What I want to discuss is idolatry as the selfish sin of substitution, the devotion to worshiping something or someone in place of God — I want to discuss the idolization of marriage.
Like so many sins, it seems to have begun with something good. Culturally, we had lost some desire for traditional values. In fear they would be lost completely, churches placed an emphasis on their importance. However, it’s clear now this emphasis has tipped into idolization itself and is alienating so many strong Christian singles who feel unappreciated, under valued, or unseen.
Clearly there are secular reasons at play too. You only have to watch a few episodes of Adam Ruins Everything (I recommend this one on weddings) to realize how much we’ve changed marriage from being between two people to between two people, the hundreds of guests, expensive dress, engagement ring, groom’s cake, wedding shower, and custom hashtag. Yikes.
But if you can afford it, opulence isn’t what God hates, it’s anything that separates us from him. When we put the desire to be married above the desire to struggle with what God wants us to struggle with, it’s a sin. When we’re willing to sacrifice our morals for the chance at a wedding, it’s a sin. When we focus on the wrong things, act as if the goal is the wedding day and not the married life — it’s a sin.
To be loved because someone chooses to love you, entirely of their own free will, completely outside of your control, is second only to choosing to love someone else for the same reasons. Idolatry isn’t centered on this kind of love. It’s controlling. It says, if I get what I want, then I will be happy. This isn’t just bad for you; you can hurt others with expectations, demands, and a miserly spirit. Idolatry is the selfish desire to have your needs met out of the fear that they won’t be, that God won’t provide.
Exodus 32:1 (MSG)
“Make Gods for Us”
When the people realized that Moses was taking forever in coming down off the mountain, they rallied around Aaron and said, “Do something. Make gods for us who will lead us. That Moses, the man who got us out of Egypt—who knows what’s happened to him?”
It’s easy to see the sin of idolatry when it’s in the form of a golden calf. But replace that statue with the worshipfulness of statusdom. Dating. Engaged. Married. Rings. Dresses. Honeymoon. This fetishization goes beyond the union itself to the way we see the opposite sex in our lives — as our own romantic fulfillment instead of fallible and imperfect equals with their own wants and needs and we get to choose to love them anyway.
No one’s identity should be contained solely in a marital status and I tell you this, God won’t be second.