Do you ever wonder why we do the things we do?
And yet, we’re not so different from the Israelites who did really dumb things at times.
Of all the biblical examples of what not to do, the one that seems the most brainless might be the one we are most likely to imitate. It’s the story in Exodus 32 of the Israelites worshipping a golden calf after witnessing overwhelming evidence of the one true God.
While you and I are not about to melt down our jewelry and make a statue and start worshipping it, we sometimes give up what is important to us to prioritize the temporary, worthless things of this world. We tend to spend money on things like expensive cars, high-tech devices, beautiful homes, or name-brand handbags, and then invest our time and energy and more money to keep them safe, secure, and spotless. Anything we love, think about, or serve (with our energy and time) can become a “golden calf” in our lives. Anything that we raise up, revere, desire, or consider more valuable than our relationship with God, can become an unintentional object of worship.
You and I can unknowingly worship success, productivity, fame, the approval of others, or anything we strive for more than our spiritual growth and our closeness with God.
Sometimes we make our children or grandchildren our golden calf when they become our priority and we stress about their health, their wellbeing, and their happiness, more than we desire to please God by trusting Him with their lives.
We can also put a husband or relationship in that position of worship if we heed their desires over God’s, seek to please them more than we seek to please God, or simply desire them more than we desire God, Himself. We can even put men in the position of God, expecting them to meet all our emotional needs and expectations, instead of letting God meet our emotional needs.
At times, work takes the throne of our lives because it creeps into the no. 1 spot on our priority list and consumes our time and energy and we put everything else beneath that. Maybe money is your golden calf because how much you have (or don’t have) determines your security or contentment level, or because every ounce of energy you have is going toward making more, paying off debt, or saving up for something you desperately want.
How can we identify and eliminate the golden calf in our lives?
- Ask God to show you daily who—or what—is most important to you.
Jesus said the greatest commandment was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
One way to do that is to pray, “God, how is my heart before You today? Are you still my top priority and in the place where you should be?” Then seek to love Him first and foremost and all the other things will fall into place (Matthew 6:33), including being less likely to worship anything or anyone else but Him.
2. Assess what you worry—or spend most of your time thinking—about.
Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, Luke 12:34). If your heart and mind are consumed with worry about your children or obsessing over your body image or weight or the number of followers you have on Instagram, that will tell you a lot about who and what you worship.
Colossians 3:1-3 tells us to set our minds on things above. If you are longing for Jesus, longing for Heaven, and living with eternity in mind, you clearly have God in the right place and there isn’t a chance you’ll be erecting a golden calf and worshipping something temporary or far less worthy than Him.
3. Acknowledge Him moment-by-moment through praise and thanksgiving.
When you daily praise the Almighty, you are reminding yourself that He is God and you are not. First Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Being thankful for all things keeps us in perspective and reminds us that everything we have has been given to us. That humble and grateful mindset keeps us from worshipping anything other than Him out of a lack of contentment or feeling we should have more than we do.
For more on increasing your desire for God so He becomes your all-in-all, see Cindi’s popular books, Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs, and Women on the Edge.
This was an absolute remarkable article. So easy to understand and really gets a person to thinking. Thank you so much for the work you do for us.
You’re welcome, Mary. Thank you for your kind, encouraging words. A Part 2 of this article will be coming in a couple weeks ago. Watch for it: “4 Ways to Keep Jesus on the Throne of Your Life.”
Excellent read! Thank you!
Thank you, Sherry. Always so good to hear from you. Hope you are doing well with all that God is bringing your way and hope you are still making time to write. 🙂
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of putting “things” before God. I know that my insecurity comes from a childhood where we were told to eat the last bit as children are starving in China (or India). I to this day eat small meals but adequate as I know I need to avoid the trap of overeating leading to obesity. I now find that thanking God for ALL circumstances is the way to victory as I acknowledge that God will bring all difficulties into good for me. I don’t want to be plagued with ingratitude or despair, but put my trust in a loving and merciful Abba Father.
Thank you for that beautiful comment, Kathleen. Cultivating a heart of gratitude will really keep our perspective that God is the One who deserves our love, priority, and worship. Thanks for your insight. 🙂
I truly needed this Cindi as a reminder, thank you 🙏
I struggled with this when moving into a house I had rented from a Christian man (found out meth dealer), the house was infested with cockroaches, mice, German cockroaches all over, cricket and drain fly infestation, slug in my hallway, wet walls, broken heat, AC, wet walls and yellow spots on my bedroom ceiling (mice urine). My life truly ended moving into this home. I found it extremely difficult to praise my Lord for this situation, crying out often to Him. I felt and do still have “left over guilt” for not praising Him for all. I realize there are much worse situations.
Linda, thank you for your response. While we are commanded to praise God in all things, He also wants us to cry out to Him for everything we need, including the deliverance you needed from that living situation. “Left over guilt” is not from God as there is no condemnation (or guilt feelings) in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Sometimes we get the idea that we must endure everything and live miserably. But we are still heirs of the King when we are trusting in Christ Jesus. I truly believe as we are obedient to thank Him in all things, but also rely on Him in faith for what we need, He honors that obedience and surrender and He delivers and redeems the situation. Let go of that “leftover guilt” and focus on praising Him for all He has and continues to do in your life. He has removed your past from you, so you can live in your present and bright future with Him. Have a beautiful day in the newness of Christ Jesus. 🙂