Functional Hells, Heavens, and Saviors

I tend to think and talk about idolatry a lot. Here in this blog, in lessons I teach, and in my personal conversations. That’s because my heart, like yours, is an “idol factory.” And it’s a pro at it.

One of the more helpful thoughts on idolatry in my personal walk comes from Mark Driscoll. He points out that we all have functional hells, the place or existence which if we had to endure would be the most terrible thing we could imagine. For some it’s loneliness, for some poverty, for some anonymity.

We also have functional heavens, usually something close to the exact opposite of our functional hell. Possibly popularity, wealth, respect, or pleasure.

But we’re all smart enough to realize that we can’t attain our functional heavens all on our own. We need help. So we enlist functional saviors to get us from our functional hells to our functional heavens. Maybe it’s a relationship or a new home.

Here’s how this plays out for me: one of my biggest fears is that I’ll die and no one will notice. You know the obituary in the paper which is short and includes little information coupled with the funeral with only eight people in attendance, none of which needing tissues. That’s my functional hell.

So my functional heaven is being known, respected, liked. I want to make a mark on people’s lives so that I’ll be missed when I’m gone. I want people to notice and honor me.

My functional savior then quickly becomes people’s perceptions of me. Do they think I’m funny, smart, well spoken? Was that leader meeting run well enough, is my son well behaved enough, is this blog applicable enough? What will everyone think?

For others of you it’s a relationship which will rescue you from loneliness and place you in wedded bliss. For some it’s a new car, clothes, or house which will save you from being a run-of-the-mill fellow to a person of influence who people want to be like.

But here’s the catch…I said earlier that we “enlist” functional saviors to help us. And this undoubtedly what we intend. It’s like hiring an intern to get us over that hump. But functional saviors (idols) are never simply enlisted for very long. It may start out that way, but quickly the intern/boss relationship has been flipped on its head. They inevitably turn into our masters which we must serve and sacrifice for.

Women who want companionship find a nice boy to date, but soon she sacrifices her body sexually to him for fear that he’ll leave. Businessmen who want notoriety commit themselves to working hard to accomplish their goals, but eventually they’ve sacrificed their wife and kids for the long hours have now taken over nights and weekends.

We can only serve one master. We will either serve God or our idols.

And more importantly, we only have one savior. It’s not money. It’s not success. It’s not notoriety. It’s Jesus Christ.

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