The notion of idolatry sometimes seems like a foreign, Old Testament concept, yet it’s all around us. And I’m not only referring to worshiping statues.

The other day Eldest turned on one of those network TV music talent shows. I actually enjoyed the program. The judges and producers were encouraging, helpful, and kind, even in the face of contestants’ defeat. It was obvious the judges cared about mentoring singers to further their careers.

But while we watched, my heart smoldered at some of the contestant’s comments to the judges. One contestant said something like, “All my life, you are, have always been, my idol.”

On the surface that might sound like a sweet sentiment. In our culture sometimes people make the term idol synonymous with admiration, enjoying, or appreciation. But all too often, people take their appreciation too far. In this case, from the context, the contestant went beyond appreciating the judge’s talent. She worshiped it, desired it, wished to emulate it, and had her hope placed in the hands of another human.

Dictionary.com defines idolatry as “excessive or blind adoration, reverence, devotion, etc.” In my own mind, idolatry happens when we elevate another person to a place that only belongs to the one true God. And it’s an easy trap in which to fall.

People can make idols (gods) of anything in which they put their hope. Our hope should be on the Lord, not on people. When a person puts excessive amounts of focus and even admiration upon another person or an object, it becomes worship. Our worship–i.e. the things to which our hearts are devoted–belongs to the Lord only.

After the contestant made the idol comment, I asked Eldest about it. She could see it wasn’t a good statement to make, and even commented on how it bothers her when girls her age are consumed with/fanatical about rock stars or actors, but in her life the term idol has been used so casually, she wasn’t sure why it was a big deal.

I used a popular musician as an example. It’s OK to like his music and to appreciate his talents, but it deteriorates into idolatry when:

• Appreciation turns to constant thinking about (worship) and fantasizing about that person.

• A person is elevated above their status as a mere human into someone who is larger than life and becomes god-like in people’s eyes.

• A person’s hope, and other aspects of their life, revolves around meeting, seeing news stories about, and looking at pictures of the star/object of admiration.

• Instead of appreciating and enjoying a person’s talent they become an object of deep desire and worship.

In the case of contestants on that particular show, the “star” becomes more than a mentor and guide. They become an object in which a person places all their hopes.

The place of deep admiration, desire, worship, adoration, and hope that lives in our hearts belongs to God and God only. When this is taken out of its proper place, it is not only idolatry, it is a place of emptiness that will only return heartache. Another person, no matter how talented or kind or whatever one admires, cannot fulfill another human’s hopes and dreams, nor can they answer prayer or change a heart. Only Jesus can do that.

How about you? Do you think idolatry is more rampant than we realize? What steps do you take to guard your children’s hearts (and your own)?