The Problem of Making Good Things into God Things
Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” Isaiah 44:16-17 (ESV)
Here the prophet Isaiah methodically explains the folly of Israel’s idolatry: the problem of making “good” things “god” things.
To demonstrate this, Isaiah points out that the wood which a man uses to warm himself and which he uses to build a fire to cook his food is the very same wood which he carves into an idol to worship. This is an obvious folly! How can a practical, physical and tangible object that is meant for daily use ever amount to anything more than it actually is? Wood is simply wood.
We read these verses and are so critical of those Israelites. We say, “Look at those foolish people who worship those inanimate objects, and who carve images and worship them.” We puff ourselves up and think that we could never do the same. However, this is what happens every single day to Christians. Yes I said it – Christians.
We may not carve images out of wood, but we do make idols out of inanimate objects and the material things of this world. As difficult and painful as it is to admit, we actually retain the same folly as Israel in those times. We constantly make “good” things (career, education, entertainment, even other people) “god” things. As the saying goes, “The human heart is a factory of idols.”
We take these tangible, physical, and material things in our lives, the things that we use for practical and physical purposes, and we elevate them to god-status in our lives. You ask, “How can this be?” Martin Luther, the great reformer, said that “anything your heart clings to and confides in, that is your god.”
And I think our brother was correct. We can easily tell what our heart clings to by evaluating our practical walk. What do you invest your resources into – your emotions, time, and money? What are you investing these mostly in? When you face this question, you will soon see that there are things in your life which have taken god-status.
We see that this folly of idolatry is still very prevalent today in our own hearts, even in the hearts of the greatest saints. As long as this flesh remains, it will desire to elevate something greater than our Lord Jesus within our hearts. It’s imperative that we identify these idols that are taking precedent in our lives.
Ask yourself, “What could I not live without?” You will soon find out that we have the tendency to take the good and useful things in life and turn them into false idols. Like Gideon, we must break down the altar of Baal in our lives, and tear down the Asherah pole, that thing which has been elevated in our hearts as greater than our dear Savior. That thing that is consuming our resources, our effort, and our hearts.
It is only by gazing at the person and finished work of our Savior that our hearts are captivated and will no longer desire these counterfeit gods that can never bear the weight of our souls.
 John Calvin