You are currently viewing Recognizing Modern Idolatry 9: The Idol of Family Relationships, Part 1 

Recognizing Modern Idolatry 9: The Idol of Family Relationships, Part 1 

Recognizing Modern Idolatry Day 9: The Idol of Family Relationships, Part 1

[An overseer] must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? … Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. … I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:4-5,12,14-15, ESV)

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he is giving instructions about how believers are supposed to relate to each other as members of a local church and how to select and equip leaders who will be able to guide their congregations. Listed in the qualifications for both elders and deacons is the requirement to be faithful husbands and proper managers of their households and children. This may seem out of place in an epistle about the church, but the proper functioning of the family is vital for the proper functioning of the local church. Paul is drawing a clear connection between the household of God and the Christian’s household; by respecting godly male leadership, God must be honored, worshipped, and obeyed in both contexts at all times. 

We will call the false god we are discussing today the idol of family relationships. You may wonder how we could possibly place too much value on our spouses and children. Doesn’t God want us to love them, honor them, protect them, and care for them above even our own lives? Yes. However, we idolize our families when we place them above God in our hearts, whenever we choose to do something that pleases them but dishonors God. The Word of God gives many examples of how husbands or wives can lead each other away from the Lord; it also gives many examples of how children can bring shame to their parents and to God Himself when they are not raised in a way that teaches them God’s law and character, or when they choose to disregard God’s Word and go their own way.

In our study, we will look at King Solomon’s misplaced affection for his wives that led him to idolatry, and Eli’s misplaced affection for his sons that led him to idolatry. Both of these men who served as political and spiritual leaders of God’s people ended their lives under His judgment and permanently marred their legacies through disobedience. If you are not familiar with the circumstances surrounding the end of their lives, you can read about Solomon’s departure from God in 1 Kings 11:1-4 and 9-11 and about Eli’s departure from God in 1 Samuel 2:12-17 and 22-35

We all probably know of a Christian who was led into destructive sin by choosing a spouse that did not know or love the Lord. These stories are heartbreaking, particularly when they involve people we love and have long admired. But, can you imagine watching a believer you love marry 1,000 women who you knew to be idolaters? This is what God saw as He witnessed Solomon’s heart wandering away from Him to pursue the love of heathen women and their made-up deities. No wonder God was angry! Despite being blessed by God with unsurpassed wisdom and wealth, despite being honored with the task of building God’s temple, and despite being given a reign of peace and prosperity, Solomon chose to leave the God who gave him everything for idols who could give him nothing. He left because he cared more about what his wives wanted than about what God commanded. 

Similarly, Eli the high priest earned God’s judgment by caring more about protecting his own sons than he did about protecting the house of God from wickedness. Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were so wicked that they corrupted the offerings at the temple, stole from the people, and even slept with the women who came there to worship God. Eli’s job was to keep the people pure before a holy God, but his weak attempts to confront Hophni and Phinehas about their sin—sin that was known by all the people—fell far short of what God required. God demanded holiness, and unless the two priests repented and turned back to God, they should have been removed from their role and from Israel, and potentially even executed for their immorality. 

Tomorrow we will continue our study by discussing some lessons we can learn from these sad examples and applying them to our own lives.

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