May God purge my heart of idolatry, too

Bible zoomed in on Romans

I’ve been reading through the historical books of the Old Testament recently, reading account after account of the Israelites abandoning the Lord and chasing after false gods. I read through these accounts and often think about how easy it is for me as a 21st century reader to become arrogant. A chronological snob looking down at “primitive” people who worshipped gods of stone, wood, and metal.

It’s equally tempting to look around at the surrounding culture and identify the idols of those outside the Christian faith. Idols not necessarily made of silver and gold, but of power, prestige and progress.

And then it’s just as easy to look in one other direction: at the church itself, which often seems to chase after idols not dissimilar to the rest of the world. Some within the church want power as much, if not more, than anyone else. Some want ever-increasing platforms, and an extra zero at the end of the advance check or attendance figure.

But the place where I rarely look? My own heart.

I was doing some searching around through my archives and stumbled across this quote from Charles Spurgeon, which struck a nerve. Here’s what he wrote:

It is truly said that “they are no gods,” for the objects of our foolish love are very doubtful blessings, the solace which they yield us now is dangerous, and the help which they can give us in the hour of trouble is little indeed. Why, then, are we so bewitched with vanities? We pity the poor heathen who adore a god of stone, and yet worship a god of gold. Where is the vast superiority between a god of flesh and one of wood? The principle, the sin, the folly is the same in either case, only that in ours the crime is more aggravated because we have more light, and sin in the face of it. The heathen bows to a false deity, but the true God he has never known; we commit two evils, inasmuch as we forsake the living God and turn unto idols. May the Lord purge us all from this grievous iniquity![1. Morning and Evening, May 4 (morning reading).]

Why did cut a little deep? Because I want a lot of those things I mentioned above, too. I want the book deal. I want the influence. The security, the money, the comfort… those are really tempting, even when I know they would never be enough even if I got them. It struck a nerve because as much as I like to think of myself as a mature follower of Jesus, there is still much “grievous iniquity” to be dealt with. May God purge my heart of idolatry, too.

What a lottery can’t satisfy

US One Dollar Bills

I remember the first time I won a lottery ticket: I was 19, and for kicks, I purchased a random scratch ticket (I can’t remember the kind). To my surprise, I won $50. Now, at the time, $50 felt like a lot of money (though it wasn’t). So you know what I did? I blew it on a few more scratch tickets. And then I didn’t have $50.

I never habitually bought tickets—I wasn’t a part of the company lottery ticket pool, or anything like that. But every once in a while, I’d grab one just to see if maybe it was “the one”: the one that would take care of all my money problems, and maybe let me do something nice for my mom, too. The only problem was I never won, ever. I realize this was God withholding something that would not have been good for me now. But then, I didn’t acknowledge God. I didn’t worship him. I worshipped getting rich.

If I had one god, it was money.

I’m not saying I have this problem licked—I don’t. I’ll admit, there are days when my mind lingers a little too long on the what-ifs, all usually around the theme of “if I had a little more money…” But something pulls me back before too long: the realization that money is not what I serve. It is not what I want most. Christ is.

What money can’t satisfy, Christ does. The satisfaction I’m tempted to try to find in money can’t be found there. Instead, as the late theologian Notorious B.I.G. said so well, “mo money, mo problems.” But Christ satisfies and fulfills us in a way that no other person, no object, no ideal, nor anything else ever can.

It’s no wonder that Spurgeon wrote in The Saint and His Savior, “…love to Christ is ‘the best antidote to idolatry;'[1. quoting James Hamilton] for it prevents any object from occupying the rightful throne of the Saviour” (250). Money and earthly possessions cannot deliver what only Christ can. A winning lottery ticket—whether it’s $950 million or $90—won’t bring happiness in the end. Whatever pleasure it brings is fleeting. What pleasures Christ offers satisfy eternally.

It took me a long time to figure that out. To be honest, there are times when I still forget it. But the fact remains: what a lottery can’t satisfy, Christ can. He holds nothing back. He offers us the greatest gift of all–himself. And that is more than enough.

photo credit: She Works Two Jobs, The Boy Runs Loose via photopin (license)

The answer to our worship problem


One of the inescapable realities of human existence is we are all worshippers. We are always putting someone or something in the place of “ultimate” in our lives. And there’s no where where this is more easily seen in western culture than with celebrities.

We look at certain individuals, and we are in awe. We admire their talent; we enjoy the movies or TV shows or music in which they perform. We kind of wish we had their gifts (or at least their looks—remember “the Rachel”?). They promise to rescue us from the hell of our boredom with the ordinariness and obscurity of our own lives. We want to be known and important—and because that’s not going to happen for most of us, we are (somewhat) content to live vicariously through them. We read blogs or news sites that talk about new projects they’re involved with. But as time goes on, the boredom creeps back in. So the stories change from their work to their lives. And, voyeurism aside, we are enthralled, and our boredom is sent back into exile. But then it happens again: we start getting bored with the happy narrative. Soon, the tone of the reporting begins to change. We no longer have a happy picture of their lives:

  • We’re confronted with their revolving door relationships.
  • Then the ugly divorce.
  • Then the debilitating drug habit.

Before long, this person we so admired becomes a punch line. We mock and jeer as our would-be savior from our boredom is crucified. And once the spear has entered their side, we go off in search of our next savior.

This, in a nutshell, is what the Bible calls idolatry. It’s to take someone or something that isn’t God and worship him, her or it, despite these idols always over promising and under delivering. They simply cannot do what we ask of them. In idolizing celebrities, in treating them as being “more” than human, we are making them less. We dehumanize them, turning them into puppets and pawns to make us happy (or at least, help us forget about what’s going on in our own lives). And while they have power over our affections, they don’t control over our destiny. That’s the greatest lure of idolatry. We want to be the masters of our domain, and there is no fate but what we make. Ultimately, in worshipping people and things, we are kind of worshipping ourselves. Idolatry is all about us being in control of our own destinies. About being our own gods. All of us—every single person on the face of the earth, every person who has ever lived—are prone to doing this. And there isn’t a single person who is excluded from it.

This is where the message that the Bible contains is so important. It tells us of the problem of humanity—we worship the wrong things and we fail to worship the only one worth worshipping. And it shows us the lengths to which this God who created everything has gone to fix the problem. It tells us of how we were lured away from true worship by the promise of being like God in a way that we were never meant to (and could never actually be). It tells of how this world became the mess that it is even to this very day, as humanity pursued its own desires. As it chased after its sad substitutes for the fulfillment that only comes through our relationship with our Creator. And it tells us of how God, from the very beginning, perfectly planned the events of history to bring humanity back into relationship with him. And this plan all centered on a man named Jesus—a man who was also, somehow, God.

Jesus came into the world, born as we are (well, sort of) and lived as we do. Except not. See, the Bible makes some extraordinary claims about Jesus. It tells us that from before time began, he existed. It calls him the Word who was with God and was God. It tells us that this same Jesus’ mother became pregnant through a miracle (hence the “sort of” with being born as we are). He became hungry and tired. He probably got sick from time to time. But one thing we have no record of is Jesus ever doing or thinking anything wrong. Ever. Not even once. He never lied, stole, or dishonored his parents. He never mocked people behind their backs. He never once behaved hypocritically. When he looked at people, he always gave them the appreciation and respect they were due—never thinking too highly or too lowly of anyone. He taught thousands of men, women and children, and showed extraordinary compassion to them. He frustrated the religious leaders of his day, because he kept calling them hypocrites and liars. Despite being a celebrity, with an entourage numbering in the tens of thousands, he wasn’t interested in status and making a name for himself. He was a servant of all. The writers of the Bible tell us he performed incredible miracles—including healing the sick and raising the dead! He said things like believing in him was the only way anyone could have a relationship with God. More than that, he even claimed to be God. And for this, he was arrested, beaten and brutally murdered. But even the grave wasn’t enough to stop him, for it’s said that he rose from death just a few short days later and appeared to hundreds of people, as many as 500 at once!

In all he did and all he taught, Jesus showed us was what a life of true worship looks like, one that is devoted to the God who created us. A life that consistently denies our selfish desires to put us at the center of the universe, and instead forces much needed perspective back into our lives. And that perspective really comes when we figure out what to do with Jesus, because he is the answer to our worship problem. And because he is the answer to our worship problem, we have to do something with him.

This is why so many people want to dismiss or discredit him. This is why some people pretend he never existed at all, and claim the story of Jesus was cobbled together from competing mythologies. This is why some try to say that the earliest writings of Christians didn’t include all of this Jesus is God talk; that this was something that was added later (what we might call the purple-monkey-dishwasher effect). This is why others still try to add him to a pantheon of little gods and goddesses, of spiritual teachers from whom they can pick and choose what they like and ignore the jagged bits. But I’ve got to be honest, having tried all of those, I can safely say they’re unsatisfying answers.

They don’t work.

There’s really only one honest answer to the question of what to do about Jesus, and that is to worship him as God. This is what Christians do, however much we falter: we worship Jesus because Jesus is the way God fixed our worship problem.

The gospel wore us down


Sometimes I wonder if the apostle Paul would say if were to arrive in my city. I suspect it would be pretty similar to what he told the men of Athens, “I see that you are extremely religious in every respect” (Acts 17:22). But unlike the men of Athens, most hearers in London, Toronto, New York, or any number of North American cities would be shocked by these words. After all, we borderline pride ourselves on our irreligion.

Which may reveal just how religious we truly are.

The second commandment forbids God’s people from making idols for ourselves, “whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth” (Exodus 20:4). Many of us read this command, and think, “Don’t worship angels. Don’t make statues or carvings of animals, bugs, birds, fish or anything like that.” Then we look around our houses, smile a bit and say, “Nailed it.”

Which may reveal just how self-deceived we truly are.

What we fail to realize—both in our culture in general and as Christians in particular—is that true and false worship surround us. Idols are everywhere. We are always worshipping something, but it’s rarely the right thing.

Maybe that seems grim, or a bit too broad brush, but hear me out: in our culture as a whole, what are our idols? Celebrity. Sports. Money. Sex. Success… We give ourselves to the pursuit of these things. We work ourselves to death in pursuit of money and power. We devote ourselves to keeping track of the most minute details of the lives of movie stars. We whore ourselves out before the world on “reality” TV.

Before we too quickly give a hearty “amen,” or “Boo to The Bachelor,” let’s also consider the more subtle idols we’ve created in the church. We spend inordinate amounts of time worrying about attendance numbers. And so when lots of people show up, we feel pretty great. When there’s a dip, we feel like something’s wrong in the church. We elevate marriage and children to a place where those who are single feel like they’re second-class Christians, or guilty of some secret sin that not even they’re aware of. And then, there’s the idol that nearly destroyed me and my family: home ownership.

Before our oldest daughter was born, my wife and I worked at decent paying jobs that allowed us to comfortably pay for all our basic needs, our mortgage, plus have a little left over for some fun. When my wife went on maternity leave, money became tighter, but life was pretty manageable. And then we made the decision that Emily should stay home full time. And our income dropped again, down to about $36,000 per year.

And it hurt.

A lot.

While we learned to stretch a dollar pretty far, as our family grew money only got tighter. And, finally, we hit a wall: either we sacrifice our values and Emily goes back to work in order to keep the house, or we sell the house.

We sold the house.

That might sound like it was pretty easy, but it was anything but. During the years between being super-broke and putting up the sold sign, God was at work powerfully, especially through our reading of Scripture. We read Jesus’ words to “be ready for service” in Luke 12:35, and realized we weren’t. Where He was calling us to, we weren’t prepared to follow. And so He continued to work on us, convicting us of our unhealthy attachment to the idea that being a responsible adult meant owning a house. And in the end, we obeyed. Not because we were so great or wise or anything like that. We obeyed because, over the course of several years, the gospel wore us down.

That tends to be how God works on our idols.

The Holy Spirit continually challenges us to apply this command to our hearts. He brings conviction about the things that demand too much of our attention, when we turn good things into ultimate things. But as He brings conviction, He reminds us of the One who is better than any idol, even the really good things we enjoy.

He points us self-deceived, weak and weary people to Jesus. Jesus, the perfect worshipper, the One who never once made something more important than the Father. Who was always prepared to serve, and always obeyed, even to the point of death. This is who we need to run to when we run from our idols, because He’s the only One worth running to.

First published at The Gospel Project, May 2014. Photo credit: Sybren A. Stüvel via photopin cc

What makes a person divisive?

It doesn’t take an in-depth understanding of the New Testament to see an important truth:

God really isn’t pleased with divisive people.

A totally unexpected and mind-blowing truth, I know. In Paul’s day, there were many who were stirring up division and dissension; the super-apostles in Corinth, the Judaizers in Galatia, former ministry colleagues throughout the land who’d abandoned the gospel…

These are some of the examples of overtly divisive people—but you don’t have to be someone who’s openly defying the Lord and proclaiming a false gospel while seeking to destroy God’s people to be divisive.

Being divisive is a lot easier than you think. In fact, you might be a divisive person and not even realize it.

All it takes is a little bit of pride.

My wife and I both love to be right. And it’s usually over the most trivial matters. In our efforts to help ourselves recognize our behavior, we’ve given it a title: being the rightest person in the room. It’s a silly term, but it helps snap us back to reality when we’re getting ridiculous.

Imagine, though, if we didn’t do this. Our meaningless debates would escalate into a serious conflict eventually. We’d dig our heels in, refuse to give ground and, sooner or later, say something we’d regret.

That’s why we need safety measures in our lives. We need silly names to defuse our own goofiness. We need people who can call us on our guff and tell us to chill out.

This is what I’ve seen people desperately needing in the recent Driscoll ballyhoo, on both sides. The folks who are looking to lynch him need to look at themselves for a second. It’s not that the idolatry of celebrity isn’t a crucial issue (it is), but what does the response of many say about the state of their own hearts?

Remember the behavior Paul charged Titus to teach: “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:2). Does the delight some seem to take in thrashing this particular person online reflect this kind of attitude? Worse, do they think it’s really going to help him be responsive to legitimate concern and attempts at correction?

When you look at a guy like Driscoll, it’s not hard to make a case that he’s a divisive figure. In fact, he absolutely is that guy and should be held appropriately accountable.

But we also need to be careful, because, really—are the rest of us any better?

There’s a certain extent to which we’re all that guy.

The difference is, we just don’t get as much airtime, and it’s but by the grace of God that we are not also being torn apart by people who, arguably, care little to nothing for us as people. Who don’t necessarily want us to get better, but just don’t want us to have a voice anymore.

But we ought to remember that, as Paul says, all of God’s people “were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). This is what God rescues us from. Why sink back into that kind of divisiveness?

The Greatest Gifts Can Become Deadly Substitutes for God

The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18–20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.

Jesus said some people hear the word of God, and a desire for God is awakened in their hearts. But then, “as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). In another place he said, “The desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). “The pleasures of this life” and “the desires for other things”—these are not evil in themselves. These are not vices. These are gifts of God. They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God.

John Piper, A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer, 14-15.

HT: Adrian Warnock

Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller (Book Review)

In recent years Tim Keller, the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, has become quite a prolific author. And his latest offering may be his most important book yet. Counterfeit Gods explores the empty promises by the idols found in the human heart—sex, money, power, pride—and our only hope of experiencing true satisfaction and fulfillment in the gospel.

Why and How we Make our Counterfeit Gods

“[An idol] is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give,” wrote Keller (p. xvii). It’s a broad definition, but fitting because, as Keller wrote, “Anything in life can serve as an idol, a God-alternative, a counterfeit god” (p. xvi).

It’s easy for us to think about idols as being statues in a temple somewhere “over there” (wherever that is). But if it’s true that anything can be an idol, it’s not nearly so simple. “The biblical concept of idolatry is an extremely sophisticated idea, integrating intellectual, psychological, social, cultural, and spiritual categories.” (p. xix). Romantic love, sex, physical beauty, moral virtue, intellectual ideologies, profit, self-expression… “There are idols everywhere” (p. xxi).

They are the things we love, trust and obey, even at the expense of our relationship with Jesus. “Idols dominate our lives,” Keller wrote.

Throughout the book, Keller illustrates the insidiousness of idolatry through the biblical accounts of Abraham, Jacob, Zacchaeus, Naaman, Nebudchadnezzar and Jonah. The lives of each show us a pattern of idolatry:

  • For Abraham, his son Isaac had the potential to be a powerful idol
  • Jacob’s idol was love as illustrated by his obsession with Rachel and behavior reminiscent of an addict.
  • For Zacchaeus, it was money
  • For Naaman, success
  • Nebudchadnezzar, glory & power

And then there’s Jonah. His idols were perhaps the most complex of all

Revealing Our Hearts

Jonah had a personal idol. He wanted ministry success mor than he wanted to obey God. [He] was shaped by a cultural idol. He put the national interests of Israel over obedience to God and the spiritual good of the Ninevites. Finally, Jonah had a religious idol, simple moral self-righteousness. He felt superior to the wicked, pagan Ninevites. He didn’t want to see them saved. Jonah’s cultural and personal idols had melded into a toxic compound that was completely hidden from him. It led him to rebel against the very God he was so proud of serving. (p. 136)

As we read Keller’s exposition on each of these figures, we are forced to consider our own hearts. What has the potential to displace God as the One whom we love, trust and obey?

Jonah’s heart is laid bare as his rages against the Ninevites positive response to his preaching (and what a simple message it was: “God’s going to kill you. Bye.”). Instead of praising God for the mercy He shows, he laments and demands that God kill him.

“Jonah shows us that it is one thing to believe the gospel with our minds, and another to work it deep into our hearts so it affects everything we think, feel, and do,” wrote Keller. “He is still being largely controlled by idolatry” (p. 145).

So what happens to us when the stresses of life  become to much to bear? What is the true nature of my heart when the experience of life presses down on us? These are important questions—ones too important to not take time to consider. Pointing us back to Jonah’s story, Keller reminds us that the book of Jonah ends with a question:

God asks Jonah: “Shouldn’t your love be like mine? Will you come out of your self-absorption and idolatry and begin to live for me and for others?” We wait for an answer, and it never comes! Because the book ends. (p. 152)

So why don’t we get an answer? “It’s as if God aimed an arrow of loving rebuke at Jonah’s heart, set it a-fly, and suddenly Jonah vanishes, leaving us in it’s path” (p. 153).

The question for us is, when our idols are revealed, are we willing to change?

If we are, then we must look to the Ultimate Jonah and to his sign, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (p. 153)

Discovering the Solution to our Counterfeit Gods

Throughout Counterfeit Gods, Keller illustrates that idols cannot be simply removed: They must be replaced. But what will replace them? All too often, when we put an idol to death, another one crops up to take its place. So food might be replaced with physical fitness. A desire for the affection of a spouse with the attentions of children. But these will never satisfy. Idols must be replaced by God himself.

“If you uproot the idol and fail to “plant” the love of Christ in its place, the idol will grow back,” wrote Keller (p. 172). But even as we repent of our idolatry and grow in our love for Christ, it’s still a struggle. It demands patience. Putting idols to death is hard work but as Keller, quoting John Newton wrote,

I find that to keep my eye simply on Christ, as my peace and my life, is by far the hardest part of my calling. . . . It seems easier to deny self in a thousand instances of outward conduct, than in ceaseless endeavors to act as a principle of righteousness and power. (pp. 176-177)

But, the one who knows the difference between outward conformity and inward transformation is the one who “is on the road to freedom from the counterfeit gods that control us” (p. 177)

Counterfeit Gods will challenge you to discover which path you are on. Are you on the one that leads to freedom from the control of idols or the one that leads to the despair that comes from their empty promises?

Read the book. Engage the questions that will confront you and embrace the only hope we have for freedom from our counterfeit gods: Jesus Christ.

How to Build a God


All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. 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!”

They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

Remember these things, O Jacob,
     and Israel, for you are my servant;
I formed you; you are my servant;
     O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.
I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud
     and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.

— Isaiah 44:9-22

HT: The Resurgence

My Bible, My Idol?


The other day I was reading a pastor’s blog post about turning the Bible into an idol, specifically with regard to the Conservative Bible Project (while you won’t find the comments section all that helpful, the post itself raises a few good points).

Every once in a while I’ll see the accusation of “bibliolatry” thrown out in a book or a blog—often as a shot at those who would hold to an Evangelical understanding of Scripture (that it is the word of God, authoritative & free of error in all that it teaches). My pastor was once accused of bibliolatry, for example, simply because he preaches the text and believes we should obey the commands of God (cf 1 John 2:1-6).

Funny thing, that.

Anyway, as I’ve been thinking about bibliolatry, I’ve been wondering if what people who could be accused of this are not making an idol of the Bible, but rather making an idol out of a preference or position? Read More about My Bible, My Idol?

Where the Wild Things Are

poster_where_the_wild_things_areFriday night, Emily and I went to see Where the Wild Things Are, the Spike Jonze film loosely based on Maurice Sendak’s classic book about a disobedient boy named Max, who is sent to bed without supper and imagines sailing away to the land of Wild Things,where he is made king.

Going into the movie, I didn’t really have any expectations, beyond having a good time. After all, the book is roughly ten sentences. If you’re going to make a 100-minute film from it, you’re going to have to expand; more accurately, you’ll need to create your own story around the basic framework of the original.

There are parts of the movie that were excellent.The character designers did a great job bringing the Wild Things to life and should be commended. Likewise, all the actors did a brilliant job in the portrayal of their characters. But, as we watched the movie, I felt… unsettled.

Emily described the movie as having an “undercurrent of creepy” running through it.

Identifying The Undercurrent of Creepy

Something felt off. Perhaps it was characterization. Max, the emotionally out-of-control son of a divorced mom, flips out when Mom’s got a date in the house and takes off. This reminded me a bit of my childhood as the emotionally out-of-control son of a divorced mom. While his actions certainly aren’t glorified, I’m amazed at the seeming lack of consequence for behaving like an insufferable brat.

After some further reflection, I think my discomfort centers around Carol, the emotionally out-of-control Wild Thing who is a personification of Max’s own issues. He smashes the group’s homes because everything isn’t perfect and how it “should” be. He looks to people to solve all the problems in life; that Max, as king, will make everyone happy.

In the characterization of Carol, Spike Jonze exposes our potential for idolatry.

A Problem, but No Solution

Carol “needs” to turn people into his functional savior, whether it’s K.W. or a king. And when they fail under the enormous amount of pressure he places on them, he blames them, attacks them and tries to destroy them.

We do this all the time, whether it’s in marriage and dating relationships, parenting, friendships, work, and celebrity culture. We build up our expectations of a man or woman, a boss, our kids, an actor, whatever, and when they inevitably buckle under the enormous pressure… You get the idea.

We all have the propensity to be “Carol” in this way.

While the movie brings this reality to light, it feels rather hopeless. Perhaps that’s intentional; I’ll be honest, I’m not really certain of the motivations of the screenwriters and director. And perhaps, this weakness might be its strength.

While I didn’t find the movie a satisfying experience, it did provide an opportunity to remind myself that there is a solution to our potential for idolatry. That there is hope because of the gospel.

And that is truly satisfying.