Discontentment is the result of misplaced worship. It’s the result of giving our heart to someone or something that should never have it. When we stake our happiness on anything other than God, we’re going to be miserable. Why? Because we were made to worship God and find all our joy in him. Creation worships God (Ps. 19). The angels worship God (Isa. 6). When we worship something other than God, we’re out of sync with the universe.
The Bible has a name for being out of sync with the universe. It’s called idolatry. We don’t use the word idolatry much today, except when quoting obscure lines from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. But idol worship is everywhere. Do you see Mr. Pinstripe Suit going into the office every Saturday morning? He worships his job. Or Mr. Heavy Machinery Operator with the bags under his eyes? He comes home from work, collapses on the couch, and drinks a case of beer. Every night. He worships alcohol and relaxation. Do you see the pastor who savors every “what a wonderful sermon, pastor!” and is crushed by criticism? He worships the applause of people.
Idolatry is loving anything more than God. Sometimes the thing we love is wicked, like pornography or drunkenness. Most of the time the thing we love is good, like sleep or work or intimacy with our spouse. The problem is when we love a good thing too much, when we love it more than God. Tim Keller says, “If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol.”
Idolatry is wicked. It is an exchange of the all-satisfying God for a person, job, boat, or promotion. It is loving the creation more than the Creator, even though the Creator is infinitely more beautiful, lovely, and worthy of affection. It’s as if we have a baseball-sized diamond in one hand and a mud-encrusted rock in the other, and we are forced to choose between the two. We spend several minutes studying both the diamond and the rock, holding each up to the light for closer examination. Then, shockingly, we toss the diamond aside. Idolatry is tossing aside God for a mud-spattered rock. This is infinitely belittling and insulting to God, as if something created could bring us more joy than the Creator of joy. It’s a loud statement to all the world that God can’t satisfy us and that we need something else.
In Jeremiah 2:12–13 (niv) God makes the following indictment of Israel: “‘Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,’ declares the Lord. ‘My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’” Idolatry is choosing muddy, briny, gag-inducing water over the fountain of living water. Idolatry is insanity.
Adapted from The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence by Stephen Altrogge (Kindle Edition)