A Look at God Substitutes

Though I have blogged on the issue of idolatry before, here are some of the God substitutes that Tim Keller mentions in his book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Dutton, 2008), 275-76.

1.If you center your life and identity on your spouse or partner, you will be emotionally dependent, jealous and controlling. The other person’s problems will be overwhelming to you. 

2. If you center your life and identity on your family and children, you will try to live your life through your children until they resent you or have no self of their own. At worst, you may abuse them when they displease you.

3.If you center your life and identity on your work and career, you will be a driven workaholic and a boring, shallow person. At worst you will lose family and friends and, if your career goes poorly, develop deep depression.

4. If you center your life on money and possessions, you’ll be eaten up by worry or jealousy about money. You’ll be willing to do unethical things to maintain your lifestyle, which will eventually blow up your life.

5. If you center your life and identity on pleasure, gratification and comfort, you will find yourself getting addicted to something. You will become chained to the “escape strategies” by which you avoid the hardness of life.

6. If you center your life and identity on relationships and approval, you will be constantly overly hurt by criticism and thus always losing friends.

So can Christians be guilty of some of these as well? Absolutely! How does this happen? Poor discipleship and a lack of understanding about our identity as image bearers of God.
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