Scripture explains that sinful cravings within our hearts are the root cause of quarrels and fights. The problem with our hearts is that we make idols. We look for happiness in the wrong places and worship false gods.
Unlike Israelites in the wilderness, we may not create a golden calf and worship it. But like the Israelites, our hearts are prone to wander, to believe that God is not faithful to us and to believe that we need something else to be happy in life.
Richard Keyes explains it this way: “An idol is something within creation that is inflated to function as God. All sorts of things are potential idols, depending only on our attitudes and actions toward them…Idolatry may not involve explicit denials of God’s existence or character. It may well come in the form of an over-attachment to something that is, in itself, perfectly good…An idol can be a physical object, a property, a person, an activity, a role, an institution, a hope, an image, an idea, a pleasure, a hero – anything that can substitute for God.”
Conflicts often reveal where our heart and treasure are. It shows us where we place our hope in. Sometimes the object of our desire is not wrong in itself, but the problem is that we often allow our desires to rule over us. John Calvin said, “The evil in our desire typically does not lie in what we want, but that we want it too much.”
Desires for peace, fame, wealth, respect and approval, love, and comfort are some of the cravings of our heart that can control us. Scripture warns us to guard the heart, for it is the wellspring of life. It also warns us that the heart is deceitful. But God gives us grace to know ourselves. We can pray, “Search our hearts oh God, and see if there be any wicked way in us!”
The Cure for Idolatry
The cure for idolatry is having an encounter with the true and living God. We are called to turn from idolatry and to worship God. Martin Luther had it right when he said that the whole of the Christian life is to be one of repentance. By this he meant that we should always cultivate an attitude of contrition for our sins and attitude of thankfulness to God for His mercy.
How gracious of God to use conflict to reveal our idols. He does this, because he knows that he is the only thing that can satisfy us! The Lord wants our hearts, our worship, and all of our affections.
- Getting to the Heart of Conflict by Ken Sande
- Cravings and Conflict by C.J. Mahaney
- The Idol Factory (Outline PDF) by C.J. Mahaney
4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (ESV)
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (ESV)
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (ESV)
8 The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (ESV)