In the world, especially in the African continent, conflicts, disunity, fights and destruction in homes, families, organizations, governments, and sadly even in the churches are centered around six idols of fallen sinful human hearts, which are: possession (money/material objects), power, position, pleasure, prestige, and popularity (fame).
An idol is something that you love and treasure above the LORD God. To idolize something is to love it above God (Exodus 20:1–6; Mark 12:28–34; Ezekiel 14:1–8). When you have idolised something, you pursue that thing at all costs, even going to the extent of violating God’s Word and destroying other people. Idols deceive people to destroy themselves and others.
Leaders and other people who idolize these things are people who have no true or healthy relationship with God through the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; they think that they can get true peace, joy and contentment in these idols. They fail to learn from king Solomon who learned with tears that “power, popularity, prestige, pleasure” and all other creatures cannot fill the God-shaped void in man’s life that can only be filled and satisfied by the LORD God alone – Ecclesiastes 1:16–18; 12:11–14). Those who worship idols becomes useless like their idols (Psalms 115:8; 135:18).
The above-mentioned idols of sinful men are destructive in the church and in the society. In other words, wherever people are treasuring these idols above God, that is where you will find disunity, conflicts, destruction and even death; and wherever these things are idolised, that is where God’s name is being disgraced and God’s people are being destroyed.
Let us just briefly examine how the above mentioned six idols cause disunity and destruction in the church and in the society.
1. POSSESSIONS: Having money or other possessions in itself is not evil, provided you have acquired those possessions rightly. However, the love (greed) of money (material objects) is the root of evils (1 Timothy 6:3–10); Godless people try to find false identity, prestige and security in accumulation of materials and fame; idolising possessions causes people to seek money by all means and at all costs. Those who have idolized money, they can even become thieves, liar, prostitutes, robbers, sellers of harmful substances, false church leaders and hypocrites to gain money. In homes, families are abandoned because of love of money. In families, in church and in government people are fighting each other because of greed for money.
2. POWER: Power is the ability to command or directly influence decisions making. Generally, people love power because they want their will to prevail. When people have idolized power, they seek it by all means and try to maintain at all costs. They can even murder and deceive to gain power. When leaders are corrupt, they often cling to power because they are insecure. For example, if the leader has stolen money, in one way or another, he tries to hold on to power because he is always scared that those who take over power may let him/her to be arrested; when he is leaving the office, he wants to be replaced by a puppet that can be manipulated to cover him/her. Such corrupt leaders become wicked persons who are running even when they are not being chased (Proverbs 28:1). In the church and in the society, the desire to cling to power leads to divisive and destructive behaviours.
3. POSITION: Position here refers to being in a place of honour, power or fame. Although position is linked to power, a person can have a position without having power. People who love honour, glory and fame above God idolize positions, and end up fighting for position by all possible means. Those who loves position are usually jealousy and competitive in their spirits; they can even fight for the position that they know well that if they get there, they are unable to complete the required work. People who have idolised positions falsely accuse and revile others so that others may be hated, and loose those positions, then them will take over. This is common in African politics where you find everyone fighting to be a highest leader, even those who are unable to lead. Fight for position is common in African families where you find one “tatekulu” (uncle) or a rich talkative auntie who wants to be a king of the whole clan; idolising position is common in many ungodly churches where you find church leaders who want to be worshiped (Luke 9:46–45). Wherever people are fighting for positions, that is where you will find disunity, conflicts and destruction (James 4:1–10). Wherever people are fighting for positions, there will be no true peace, unity and progress.
4. PLEASURE: Pleasure here refers to self-satisfaction. It is the desire to please oneself. People who have rejected God and His inspired Word (the Bible) desire to live as they please and to do whatever they want. Living for pleasure is self-worship. When people have idolised pleasure, they pursue it at all cost. This leads to every one doing what is desirable in his or own eyes (Judges 21:25). This leads to chaos, disorders, disunity and destruction (Romans 1:18–32; 3:9–23). In families, churches, and society wherever God and His words are rejected, and pleasure is idolised, there is no true peace and true prosperity (2 Timothy 3:1–10).
5. POPULARITY: Popularity is fame; it is being known by many people. You can be famous for useful thing or popular for useless disgraceful things. People who are not living for God’s glory loves their own fame, honour and legacy. Love for legacy is love for glory dressed in a jacket of false humility. You cannot live for God’s glory when you are busy fighting for your own. Glory belongs to God alone (Revelation 4:11; 5:11–12); wherever people are fighting for fame, there will be disgraceful behaviours that lead to division and destruction. If we are to unity and live for greater things, we must let the glory be for God in Christ alone – (John 3:25–30; 12:20–26).
6. PRESTIGE: Prestige is “standing or estimation in the eyes of people”. It is being seen/perceived as successful, important, rich or strong by others (Ecclesiastes 2:1–9). Desire for prestige is the love of honour, glory and unique identity. At the root of desire for prestige there is pride manifesting in form of self-exaltation. Oftentimes, those who seek prestige are those who fails to find and understand their true identity, and contentment in the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. People who desire prestige above God pursue it at all costs. They can seek positions, possessions, power, popularity at all costs, so that they can be estimated in the eyes of people. Desires for prestige can lead to people lying, boasting and even stealing in order to be seen as successful. Wherever prestige is being pursued, that is where you will find jealousy, disunity, disorder, destruction, and the dishonor of God’s name.
In the church and in the society, because of PRIDE and selfishness, leaders who have idolised these six things divide people and use them to gain these idols of their hearts (Mathew 2:1–8,13; 3 John 9–11). Such corrupt leaders love playing the “game of thrones”, and the game of “divide and rule”.
CONCLUSION: African families, communities, governments, societies and sadly even churches are disunited, disorganized and lacking behind because they have idolised position, power, popularity, possessions, pleasure and prestige. If we are to grow, we must repent, come back to God through Christ Jesus, stop fighting for these small things, and then focus on godliness and on greater things. Repentance must begin with leaders who incite people to fight for these idols. If we do not change, we will succeed in destroying the church of Christ, our families, communities, and our societies. We must guard our hearts against idolizing these things. If we do not repent, and do what is right, for sure, want or not, we will perish, here on earth and in eternity. We must be warned that those who destroyed God’s church and God’s people (in the church and in the society) will be destroyed by God (1 Corinthians 3:17).