People: Our Idol of ChoiceBy David Burnette
In chapter 3 of When People are Big and God is Small (our featured resource this month), Ed Welch puts his finger on one of our biggest, and maybe most surprising, idols – other people.
Welch speaks of two kinds of fear: 1) shame-fear – the fear that people will expose us, and 2) rejection-fear – the fear that people can “reject, ridicule, or despise us” (37). Here’s how those two fears relate to idolatry:
“What is it that shame-fear and rejection-fear have in common? To use a biblical image, they both indicate that people are our favorite idol. We exalt them and their perceived power above God. We worship them as ones who have God-like exposing gazes (shame-fear) or God-like ability to “fill” us with esteem, love, admiration, acceptance, respect, and other psychological desires (rejection-fear).
When we think of idols, we usually think first of Baal and other material, man-made creations. Next we might think of money. We rarely picture our spouse, our children, or a friend from school. But people are our idol of choice. They pre-date Baal, money, and power. Like all idols, people are created things, not the Creator (Rom 1:25), and they do not deserve our worship. They are worshipped because we perceive that they have power to give us something. We think they can bless us.” (44-45)
If we’re honest, Welch’s description of fear in relation to other people touches all of us. In the chapter that follow, he gives us biblical guidance to overcome these fears, including replacing a fear of other people with a right fear of the Lord.