Our hearts are incredibly complex. Love, joy, compassion, desire, anger, greed, worship; these are all things that pour out of our hearts. Through our hearts, we can discern good (And do good). But, as God informs us, our hearts can also be extraordinarily dark places (Jeremiah 17:9), harboring the idols we treasure in this life.
This last Sunday, as we explored Esther 5:1-14 together, we saw in Haman a picture of an idolatrous heart. After feasting with King Xerxes and Queen Esther, he was “happy and in high spirits” (Esther 5:9). He was an honored guest at the queen’s banquet. He enjoyed the honor of being elevated above all the nobles and officials in the king’s court. He enjoyed the honor of receiving everyone’s respectful and deferential bow at the king’s gate. But one look at Mordecai—who wouldn’t honor him—caused his heart to suddenly be filled with rage (Esther 5:9). A full pendulum swing of emotions, and it all happened within one verse!
More than that, it all happened within his heart. It helps us realize that our emotions can often be clues that reveal the idols within our hearts. As we observed Haman's emotions, it wasn't hard to notice the idols of honor, admiration, and veneration. When his idols were patted, he experienced happiness and delight. I mean, who doesn’t like to receive a little esteem here and there? But in Haman’s case, these were idols that ruled his heart. So much so, that when his idols were challenged his heart was filled with fury.
This is a good moment to pause and ask ourselves: What makes us most happy in life? And what makes us most angry? They can be signs that our heart-idols are either being fed or opposed. Think about this for a moment: When you’re enjoying relaxation on your favorite chair or couch, what is your usual emotion when your child or your spouse asks for your help with something? Are you usually annoyed? Bothered? Irritated? This can be a sign that the idol of comfort is being challenged in your heart. Or how about a traffic light that is taking an unusually long time to turn green? Do you usually feel frustrated? Peeved? Aggravated? Have you ever been at a restaurant and other parties are seated or served before you are? How does your heart typically react in that situation? Or how about when someone with a different view or from a different culture says something (Or does something) you don’t agree with? How does your heart tend to react? I remember as a kid I would get terribly aggravated when my Mom would tell me to turn off my video games. I didn’t realize it then, but it’s easy to see that video games themselves were idols in my heart. I also remember idolizing the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup, and if my athlete or my team didn’t win, I’d be in a terrible mood (Yes, even our country or our flag can be an idol in our hearts).
Of course, there is such a thing as righteous anger and righteous joy. Just because we experience these emotions doesn’t automatically mean our hearts are idolizing something. But it’s also possible that our hearts are sheltering idols, which raises the importance of honest, inward inspection. One of the spiritual disciplines we hardly ever talk about in church culture is the discipline of self-examination. We value disciplines like Bible-reading, prayer, fasting, and worship, but we often overlook honest introspection.
Can I encourage you this week to spend some quiet time with God in self-examination? Like King David, invite God into an honest evaluation of your heart. “Test me, Lord, and try me," David wrote, "examine my heart and my mind” (Psalm 26:2). Together with the Lord, look inwardly with all honesty and search out your heart. Are there any idols residing there? Is the Lord revealing them to you? If the answer is yes, confess them to the Lord, who graciously forgives and purifies (1 John 1:9). Then, find your full delight in Christ.
Someone once said there is a God-shaped hole in our hearts, which only Christ can fill. But I’m not quite sure that is altogether accurate. Our hearts are already filled with objects we worship. Our responsibility is to worship the right object. In our case, it’s not so much about allowing Jesus into a vacant hole in our hearts (Which doesn’t exist because our hearts are already filled with objects we treasure and worship), it’s more about giving Jesus our whole heart—to worship him chiefly and supremely (And as an outflow of that, to love others selflessly). He alone demolished sin and death for us. Nothing else in all creation has the power to save. Only Christ. And he has saved us out of the abundance of love that he has for us. Since this is true, our hearts can fully delight in the good news of Jesus.
I am praying for us this week, not only for the Holy Spirit to help us look inwardly and confess, but also that we might find our full and complete delight in Christ and his great love. Nothing else measures up to him. Not even earthly comforts, accolades, treasures, or rewards. They all pale in comparison to Jesus.
Let’s delight in him.