I am an unashamed and self-declared introvert. I love people and being with them, but I also love being alone and lost in a good book.
One of those good books I’ve been reading recently is one on introversion and is called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. This book has been helpful for me in thinking about my life and why I sometimes feel the way I do.
As I was reading, one section jumped out at me because it seems like what you would get if you asked a secular person to describe the nasty effects of idolatry.
As you read what I share below, think about how a person described by psychologists as a “reward-sensitive” person is actually an idolater at heart–someone who makes an item other than God their god and object of attention and affection:
“A reward-sensitive person is highly motivated to seek rewards–from a promotion to a lottery jackpot to an enjoyable evening out with friends. Reward sensitivity motivates us to pursue goals like sex and money, social status and influence. It prompts us to climb ladders and reach for faraway branches in order to gather life’s choicest fruits.
“Life’s choicest fruits” like sex, money, relationships, and power are some of the top idols that humans throughout history have served. Being ‘reward-sensitive’ turns a good thing (sex, money, relationships, and power) into an ultimate thing–and is something noticeable in the world of psychology.
Cain continues and uncovers the danger of reward sensitivity (and idolatry):
But sometimes we’re too sensitive to rewards. Reward sensitivity on overdrive gets people into all kinds of trouble. We can get so excited by the prospect of juicy prizes, like winning big in the stock market, that we take outsized risks and ignore obvious warning signals.“
Reward-sensitive people ignore obvious warning signals. They are obvious and should be seen, but reward-sensitivity (and idolatry) makes us blind. This is why people with bad habits and addictions can have such a hard time changing–they can’t even see their problem–they are blind to it, and ultimately they are helpless just like the gods they serve.
Psalm 135:15-18 describes this:
The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
they have eyes, but do not see;
they have ears, but do not hear,
nor is there any breath in their mouths.
Those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them.
It fascinated me that the sinful inclination of the human heart was given a psychological term. Idolatry messes with us and causes us to live different than the way God calls us to. Even secular psychologists know something is not right. (I’m not trying to say that being reward-sensitive is always being an idolater (it is more complex than that), but it often can as the above quotations testify.)
The Apostle John wrote 1 John with the purpose of making our joy complete (1 John 1:4). It is significant that he doesn’t end the book with a positive exhortation to cultivate joyful lives, but rather ends it by saying, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). John knew how being a slave to an idol strips a Christian from the joy that should be his.
Blog reader, keep yourself from idols.
Book quotations taken from Kindle locations 2770-2780.