Idealized idols

Idealized idols

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment. – Romans 12:3

1 Timothy 1:12-16

 12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him,

 13 even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief.

 14 Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.

 15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – and I am the worst of them all.

 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.

Dr. Saul Levine, M.D. wrote, “Our Illusions of Role Models, Heroes, and Idols.” It was posted Dec 22, 2017, in Psychology Today.

“Idols who inspire and reassure us are ordinary people, both worthy and flawed.”

“You remember ‘role models,’ don’t you? You know, those people we looked up to when we were younger, whom we aspired to be like, and possibly now, whom we want our children to emulate?”

“As young children, our first role models are usually our parents, and it takes years for us to see them as people with frailties, despite their impressive qualities. Adolescents and young adults form relationships with admired mentors at school or work. They often idealize their mentor, until the realization sets in that despite some exceptional talents, this role model is an ‘ordinary’ person, with attendant faults. Accepting our parents and mentors – and ourselves – as worthy but flawed can at times be challenging.”

The Scriptures are replete with heroes and role models. They are often bigger than life, ancient superheroes. Consider Moses, Abraham, Joseph, David, Daniel, Paul, and Peter. Church history has more recent superheroes and role models: Jonathan Edwards, Fanny Crosby, Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, Watchman Nee, William Wilberforce, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Jim Elliott, Corrie Ten Boom, George Mueller, Eric Liddle, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Billy Graham. In all cases, they were indeed heroes of the faith, flawed but worthy of our admiration.

But when we look more closely, we often discover, they were simply ordinary people that the Father used in extraordinary ways. The prophet Amos herded sheep and was a fig picker.

Amos 7:14 I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs.

Moses apparently totally lacked self-esteem and probably had some type of speech impediment.

Exodus 3:11 Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”

Exodus 4:10 Moses pleaded with the LORD, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”

During his ministry, Charles Spurgeon was often the object of extreme, dreadful criticism. People really had it in for him and were out to get him. On one occasion he said, “Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you falsely on some point, yet be satisfied, for if he knew you better, he might change the accusation, and you would be no gainer by the correction. If you have your moral portrait painted, and it is ugly, be satisfied; for it only needs a few blacker touches, and it would be still nearer the truth” (The Complete Works of Charles Spurgeon – Volume 34, Sermons).


1 Corinthians 1:26-28

 26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.

 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.

 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.

Father enable me to be clearheaded and balanced in my thinking of myself and others. Thank You that You use ordinary people in extraordinary ways.


Fallen human DNA is characterized by continuum of self-worth. Some feel totally unworthy, while others feel superior and far better than others. We tend idealize our heroes, but in fact they are all fallen creatures in need of forgiveness. Are any of them perfect? No not one!

Paul got it right when he gave advice to the children of the King at Rome. They had a tendency to think too highly of themselves. Paul warned them, “Don’t think you are better than you really are” (Romans 12:3, NLT). What is left unsaid, but equally true, don’t think that you are worse than you really are either.

This concept can be expressed in many ways in different cultures. Do not think of yourself more highly than you should may be rendered as “Do not think that you yourselves are so high,” “Do not think of yourselves with a big head,” or “Do not say to yourselves, I am so very big, when you really are not” (UBS).

Rather he provided a very balanced approach.

Romans 12:3 Think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

The Greek verb translated think is phroneo. Phroneo does not refer to the thinking process itself. But rather, “the direction of one’s thinking, the way in which a person views something. In this verse, it is clear that Paul is using the verb to denote the way in which a person views him or herself” (Moo).

In contrast to overestimating ourselves, Paul exhorts all children of the King to view themselves in a “sober” manner. The Greek word translated sound judgment, sober judgment, think soberly, is sophroneo from sophron sober-minded. It means to be of sound mind, to think reasonably, to use sound, discrete, self-disciplined, moderate judgment.

Think of yourselves and others as ordinary people who are both worthy and flawed. We can be inspired by the strengths of others. Those we idealize should never be made into superhuman idols like the gods of the Greeks and Romans or the heroes of myths and legends.

Never allow yourself to be condemned or shamed by their success. The Scriptures are intended to inspire us by telling the story of the deeds and lives in faithful children of the King. They are ordinary people whom the Father used in extraordinary ways. They lived, acted, and died in faith. The same is possible for each and every one of us.

As children of the King, we are not to live horizontally looking back to the past or looking forward to the future in this life. Rather we are to be looking up!

Psalms 121:1-2

 1 I look up to the mountains – does my help come from there?

 2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth!

Revelation 22:20 “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

If this is not what you are used to reading or hearing, and your sources will not change, perhaps you should change your sources.


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