Idolatry is Like a Pacifier

The idolatry in our lives is like a pacifier problem I recently observed.

My friend has a two year-old son who is always sucking on his pacifier. Always. He sucks on his pacifier all day long. He sucks on his pacifier all night long. Two years of all day and all night pacifier sucking has caused a big problem: this toddler’s teeth have hinged forward and up like an old fashioned garage door because of the constant shape and suck of the pacifier.

A pacifier is a good thing. But a pacifier becomes a dangerous and idolatrous thing when we give it our ultimate allegiance–when we suck on it all day long, all night long, for two years. This pacifier has changed the structure and appearance of this little boy’s mouth, and now significant corrective action is required.

Job security, relationships, success, reputation, money, planning, and comfort are also good things. But these become dangerous and idolatrous things when we give them our ultimate allegiance–when these things become the central fixation of our lives rather than our Triune God. Like the pacifier, our constant suck of idolatry slowly but surely changes the deep structure and appearance of our hearts, leaving us in need of significant intervention.

My friend is a good father. He knows what he has to do now. He has to take away the pacifier from his son. With this son, cold turkey is the only method that will work. Daytime will be full of confused crankiness as the son cries out for his familiar pacifier, not understanding why his father withholds it. Nighttime will be the worst. The son has never slept without his pacifier. My friend the father will have to listen to the uncomfortable sounds of tears, restless exhaustion, and anger coming from his son’s crib. This will go on for many nights. It won’t be until many years later that the son understands why his father took away his cherished pacifier.

We all have our pacifiers. We’ve come to love them too much.

Much of this is our fault, our sin. Some of it is not. Had my friend been a more discerning father, he would’ve spotted and stopped his son’s pacifier problem earlier. But he didn’t, and his son’s inordinate love for the pacifier only grew stronger.

This is why the allure of idolatry is so strong in our lives. We attach our attention, affection, and assurance to created things rather than the Creator because of the sin in our own hearts and because of the many ways other people have sinned against us. There’s a double power at work here. When we were young, probably without even knowing it, many of us determined to never again experience the hurt and shame that came from the hands of another person, so we selected a pacifier of self-protection to carry with us at all times.

Some of us chose to not feel. Some chose to always be in control. Some chose to hide. Some chose to be religious. Some of us chose to run away.

Now we’ve grown older. And in rare moments of honesty we’re able to admit, or start to admit, that we have a problem. The pacifier that we thought would protect us and satisfy us, has only hurt us. It’s actually caused us to hurt other people too. This is what always happens when we let something be for us what only God can be for us.

Some of you hurt so bad right now. You hurt because your pacifier has been taken away. Like me, you don’t know how to do life without your pacifier.

But this is what I know about my Sovereign Father: he loves his kids. This never changes. All who repent of running their own life and trust Jesus as Savior have inherited an invincible love relationship with the Father.

And the reason the Father has ripped the pacifier from your clenched mouth is the same reason he chose you before the foundation of the world, justified you at your conversion, and will one day glorify you in his presence: because he loves you! Don’t just read these words, believe these words.

He loves you! He loves you! He loves you!

Child of God, you had a problem and you didn’t know it. You’ve been sucking on a pacifier for years and it’s been damaging you and damaging others. You’ve refused to give it up. Now God has arranged the circumstances of your life to decisively pull the pacifier from your grip. You’re shaken up, but he has you right where he wants you. The only way forward is to trust your Father. Trust him! Let him love you. Trust his plan. Trust him and love him with all your heart. New territory will open up before you.