Idol Factories

As I committed to reading through Calvin’s Institutes with a friend, in honour of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year, I thought it would be worth jotting down some bits that I found particularly interesting. Here’s the quote for today:

From this we may gather that man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1, 11.8

If I were to ask you what you think your heart would be a factory of, what would you say? My initial thought was blood. (until I realised that, of course, blood isn’t made in the heart but just pumped by it, but I digress) I’m guessing that “idols” probably wouldn’t be on your top 10 list. Maybe a factory of laughter, of good times, of love, etc.

But take a look at where you’re heart is at — seriously. What’s most important to you deep down? Is it finding joy in a great job that you have? (some of you scoff at this) Maybe you take refuge from your job and find a deep and truly joyful love with your wife in your marriage? (many more will scoff at this) Perhaps, despite the difficulty in marriage, your kids are a delight to teach, and you love playing on the playground with your daughter, or chasing your son around the backyard? (your kids are a nightmare right now?) Think about your refuge, then. Is it escaping for a round of golf, or a round of drinks with your best mates you hardly see? Or your weekend drives in the hills? Even if you can think of nothing else your heart delights in currently, there is the joy you find in your hope for how the future will be different.

The list goes on. In fact, the list never ends! Our hearts are like leeches that latch on to anything that we think will give us meaning and purpose. But as we know, we’re designed for every source of joy to point us to our Creator. Time after time, we turn our hearts to anything but him. We so fixate on one or many good things in life and make them our ultimate aim — living to work, or living for the weekend, or living for our family or our marriage. Living for our idols.

It doesn’t matter what stage of life or how long we have been following Jesus. Our hearts are idol factories. And the only way for our heart to be changed is by God himself [Ezekiel 36:26].


Malcolm Purdey is a Christian, husband, father, student minister and science nerd. He completed a PhD in Chemistry and worked as a research scientist before making the jump into ministry in early 2017. He has been married for 5 years and has two daughters aged 3 and 1.

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