“… [things] which they have loved and which they have served and after which they have walked, which they have sought and which they have worshiped” (Jeremiah 8:2).

Are there some “things” subtly pulling your heart away from God?

In a sad declaration, the prophet Jeremiah warned the people of Israel against their unfaithfulness to God. Their pursuit of idolatry broke His heart and demanded His judgment. After all God had done for them—bringing them out of bondage, giving them the Promised Land, blessing them beyond measure—they willingly and actively assimilated with their pagan neighbors in worshipping false gods.

They initially praised God for His protection and provision. Yet as time went on, their passion faded. They started looking around at other things—what other people had and were doing. Covetousness set in and they started longing for the pagan practices and worship of false gods. My reaction is to immediately ask, “Why? How could they be so foolish? Jehovah is a living, real God who gives them everything! Why turn away from Him and be attracted to the non-living, manmade graven images of the false religions? Especially after He commanded them not to!”

Just Like Us

Yet in reading this verse, I find the interesting parallel with the same attraction of the “things” of this world. God is the giver of all blessings. He sovereignly orchestrates all things and grants time, wealth, and opportunities as He purposes. And yet, we have the tendency to turn away from the Giver and focus on the gifts. We covet what we don’t have and set our sights on what God has not sovereignly orchestrated in our lives.

We follow the pattern of the Israelites. If we’re not careful, passion for God soon fades. We look around at our worldly friends and neighbors (especially online!). We begin justifying our covetousness. They appear to be happy with all their things. Pleasure isn’t a bad thing, right? Why not have a bit of fun and do what they do? Buy what they buy. Attend the same events. Learn the same dance steps. Get the same season tickets. Fill the garage with recreational and seasonal “stuff.” Slowly and subtly, our hearts turn away from the Giver and toward all this world’s things. Our priorities and schedules leave little time for God.

Downward Steps

How does this happen? Let’s look at the action words in Jeremiah’s five steps.

  • Loved – it means to have affection for; to like as a friend. The desire for things starts out innocently enough. There is an attraction, a compelling interest. We are drawn to what excites us.
  • Served – it means to become a servant, enslave, keep in bondage, or compel into service. Our attraction becomes more burdensome as it intensifies. The desire becomes an itch that needs to be scratched. The objects of our affection compel and enslave us. They demand more time and priority.
  • Followed – it means to walk along beside or behind, be conversant with, run along, or wander. Instead of recognizing the downward pull, we willingly pursue what consumes us. Like sheep to the slaughter, we mindlessly chase the futility and dissatisfaction of the temporal, futile attractions of this world.
  • Sought – it means to pursue or search, seek after, inquire, or seek out. The pursuit becomes more intense as dissatisfaction grows. Instead of cutting the bonds and separating ourselves from the self-inflicted bondage, we go all in. We pursue more things, more fame, more status because what we’ve accumulated always demands more (Proverbs 27:20).
  • Worshiped – it means to prostrate in homage to, bow down, or reverence. We now worship our hearts’ desires. They have consumed us to the core. “Stuff” now demands our time, energy, and resources. Things and events now have first priority in our lives and we adore them dearly. We allow nothing to compete with the temporal and fleeting things. Not even God. We push Him aside because we can only serve one master (Matthew 6:24).

Avoiding Disaster

How does God respond? As any loving father would do, He calls and warns against what harms His children. Eventually He disciplines His wayward children so they amend their ways. He is good at removing harmful, distracting objects of affection. “I will surely consume them,” says the Lord … “and the things I have given them shall pass away from them” (Jeremiah 8:13).

How do we avoid or amend these disastrous steps? Thankfully, God gives us clear instructions. Love God with heart soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). Serve God and Him alone (Luke 4:8). Deny all selfish desires and follow Jesus (Matthew 10:38). Seek God wholeheartedly (Jeremiah 29:13). Worship God alone (Matthew 4:10). Place God on the throne of your life and protect it from any interfering interests. This is possible by deliberately setting our minds and affections on “things above” (Colossians 3:2) and intentionally “walking in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16).

May we break the captivating attraction and bondage of this world and set our eyes firmly on Jesus and Him alone!