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What's at the top of your pyramid?

Last Sunday, I talked about the pursuit of happiness as an one modern example of idolatry. After hearing my message, someone wrote me that he's looking for replacement words for happiness. That comment got me thinking. Do we need different words for happiness? Well, I think happiness is a perfectly good word albeit somewhat overused.

But it might overlook the question of what idolatry is about.

The question is not whether happiness as an idea is wrong. It is good to want to feel good, contented, joyful, etc. And I'm not trying to play with words here.

When I mean happiness, I believe it overlaps with joy, peace, contentment, etc. and all those biblical words. So it is good to seek and desire happiness. The question is where does it fit in our pyramid?

The pyramid is desires, ambitions, and values. As you progress from bottom to top, the least important things serve the more important ones until you get to the top, where we find who or what ultimately rules our lives.

Peter Chen made a good connection after the message. He observed that its about where we put God in the pyramid. If God is anywhere but at the top, then He is simply a means of getting to the top. If happiness is at the top of the pyramid, then we use God as a tool to gain happiness. Anything other than God at the top of the pyramid is idolatry.

If we're honest with ourselves, we tend to define how successful we are by how happy we feel. I hear that language from well-meaning parents all the time - "as long as my kids are happy". If someone's happiness (yours, your child's or your parents') is your meaning for existence, then happiness might be at the top of your pyramid - it is a form of idolatry.

After Israel worshiped the golden calf, they did not stop keeping cows. Cows, even ones made of gold, do not have special powers, good or evil. It is what we do with them in our hearts that indicates good or evil.


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