Been Worshiping at the Wrong Altar


I’m struggling with idolatry today, so I figured one way to do battle with it is to bring it into the light, enlist some of my favorite prayer warriors (you!), and hash it all out—right here in front of everybody. It’s the same old idol I’ve told you about before. The one that knows no mercy and almost takes me under every time I give it just a little room.

My latest battle with my old idol started over a month ago while I was in North Carolina.

One of my friends was lying in the hospital bed with sky-high blood pressure, and another friend and I were keeping her company while we waited on test results. Her emergency trip to the hospital had put us all in a “teachable” position with our health. We spent the morning doing a little Bible study together, checking out what the Word has to say about a brutal topic—what we eat and drink!

We started with this:

[box]I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1 –2).[/box]

Um, that’s pretty clear. When we live out the gospel, it’s to be an evident transformation. That transformation isn’t just heart transformation—although that’s where it all starts. It begins with the heart, but it should affect our entire being. There is a literal and a spiritual aspect to presenting our “bodies” as a living sacrifice.

Paul takes a radical approach to getting that flabby flesh under control:

[box]But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27).[/box]

One of my friends was sharing why she no longer goes to the race track to gamble. She said, “I never wanted anyone to have anything they saw me do that might detract from my commitment to Christ. I want everything I do to be something that glorifies Him.”

As she was sharing that, all I could think about is how I’ve stopped battling my idol and let it gain mastery over me again. I told her, “If people looked at my eating habits, I would be ashamed. I’m not glorifying God . . .”

How can I stand and teach the Word, challenge women to live passionately for Christ, when I have this unyielded area in my life? When I’m worshiping at the wrong altar? When I’m indulging in idolatry—feeding my flesh?

Food is not the problem. My heart is the problem.

I love food. I love butter (and lots of it), cream sauce, chocolate, comfort food, creamy food, crunchy food, spicy food, sweet food, salty food, cheesy food, rich food, high-calorie-high-fat food. My love affair with food is unholy.

God blesses us with all good gifts to enjoy, He pours out beauty, comfort, pleasurable experiences, abundant provisions—all to be enjoyed.

[box]As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).[/box]

But true enjoyment of God’s gifts comes through the holy practice and consumption of those gifts—not through the perversion of the good. Food is good and necessary. But food can become an idol. I don’t just eat to live—I live to eat!

When I go beyond enjoying food within holy boundaries, and indulge my flesh in unhealthy ways, when my cravings drive my decisions, and I seek to find satisfaction through my belly, when gluttony becomes my practice, my approach to food is not glorifying God, in fact, it’s idolatry.

Paul, again, gives a strong word about our physical appetites:

[box]Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things (Philippians 3:19).[/box]

Paul is speaking specifically of non-believers here, but it’s interesting that one characteristic of these individuals is that they worship at the wrong altar. Their “god” is their belly and they find no shame in looking to food for their joy, comfort, and pleasure.

It could be sex. Maybe gambling, porn, or drugs, but for me . . . food is my addiction.

In that little hospital room, each of us confessed our addictions. Each of us walked through the Scriptures and allowed the Spirit to confront us that morning. I’ll pick up here tomorrow and share with you more of that journey.

While writing this post, I had to text those two friends and ask for prayer . . . while battling a major craving. I don’t want to worship at that altar today. I don’t want the desire for chocolate to rule my life, I want Christ to rule my life. They prayed and I planted Romans 12:1–2 a little deeper in my heart.

What altar are you worshiping at today?

Image courtesy of Bertasius Photography


  • Christina

    Thank you so much for this Kimberly! Your open sharing on this is such a blessing, and so speaks to my own area of struggle. I look forward to tomorrow’s post, and will be praying for how!

  • Jody Gates

    Dear Kimberly,
    Thank you SO MUCH for being brutally honest with us. I too have struggled my entire life in this area and when I had an ER visit the end of January, my weight was at its heaviest I’ve been in my 54 years. I knew it was high but I refused to do anything about it. By the end of February I was so sick of self I prayed and surrendered this area to my Lord. I need his help in every food choice and every step I have been taking to regain health. The details are different, but the idol is the same. Thanks again for sharing, it might be the inspiration to tell my own story on my blog. I have written about it, but just in a journal. I know many women struggle in this area, so I’m praying about sharing my journey and will be praying for you!!

  • Grace

    How do you define this food addiction? I love sweets and food, too, and will indulge in a piece of chocolate or two when I crave it. And if I crave a certain food – Thai, etc., I’ll sway my family to go eat it – not force them or anything, but if they’re willing, we’ll go. I was just wondering at what point you consider food to be an idol?
    Thanks so much!

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Hello, Jody ~

    So good to hear from you! Yes, I think this is a common struggle for a lot of us. I’ll be adding several posts on this topic in the coming days (weeks?). Thank you so much for being transparent here . . . and YES, I hope you share your story on your blog, it will be so helpful for your readers, and I’d love to know what He’s teaching you!

    Thank you so much for your encouragement and especially your prayers, friend 🙂

  • Kathryn

    Thank you for your transparency and willingness to share. Gluttony, food idolatry has been such a struggle for me throughout my life. It is embarrassing and many times I just want to give up. I am encouraged again to go to our loving Heavenly Father and seek His guidance and His grace. I know that he did not put food here to punish us and that He gives good gifts to be enjoyed such as food within the proper boundaries. It can be so easy to stay discouraged in this area of food but I know that God wants to deliver and heal. Praying for you and for all that struggle in this area. We can overcome through God’s great mercy and grace. God Bless You.

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Hello, Kathryn ~

    Thank YOU for your transparency! Yes, His grace is more than enough to supply us with the power to obey. I just have to ask for it, instead of continuing to long for something that I know isn’t best. He delights in our enjoyment of food (and I can only imagine what a delicious feast He is preparing for us at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb!), but I never want to adore His gifts more than I adore Him!

    Thank you for your prayers, today was difficult. But every time I make a healthy choice, it never leaves me with regret.

    Just finished off a healthy home-made peach smoothie (instead of the dessert I was craving :))

    Thank you for your encouraging note and especially your prayers!

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Hello, Grace ~

    Great question! Food in itself is not an “idol” until I place it in a position of importance beyond what God intends. I hope you’ll check out today’s post that provides a few questions to help determine what role food is playing in our lives.

    Thanks for your question and comment, I hope the posts this week will be helpful! 🙂