To be clear, idolatry is defined as "1. the religious worship of idols. 2. excessive or blind adoration, reverence, devotion, etc. Synonyms: obsession, madness, mania." John Piper gives a concise definition, "Treasuring anyone or anything more than Christ is idolatry."
Idolatry can be very easy to spot...a vast collection of sports cars, crying + screaming tweens (and moms!) at a Jonas Bros. concert, or it can be very subtle...like stubbornness. Yes, you read that right. I discovered a convicting gem of a passage in 1 Samuel 15:22-23,
But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”
I cannot tell you how many times these verses have been brought to my mind in the past week, especially over two slices of veggie pizza. Who knew conviction was an available topping? My husband and I ordered a pizza with half veggie, half BBQ chicken. This was a treat for both of us since normally we order plain ol' pepperoni. I ate my two slices, he ate his four, and I saved my two other slices for the next day's lunch. The next day, my mom picked me up and we went out for lunch. While scarfing down a ginormous Philly cheesesteak, my poor husband calls from home asking if he could have my last two slices of veggie pizza for his lunch. How did the sweet, loving wife respond? [Cue the violins] She said (in her most pathetic, whiny voice), "but those are my slices, and I never get veggie..." My poor husband said, "okay" and that was the end of the phonecall. The following day, while eating my beloved veggie pizza....the oddest thing happened. It no longer tasted good, in fact it felt more like gravel in my mouth (Proverbs 20:17). I suddenly had a clear example of how I had failed to serve him and insist on my own stubborn behalf. How foolish I was! I apologized to my husband and asked his forgiveness for my crummy attitude of selfishness.
Back to the passage, it all begins with our heart and the motives within. Beyond verse 22, we see two similes that compare the sinfulness of rebellion and stubbornness. Frankly, it's the subtle sins within that seem more difficult to identify, control, and conquer. And sometimes, because we can't see them in the way we can like drunkeness or adultery, it is easy to gloss over them and attempt to rationalize them away (veggie pizza, anyone?).
On the far left, you willingly (and hopefully not begrudingly) put your will aside for someone else. But on the far right, you choose not to yield, thereby demanding your will.