The Almighty Bean

Do these scenes sounds familiar?

Your alarm goes off before the sun rises. You stumble from your bed bleary-eyed and tired, knowing you face another day of too long to-do lists and not enough hours. You spend a few moments with it in your quiet house before everyone else wakes and the day begins. Your eyes clear. Your focus sharpens. Now you can face the day. 

It’s afternoon and your energy has languished. You are tired and irritable. You want to respond to others in ways that honor Christ, but your flesh is suddenly behind the wheel. You reach for it. Your mood stabilizes. You can smile your way through the rest of the day. 

It’s evening and you’ve gathered with friends from your church. It is always present in your gatherings and is the topic of many of your conversations. In many ways, it’s the wiring through which your connection to others flows. 

Before you’re willing to fully imagine yourself in the scenarios above, you’re probably wondering, What’s the ‘it’ she’s talking about?

Is it the Bible? Your prayer journal, perhaps?

Picture instead your cup of coffee. Whether you take it black or with extra whip, decaf, half-caf, or bullet style, for most of us, a cup of coffee is almost always in reach. 

I’ve been watching and listening (and sipping). I submit my own heart as evidence that when it comes to coffee, we’ve got an idol problem. Don’t hide your perfectly roasted beans shipped in from South America or latest batch of cold brew just yet. I’m not bashing coffee, but inviting you to take a look at our collective (and individual) hearts’ responses to the Almighty Bean. 

Unmasking “Little” Idols

We are warned against idolatry in thirty-one of the Bible’s sixty-six books. Through the lens of Scripture we see God’s children turning toward idols again and again, always to their peril. God’s strong warnings against idols and man’s proven proclivity to turn toward them are enough to give us a heightened awareness to the pull of idolatry in our own lives. 

Scripture never gives us a comprehensive list of idols, perhaps because the possibilities are truly endless. Our sinful hearts are capable of worshipping everything from golden calves to the Golden State Warriors, images of bronze or the images streaming through our phone. Often our idols are seemingly innocuous objects of our affection that have become objects of out-of-whack worship. 

We’ll use coffee as our primary lens for examination in this case, but the principles I’m sharing in this article can be applied elsewhere (perhaps everywhere)—food, binge watching your favorite shows, constant access to global news, your children, your spouse, your appearance . . . anything that demands your attention, time, and desire has the potential for idolatry. 

Four Diagnostic Questions

When your physician asks diagnostic questions in an exam room, his ultimate goal is not to shame, humiliate, or put you on the defensive, but rather to assess where you need adjustments to promote fuller health. It is with equal care that I submit four questions about our our coffee habits. 

1. Do I “need” coffee?

I recently attended a retreat with several wise Christian women. While we primarily talked about Jesus and God’s Word, we also talked about coffee with surprising frequency. We’d tiptoe out of our rooms each morning like zombies pulled by the smell of the coffee pot. Every day we’d smile and laugh about how we needed coffee to get our day started. Some women packed their own coffee and coffeepots in their bags, rather than run the risk of living without them.

We may like coffee. We may even love coffee, but if we feel like we need it to function, to parent, or to survive the day, the red flag of idolatry should be waving in our hearts. 

We worship a sufficient God who is more than able to help us face the day with joy, parent our children when tired, and accomplish the work He sets before us. 

Maybe you own the T-shirt that says, “I need a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus.” In truth, we just need Jesus—coffee optional. 

2. Do I look to coffee as my ultimate source of comfort?

You’re not imagining it, holding a steaming cup of joe actually does make you feel better. Scientists have discovered that the insula, a prune-sized section of your brain responsible for processing both physical temperature and interpersonal warmth, is wired to associate warm physical feelings with warm emotional feelings. Warm coffee. Warm heart. 

God lovingly grants us all kinds of gifts for our comfort. It’s the friend who drops by just to chat, the dog who is always at the door to greet you, the familiar smells of each season, and the spouse who senses the exact right moment to say, “Let’s order pizza!” 

Comfort itself is not sinful, but when we prioritize a source of comfort above the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, we’re worshipping an idol. 

3. Do I turn to it with greater frequency and expectation than when I turn to Christ?

A wise man recently told me, “If we do something bad, the justice system takes our money. If we do something really bad they take our time.” Time is our greatest treasure. The way we use our time evidences the true condition of our hearts. 

It was Jesus Himself who said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). Are you treasuring Christ above all other pursuits? When forced to choose between moments spent lingering in His presence and time spent lingering with a good cup of coffee, which do you choose? 

Do you open your Bible expecting God to shape you into His image as much as you down your coffee, expecting it to energize you for the day? Is your hope in Christ as strong as your hope in the perfect cup of coffee? 

4. Is coffee serving me, or am I serving it?

Several years ago, I felt convicted about the irritability that seemed to be a byproduct of drinking too much caffeinated coffee. The Lord mercifully gave me eyes to see the harsh ways I was speaking to my family after sipping coffee at my desk all day. I desperately wanted to change and did eventually because of the Holy Spirit’s power, but first, I had to contend with my addiction. 

The first day without coffee, I walked around in a mental fog. Without caffeine to help me navigate my exhaustion, I crashed. In the days that followed, I developed acute headaches. My body was in full-blown withdrawal. These physical symptoms were pointing to a spiritual truth: I thought coffee was serving me, but at some point, I started serving it. 

Second Peter 2:19 warns, “‘People are slaves to whatever has mastered them’” (NIV). Coffee had mastered my emotions, my behavior, and even my body. It was convicting evidence that coffee had become an idol in my life. 

Forsaken Hope

In Exodus 20, when God gave the Ten Commandments, He commanded against idol worship first and foremost. This positioning is important, as all other areas of sin start with idolatry. 

God also reveals why idolatry is so dangerous: “For I the LORD your God am a jealous God” (v. 5). What is God jealous for? His glory, for one thing. There is no combination of beans and water that can ever compare with the glory of Christ. He is alone is worthy of our worship and He will not share our hearts with lesser things. But He is also jealous for us. Jealous for us to know the abundant blessings that can only be found in Him. 

Jonah 2:8 boldly proclaims, “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.” It is not God’s love that is forsaken by our idolatry. His love toward us is everlasting (Jer. 31:3). It’s our hope in Him that becomes watered down when we pour our hopes into something else.

The cup of coffee you are holding cannot save you from your sins. It cannot produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in your life. Coffee has not commissioned you to make disciples of the nations. Christ has! 

The next time coffee promises to be your savior, rest instead in this truth, “I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior” (Isa. 43:11). Go ahead, enjoy the smell and taste of perfectly roasted coffee beans, but refuse to worship anything (and anyone) other than Almighty God. 

About the Author

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is married to her high school sweetheart, Jason, and together they parent four energetic boys on their small farm in the midwest. She is the author of more than a dozen books and Bible studies, the content manager … read more …

Join the Discussion

Related Posts