By the conclusion of John 4:18, Jesus has made it apparent that by not seeking the living water that only God can supply, the Samaritan woman has sought after vastly deficient sources to quench her thirst in life. That being said, we might be tempted to condemn this woman in our minds in multiple ways: 1) She has the undivided attention of the Son of God—the very One who created her and sustains her, but she is assessing him as less significant than Jacob, who was a sinner and thus needed to be saved by grace; 2) She has not learned her lesson after many failed relationships and she keeps trying to find her sustenance in the creature, rather than the Creator—in her case, trying to find love and security in men, which represent horrendously cracked cisterns that can hold no water.
But as a way of guarding us from that kind of judgmentalism, all we have to do is to think about what sources of water we substitute for Christ? What is our Jacob’s well? What broken cisterns do we seek to draw from?—It’s whatever we think we need for our sustenance in a greater measure than Christ. It’s identified by thoughts like these: “I need this to go right in my life or I need to have positive movement in this area or I need to protect this at all costs.” Of course, in this discussion, we are raising the topic of idolatry. Idolatry is ultimately a worship issue, which is exactly why the concept of worship is upcoming in this passage in John 4.
Furthermore, it can also be found in James 4:1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. This passage is teaching that God considers giving into any lust an adulterous act as it relates to our relationship with him. In fact, we can know an idolatry is present when we sin to attain something or sin to hold onto something. And keep in mind that the object of this spiritual adultery may not be tangible at all. Husbands can have an idol of respect; wives can have an idol of being loved. Parents can have an idol of well-behaved children. Anyone can have an idol of comfort and smooth circumstances, which is conspicuously present when there is constant anxiety. The list is endless, but that which Christ offers is limitless and eternal.