You know that scene at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark and how Indy with the help of his guide found that little golden statue? That thing; that’s an idol. Or then there’s those primitive people in Africa, who paint themselves, beat drums, and dance naked around a fire all to appease a figure carved from wood. That thing they’re worshipping; that’s an idol. Or then you’ve got the biblical account in Exodus about how when Moses went up on Mount Sinai and the people melted down their jewelry and forged a golden calf statue that the people worshiped. That thing that Israel left for God; that’s an idol.
“Silly people,” you might say to yourself, “I’m glad we don’t do that anymore.”
But do we? Maybe our idols aren’t statues, but I would submit to you that idolatry has not and will not go away. See, the truth is that all of us, from the time we come out of the womb, are hardwired to sin. And ultimately, when you look at all of your sins, its plain and simple idolatry. Pride, fear, greed, adultery, murder, stealing…yep; that’s all idolatry. Idolatry is super sneaky and it’s really easy for us to think that we don’t struggle with it today, but let me give you some specific examples of modern idolatry. (Author’s Note: If you haven’t read “Idols of the Heart” by Travis that’d be good to do since he’s given a pretty solid identification of what idolatry is.)
Let’s start out with one, I’m sure we’ve all dealt with: worry. Before you write me off as a fool, let me try to explain. God has shown throughout the Bible that He is sovereign. God is over all and in control of all. There is nothing that God cannot do and the best part is that you if you are a child of God, have the promise from God that He is going to take care of you. You also know that this promise will be fulfilled, because you know that God is trustworthy and has never lied, because of His perfect holiness. (Check out Matthew 6:25-34.) With all that in mind: why on earth do you still worry? If you are still worrying, then that means that you obviously think little of God’s power and are assuming that there is a greater power. So whether that’s fate or whatever, you are in essence living like God isn’t the most powerful person there is and limiting Him. Congrats. You’re an idolater.
Another one I’m sure we’ve all dealt with in some form or another. This has the same basic concept. God is perfect and has perfect plans for our lives, plans that in the end are going to make us more Christ-like. (Notice I said perfect, not fun. There is a difference, but that’s a topic for another time.) God is sovereignly going to bring those plans to fruition and so anger at God means that we think He did a bad job with our lives, meaning we think we know better than God. Congrats. You’re an idolater.
Or maybe you’re angry at someone here on earth. Don’t think you’ve missed out on idolatry yet. Anger at someone is murder in the heart (Don’t shoot the messenger; Jesus said it first in Matthew 5). With this thought, you’re essentially saying that you think God did a bad job at making that person, that if you were in control you would’ve done better, and you’re bashing God’s image (which is what murder means in the Hebrew). Congrats. You’re still an idolater.
Hold on. What? Worship is good. That can’t be an idol! Think again. You’re a better idol-maker than you give yourself credit for. In worship when we focus on the tune or on how a song is played or on who is watching us when we do it or on how spiritual we look, we’ve missed the point. Worship is for God. Period. It’s not about you and if you make it about you, then you’ve basically said through your actions that you think you’re more important than God. Congrats. You’re an idolater. (Author’s Note: If you haven’t read “Good Idols” by AJ yet, check out that as she lists out some more good things that we make bad.)
Here’s another one where it’s going to hit a little close to home. Relationships are good. But we can still make them bad by idolizing either ourselves or the other person in the relationship. This can be idolizing your relationship with your husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, brother, sister, father, mother, nephew, niece, uncle, aunt, cousin, best friend, brother from another mother…well, you get the point. When we make our earthly relationships more important than our most important relationship, we’re saying that those people deserve more of us than God does. Our relationship with God has to be our number one relationship! (Jesus talks about this in Luke 14:26.) If you’ve not done that then…congrats. You’re an idolater.
Yes. Stuff. Any and all stuff. That phone, that car, that laptop, that house, that pair of shoes…anything. It’s called materialism and it is a real thing and it can be idolatry. (Don’t believe me? Check out Hebrews 13:5, Luke 12:15, or Matthew 6:19-21) If we value the things God has given to us more than we value the God who gave us the things, then our priorities are off. Our value system can be seen in the amount of time we spend on our stuff, the amount of care we take for our stuff (I’m talking like obsessive over-the-top care, not just being a good steward of God’s stuff), or the amount of money we take to get/maintain that stuff. If your stuff beats God in any of those three ways, then chances are you’ve got yourself an idol. Congrats. You’re an idolater.
I could keep going, but I think you get it. Here’s my point. You’re really good at idolatry. So good in fact that it might be easy to forget how much you do it. But don’t be fooled. Idolatry isn’t just figurines and blood rituals; it’s taking anything and making it of more importance than God. I’m often accused of looking for idols under every metaphorical rock. But honestly, I can’t afford not to. And neither can you. Idolatry is everywhere. But the good news is that if God’s changed you from the inside out Romans 6 says that you’re free from being a slave to sin! You’ve got the power to overcome your idolatry and with His help, you can! That’s exciting!
So to recap:
- You’re an idolater in multiple ways.
- It is easy to be an idolater.
- Rely on God for help in overcoming idolatry.
Truth with Grace,