Whenever I hear the term “idol” my mind immediately conjures up the image of a large golden statue in the form of a distorted human with multiple arms. It probably goes back to images I’ve seen of the idols worshiped in India. Most of us think of idols as statues made of silver or gold or carved out of wood usually in the shape of a human being but idols are more than physical statues, aren’t they? Idols are anything we worship and which displaces the Lord as God in our lives. Surely, then, Christians should have no problem with idols since we worship the Lord God (YHWH). After all worshiping an idol is a violation of the second commandment, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them . . .” (Exodus 20:4, 5). That’s why my world was rocked when I read two passages of scripture that speak of idols.
The first passage is a single verse, the last verse in John’s first epistle. John concludes his letter with these words, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). My first thought was that John is warning believers whom he calls “little children.” He wants us to know that believers are capable of idolatry and need to actively guard themselves against it. So that raises the question, what idols are believers vulnerable to worshiping? Our idols can be physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual. Here are 10 idols commonly worshiped by believers in our world today:
- My children
- My spouse
- My job
- My money, investments
- My possessions
- My lifestyle
- My leisure pursuits
- My education and degrees
- My body, health, fitness
- (bonus) Myself
The second passage is Psalm 115:8. After contrasting YHWH with idols which are made by humans and cannot speak, smell, see, feel, or walk, the psalmist declares, “Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” Shocking! He’s saying we become like that which we worship! Is that true? Yes! What fills our hearts comes out of our mouths. It dominates our speech, our behavior, and our thoughts. For example, the man who subconsciously worships the idol of money talks about it all the time. It consumes his thinking. He speaks about his portfolio, he’s constantly checking his stocks on a business website, he talks of how much he will make on a sale, how much he paid for something, or how much money he saved when he made a purchase. Knowing the subtlety of this kind of idolatry it is easy to see how Christians could become ensnared by an idol.
Finally, all addictions are forms of idolatry. The addiction has become all-consuming and pushes YHWH off His throne as Lord of our lives.
Worship the Lord God and serve Him only,