The question I’m asking is, “Can born again, Bible-believing, Christ-worshiping Christians also be idolaters?” I want to suggest that they can and I’ll explain why I think that. First of all, what is an idol? Idols are images or representations of gods. Idols in the ancient world were common. Worship of them was thought to bring fertility, prosperity, protection, or favor with a god. Men trusted in them. Idols were often carved of wood, stone, or precious metals (gold, silver, bronze). Stars, planets, trees, rivers, mountains, beasts, or birds were often worshiped as idols. Idols in the western world today, however, are more sophisticated but nonetheless still idols. Christians today can fall into the trap of worshiping them. Before I cite examples of current idols, here is a powerful passage in the Bible which points to the fact that Christians can be idolaters:
1 John 5:21, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” Who are the “little children” to whom John is speaking? These are Christians! John is warning Christians to be on guard against idolatry. Why? Because John knows that when surrounded by a culture of idols Christians can become idol worshipers. The idols of the culture can affect even Christians so John exhorts them to guard themselves. So must we. How do we do that? How do we guard ourselves from the idols in our culture? Examine ourselves. What do our hearts cling to, treasure most? On what do we spend time/money/energy? If Jesus Christ is not the greatest treasure of our hearts, we have succumbed to idolatry. If that’s the case we may have to discontinue some practices to make Him our supreme treasure.
The New Testament’s commentary on idol worship says that it is exchanging “The glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (Romans 1:23). In other words, idolatry is prizing anything created more than the Creator. Idols are not neutral. They affect those who worship them. Their worshipers become like them. Consider Psalm 115:8 and Psalm 135:18. Both psalms say the same thing. They describe an idol as lifeless, the work of men. They detail the influence idols have on their makers, “Those who make them will become like them, everyone who trusts in them.” For example, a very common idol in our day is the worship of mammon (Matthew 6:24). Mammon is a Greek word and described the idol of materialism. It included money, wealth, and material possessions.1
Do people worship money, wealth, and material possessions today? Yep, they do and that is just as much idolatry as bowing down to a golden statue. How do those who worship mammon become like mammon? They become preoccupied with money. They are thinking of how to get more of it. They are preoccupied with their investments, bank balances, salary, and all things financial and are constantly checking on the stock/bond/precious metal markets. They surround themselves with toys (boats, cars, etc.). Common idols of our day include: money, food, jobs, sex, houses, hobbies, religion (yes, even religion can be an idol), children, spouses, pleasure.
So Christian, make Christ the supreme treasure of your heart,