What is idol worship? You might be surprised.
As humans, we tend to minimize the things we do and maximize the things others do. We easily accept lies and don’t always look at life realistically.
It is the truth that sets us free. So if you are looking for something warm and fuzzy to read, initially you won’t find it here.
We have to face the hard things about ourselves to be able to enjoy the good things God has to offer us.
What is idol worship?
Oxford Languages gives us a simple definition of idol worship:
“extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone.”
While many people believe that idols are “things” that are carved or molded to look like parts of nature or people, it is more than that.
Similar words for idolatry include adoration, worship, glorification, and hero-worshipping.
So with this simple definition, we need to take a deeper look at what idols really are and what idol worship entails.
History of idol worship
Anyone who has watched the movie, “The Ten Commandments” will remember the scene where Moses comes down from the mountain and finds the people worshipping a statue of a cow that they had made out of melted gold.
This scene shows that they had already broken one of the commandments which says that we are not to worship anything or anyone other than God our Creator.
At this point, Moses throws the stone tablets on the ground breaking them into pieces. This is what most people remember about the movie.
But this is NOT where idol worship began. From the beginning of time, mankind has wanted to make other things more important than God.
The first sin was a form of idol worship.
Adam and Eve made their desires the most important thing in their lives. They ignored what God had told them and in doing so they damaged their relationship with Him.
The Ten Commandments were given to help us see that we are all guilty and need a way to restore our relationship with God.
Idol worship today
Idol worship can be very subtle. In the Old Testament, there were many references to carved images. But the New Testament covers many idols related to our attitudes.
They are the things or people “loved more than God, wanted more than God, desired more than God, treasured more than God, enjoyed more than God.” (1)
So where are you in your love, desire, and enjoyment of God?
We need to ask ourselves some hard questions to uncover our personal idols.
Idol Worship of possessions
The Western World is a consumer society. We want more and more because we have the means to get it. We are addicted to all of our stuff.
But even among very poor nations, things call out to be worshipped. Regardless of our financial standing, our possessions often possess us instead of the other way around.
Here is a simple example. Many people who buy a boat suddenly feel the need to use it as much as possible. After all, they spent a lot of money on it or worse yet, went into debt to get it.
The sad thing is that they also don’t have time to spend with Christian friends as they are gone most weekends. They begin to neglect their spiritual life.
There is nothing wrong with owning a boat until the boats own us and is the driving force in our life.
So ask yourself the following questions:
- What consumes most of your free time?
- Where would you rather be when not working?
- Is comfort more important than doing what is right?
- Do the statements for your credit card and bank account show any evidence of your love for God?
- If you had just ________ (you fill in the blank), I would be happy.
Whether these things are idols is between you and God. But be careful that you are not justifying something that you would not be willing to give up.
We must hold our possessions loosely because it hurts if God has to pry them out of our hands.
The things we think we can’t live without are likely idols.
Idol Worship of people
I find it amusing that the very popular “American Idol” uses this word in the name of the program. It just goes to show that people want to be looked up to, admired, and yes worshipped.
Many people put their children or spouses up on a pedestal. Life revolves totally around these people and no thought is given to God and what He also wants in their lives.
Again, don’t get me wrong. When we have children or a spouse we have responsibilities to them. God expects us to fulfill our responsibilities.
But when there is no time to nurture our relationship with God, we need to examine our priorities.
Here are some questions to ask yourself about the people in your life.
- Are you using your children or spouse to build your own ego?
- Who has the power to make or break your day?
- What relationships attract you the most and why?
- What is your greatest disappointment in life?
Idol Worship of self
Probably the most subtle idol is the worship of ourselves. We try to cover it up with phrases such as, “self-care”, “self-protection”, and “self-love”.
Don’t get me wrong. As Christians, we are to take care of our bodies, minds, and souls because we are the home of the Spirit of God. We also need to be wise and not put ourselves in harm’s way.
But the spirit of “self” is at war with the spirit of God. We need to recognize that and squelch any idols attempting to take God’s place of importance.
“God did not create man to worship himself, or to be self-serving and self-satisfied, but to be completely satisfied in God.” (2)
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you spend a lot of time looking at yourself in the mirror? If yes, why?
- Do you dress to get people’s attention?
- Do you fish for compliments?
- Is it important that people know certain things about you? (Other than you love Jesus)
- The absence of what causes you to question God’s goodness?
Who me? Idol worship uncovered
So did we uncover some of your idols? Are your heart and emotions under the control of something other than God?
Idol worship will lead us down the wrong path.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 NLT
“In this fallen world we all face a catalog of potential God replacements. This list is endless because anything in creation can capture our hearts and live there as only God should.” (3)
Only daily communication with God the Father will help you guard your heart against idol worship. And of course, we can’t do that without a relationship with Jesus Christ.
If you don’t know Jesus, you probably have questions. The people at Chat About Jesus have answers. You can text, call, or chat with them online any time of the day or night.
You might also like to read:
- Christian faith for beginners
- 100 journal prompts for spiritual growth
- Learn from your mistakes – 5 powerful steps