Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, August 22, 2014 2 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

The first two of the Ten Commandments are:
1) You shall have no other gods before me.
2) You shall not make yourself any idols.

Today, we don’t live in a world where a society will make an image of a deity and bow before it and worship it. Or do we?

We don’t have a daily ritual where we go to a temple and bow before an image that we can see and give it our praise and worship? Or do we?

We don’t give honor and praise to a person or object or idea that should only be given to God Almighty. Or do we? Idolatry was a major issue throughout the Old Testament history. An idol is any object, person, spirit, idea, or image that is placed in a higher level of honor than God. Some of the major idols mentions are a Golden Calf (Exodus 32), Baal (1 Kings 18), Asherah (Judges 6), and Molech (Leviticus 20). What did these idols mean or represent?

The Golden Calf was created in rebellion against Moses when he was on the mountain of God too long for the people’s patience. The people were displeased with Moses’ leadership and they crafted an idol in the image of what they had seen in Egypt. It was a longing for the imprisoned past they had where they had grown comfortable.

Baal was the god of the rain. Israel is a desert climate and was an agricultural culture. They depended upon the annual rain for their crops and their livelihood. Elijah directly challenged the authority of Baal by declaring that it would not rain until Elijah gave his word. He finally brought the prophets of Baal into a showdown at Mt. Carmel where they called upon their god for fire. Elijah prayed to the one true God and fire came down.

Asherah was a goddess of love and fertility. For women, barrenness was considered a curse, and as a result often an outcast from society. As a result, they would turn to whatever it took to support being able to have children. And usually that led to Asherah worship. Asherah worship led to a lot of immoral sexual debauchery.

Molech worship was particularly evil. In attempt to avoid curses and to be blessed, parents would do the unthinkable: sacrifice an infant child to Molech by placing the child on a metal plate and putting the plate with the child on it into a fire.

We see very similar behavior today. It takes a very different form, but it is the same mentality. We don’t worship statutes like Israel did but we do worship people. We do worship idols in a different form. American celebrities are certainly idols. When John Lennon of the Beatles was killed, all of America mourned like it was the end of the world. Just last week, Robin Williams committed suicide. How much media attention was he given? Miley Cyrus has been an idol for a long time, first as Hannah Montana and now she is synonymous with one word: twerking.

What about sports figures? How many of us search out every detail about our favorite sports players or teams? What about the big name preachers out there? Yes, there are the Benny Hinn’s, the Joel Osteens, etc. There are the Mark Driscoll’s, the Rick Warrens, etc. My favorite one is Eric Ludy. But I have to caution myself to not idolize him. Paul Washer has an awesome 15-minute interview addressing how we as Christians can idolize preachers, some of whom are very solid.

While we may respect and admire some of these people, we must be careful that they do not take the place of God. Each of these role models we look up to are fallible men and women and they all have a need for a Savior just like us. There is a place for these types of people, for the public role models, but they cannot fill the shoes that only God can fill.

Let us get a little deeper and personal. I often hear people say, “An idol is anything that takes the place of God.” There is a lot of truth in this. But we have to be careful. God desires a relationship with us, but he does not call us to neglect the duties we have committed to. At an Intervarsity Camp I went to a few years ago, the speaker talked about how he was on a mission trip and he was supposed to go out and play with the kids. He did not want to do that so he created an excuse: I’m going to have my quiet time. It sounded very solid and well-intentioned but he was clear that his motive was wrong. We learn in 1 Samuel 15 that to obey is better than sacrifice. Is it possible that we can make our “quiet time” an idol”? Yes, it is.

What else can be idols? Our jobs. Do we neglect our families, our home duties, for the sake of our job? What about relationships? Do we hold our significant other so high that we are willing to cut off relationships with family to hold onto it? What about parents or our children? Can we trust God to take care of them or do we have to control every aspect of their lives? Will you sin against another - a friend, a spouse, or even a stranger - for the sake of “family honor”? What about social media? A very big clue that our cell phones or our Facebook accounts are an addiction, an idol, is what happens when we are separated from them. Can you walk away from your cell phone and not think about it? Can you step away from Facebook or Instagram or Twitter? If you do, how long does it take for you to be dreaming or wondering what is going on there? And here is the kicker that a friend of mine told me about: Are you willing to sin, against God or against someone else, to maintain that job, relationship, object, etc? If so, then you have an idol.

Now, do not read what I am not saying. I am not telling you to abstain from all these things - from having a role model, from having a relationship with someone, from having a favorite sports team, from having social media, from listening to a popular pastor. I am not telling to stay away from these things. Many of them are good things in and of themselves. I am simply saying they need to be put in their proper place. We need to not look to them for the satisfaction, comfort, approval, and support that only God is able to provide. Remember, God is on the throne, not us, not the things we like. Keep him on the throne and he will let you know where to place all these other things in our lives.

Go read more from Worldview Warriors on idolatry in this post or this post.


Bob Sorensen said...

One problem that some people have is that they turn religion into a false god. They will be heavily involved in church activities and ministry efforts, doing things for God (some seem to be avoiding God in their activities), but do not really spend time with God. Indeed, I have prayed that my own creation science ministry does not become an idol, or else I would have to tear it down.

Charlie said...

And I love how you keep checking up on that. You have it in your mind that you don't want The Question Evolution Project to be the dominating thing in your mindset. If you try to do it in your own strength, you will be nothing but a miserable replica.

The key is that relationship with God, talking with him constantly and getting his orders on what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. I know I fail in this regard more often than I would like to admit. All these ministries and activities we do are usually good but one of the keys to know when they have become an idol is when we "must" control it. When we take ownership of it when it really belongs to God. Could you let it go and give it to someone else to manage? Tough question to ask.