We read the Bible, especially the Old Testament, and we see over and over again how the Israelites surrendered to the worshiping of idols. If you’re like me, when you read these passages of Scripture you are dumbfounded. How could they not see it? It’s so obvious… Yet because they allowed the culture of the nations around them to invade their faith, they blinded themselves to God’s truth. We do the same thing. We use the opinions of other to disprove faith, instead of allowing the truth of God’s Word to penetrate all areas of our lives. We are like the Israelites. The invasion of culture blinds us to the reality of our true spiritual condition.
Most people who profess a Christian belief system would not claim to worship idols. Some Christians may recognize they “have” idols, but the possession of an idol is just as wrong because it is the first step that leads to worship of that idol. When the Israelites conquered a city God always commanded them to destroy all of the idols in the land. When they didn’t the next command was to turn from the idols they were worshiping. Do you see the pattern? The first step of obedience is to destroy them, when we don’t we are then instructed to turn from them. Possession leads to worship. Relationships, careers, status, wealth — all of these can be idols if we value them above God and His principles for right-living.
Let’s go back to our verse from Isaiah for a moment. I believe it paints a vivid definition of true idolatry that transcends time and culture — “these things they have made.” If we made it, it’s a possible idol in our life. Why? Because of the pride in claiming ownership. Think for a moment about the things you’ve made in your life, those milestones of achievement — marriage, career, children, wealth, status, etc. — did you make them or do you fully acknowledge God’s part in your success?
Let’s go another step further and ask the question, is our land filled with idols? It is easy for us to say “no,” and move on because we don’t generally see Buddha statues in our neighborhoods or know of coworkers who offer sacrifices to pagan gods, but let’s pause for a moment. “These things that we have made” — what about ideals, beliefs, dogma, values? We have forfeited our belief in absolute truth — the understanding that there is a truth that does not change based on whims or culture or trends — far more often than we realize. Like the Israelites, we don’t even notice the idols of our own made-up beliefs. We have traded the knowledge that some things in life are simply right or wrong as God commands, not us. We have made facsimiles of truth to replace the parts of God’s Word we don’t like or don’t even bother to learn. Popular opinion is not truth. Society’s values are not truth. Whatever is trending on social media is not truth. Even my own viewpoints are not truth. This rejection of absolute truth has led us down a road of idolatry. Self-care, protecting our children from harm, how we deserve to be treated… these are our new beliefs, things that we have made. Our modern idols.
I know what many of you are thinking — “But those are all good things.” They can be, but not if we make them into idols. I know so many parents today who believe that their primary job is to protect their children from harm; they genuinely believe that it is what God expects them to do. And there is a foundation of truth in that we are to care for our children, but the Bible does not teach us that it is our responsibility to protect them from harm. Pain and wounds are part of living in this fallen world. What the Bible does tell us is that we are to train up children in His truth. It challenges us to model faith and to teach them that God is their Provider, their Protector, and that He alone loves them unconditionally. It is our job to help them understand that God is on their side and He is always there for them no matter how hard life gets or how badly they hurt. It is not our job to be God to them, but to show God to them. His Word teaches us to love them as our heavenly Father loves us. He provides, He loves, and He sacrifices; yes, but He also disciplines, corrects, and rebukes.
We could continue to unpack the ideas of self-care, how we deserve to be treated, and so many more, but idolatry is personal. We are each prone to different temptations and different areas of pride. This is why ideology has become our graven image in so many ways. We must return to Truth; not our man-made version of it, but His absolute, unshakable, and unchanging Truth that is found in Scripture alone.
- What areas of my life have the potential to become idols? How can I ensure that God remains above them?
- Are there good things that I value which have the potential to become idols in my life? What are they? Is there anything God is asking me to do about them now?
- What does the Bible say about the beliefs that I’ve been clinging to? (Don’t be afraid to dig into His Word to find out!)
- Is there anything in your life that you have placed above God? What do you think He wants you to do about it?