Is Idolatry Idle?
Anyone who has read the Bible, even in a perfunctory way, must be struck with the many and serious warnings against idolatry, that is, the worship of idols. Idols in Bible times were figurines constructed of wood, silver, gold, or some other material. Perhaps the best known Biblical account of idolatry is the golden calf incident of Exodus chapter 32. Here we find the children of Israel, freshly led out of Egypt, dancing and reveling around a golden calf of their own making.
To say that God hates idolatry would be true. God is not being arbitrary or capricious in His command—the 2nd of the 10 Commandments—which forbids idolatry. His distaste for idolatry is borne out of a concerned love for His children. God knows that “an idol,” as Paul says in 1Corinthians 8:4, “is nothing in the world.” An idol has no power, no personality, no volition, no love, no emotion, and no thoughts. Idols are not even ambulatory! If they are to move, they must be carried from place to place by those who worship and adore them. Strange indeed!
God knows that idols are nothing like Him. He is the omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent God of Heaven and Earth. He is the Creator and the Redeemer. He is real, volitional, loving, and alive. In short, He is. An idol, by contrast, is none of these things. Again, to quote Paul, “an idol is nothing.”
But in this modern era, isn’t idolatry more or less non-existent? Science and technology have dispelled so many myths and superstitions; surely, idolatry is a thing of the past in the 21st Century, you might be tempted to think. Think again!
Idolatry may have changed (although for many cultures and religious traditions, amazingly, it hasn’t!), but it has not disappeared. It has become more subtle. Many idols today, rather than being constructed of gold, silver, or wood, are constructed in the minds of people who accept non-biblical, irrational, and humanistic ideas of God!
These idols of the mind are ubiquitous. They can take the form of a shallow conception of beauty enshrined in the mind of a teenage girl, or of a lust for power or money, or of an insatiable addiction to entertainment, excitement, popularity, or fashion. These idols of the mind can become the dominant and reigning force in the life without ever taking a physical form, yet they are real. And they are dangerous.
The media sells these idols. So does Madison Avenue. So does Hollywood. People believe these idolatrous imaginings, and enshrine them as the centerpiece of their life. Marketers are quick to put a human face on these idolatrous imaginings. These come in many sizes and shapes: rock stars, movie stars, televisions stars, sports stars, etc.
The message is subtle and yet direct: these people are happy; look at what they’ve pursued in life; if you pursue the same things you will be happy.
This way of thinking is adopted and accepted into the mind, and an idol of sorts may soon follow. God knows that true happiness can only be found in a right relationship with Him. Anything that takes our time, attention, and resources away from Him is dangerous and idolatrous. These distractions can actually become objects of worship. Not in the traditional sense, usually, but objects of worship nonetheless. Remember, the word worship is derived from the word worth, that is, we worship what is worth the most to us. We can worship sports, movies, novels, money, our family, popularity, a car, a career or a host of other things.
The worship of these things, whether formal or not, is idolatry and is prohibited by the 2nd Commandment. Remember, God does not forbid these things as an act of caprice, but out of a genuine concern for our personal and eternal wellbeing.
No, idolatry is not idle, not even this modern era, but it can be perfectly idle, even dead, in your own experience! “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols.” Ezekiel 14:6.