What Is Idolatry, and Do I Practice it?

When we think of the Ten Commandments, probably the “law” that seems the most out-dated is “Thou Shalt Not Commit Idolatry,” or put another way, “Thou Shalt Not Make Unto Thyself Any Graven Images!”

Whew! Well, thank goodness we no longer carve images out of wood and bow down to them. But, look at those wacky Catholics! Boy, they sure didn’t get the memo! As for most civilized people, we’re waaaaay beyond that primitive stuff.

So, did God write a law akin to the law that if your car spooks a horse you need to hide it until the animal settles down? (that’s actually a law in Pennsylvania). Or, maybe it’s like the law in Missouri against driving down the highway with an uncaged bear. Or, laws that require a woman to get her husband’s permission before going to the stylist in Michigan!

Something tells me that God wasn’t short-sighted. He is the first and the last. Nothing is outside of His awareness and we don’t “out-grow” God’s laws. When He tells us that idolatry makes the top ten, we better understand that it’s a problem.

But, you might say, I don’t have any carved idols. In fact, I haven’t bowed down to anything since the time Justin Beeber was in town! And, his acting is wooden, so touche!

No, really, who worships carved idols? Nobody except some Aborigine somewhere, right?

WRONG!

We know the answer that people will worship their cars (what a sweet ride!) or sports (gotta have my ESPN!). The Sunday School answer is that anything that takes our attention away from God is idolatry.

That’s true, I might add. But it’s not the whole story.

How about our desire to know the future? Sure, we don’t put much stock in it, right? I mean, those fortune cookies are just lame. But, how about horoscopes? How about visiting mediums? Or rares? *rimshot*

Seriously, how many times have we seen some supposed Christian “declaring” what is going to happen? Something super-specific like “There will be an amazing event this year that will shake you to the core!!” Or maybe, “An old world leader who’s riddled with cancer will die this decade!” Or, “I’m seeing thousands of mis-matched socks that will be found right after you spend money on new pairs!”

Do you ever get sucked into believing the “predictions” of some “prophet” or sooth-sayer? Do you think that they are tapping into some force that allows them to predict the future?

If the answer was a “nooooo, not really,” then it’s probably really a “yes, I do!” And it shows the idolatry of our hearts more clearly than someone who waxes their car every day or follows all the sports stats religiously.

Idolatry, after all, is trying to tap into God’s power apart from God. This definition is synonymous with paganism. It’s believing that there’s power out there that does what only God can do, but God is trying to chase us away from it. Sound familiar?

It should. It’s what Satan told Eve in the garden. If she’d eat the forbidden fruit, she’d become like God, her eyes would be opened, etc. The same is true with idolatry. We start to believe that there’s this power we can tap into. We can speak things into existence. We can declare the future, and it will happen. We can invoke God’s power by our own will.

That’s straight up idolatry. It’s blasphemy. Our words cannot create anything. Only The Word of God creates. It is through Christ that all things were made and in Him sustained. (Col. 1:16-17). And yet, there are so-called Christian preachers who tell people this stuff. They tell them that they can declare money into their accounts (and then pay the pastor, I suppose). They tell them they can declare health to themselves (though the Apostle Paul couldn’t heal himself of the thorn in his flesh and couldn’t heal Timothy of his stomach issues).

These false teachers are wolves. They prey upon our natural desire to have money and health. They’re snake-oil salesmen who claim to offer a power that only God work. Anyone who believes them commits idolatry.

So, do you think thereĀ actually is this power? Do you think God has warned us away from witches because they can tell the future and affect things magically? If so, consider this passage:

Set forth your case, says the LORD; bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob.

Let them bring them, and tell us what is to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, that we may know their outcome; or declare to us the things to come.

Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; do good, or do harm, that we may be dismayed and terrified.

Behold, you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing; an abomination is he who chooses you. Is. 41:21-24

The idols and the false prophets cannot tell the future. They cannot explain the past. They cannot do harm or terrify anyone. Their works are ‘less than nothing,’ and those who believe in them are an abomination.

Short version: God has all power and he doesn’t share it with idols and false prophets. Idolatry is ascribing the power or attributes of God to anything else.

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