What comes to mind when I say the word idolatry? Like most Christians, you probably think of the Old Testament. You’re reminded of the many gods and images worshipped and bowed down to by much of the world’s population of the time. Well good thing we don’t worship idols today right? We don’t have to worry about God getting angry at a golden calf that we’ve made. Idolatry is dead you say? Think again. Idolatry is alive and well. It just goes by a different name.
Beginning in Exodus 20, God says, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no gods before me” (vs. 2-3). The important thing here is defining “gods” the way God would define it. These gods not only include physical images to worship but anything that draws our attention and heart away from God. And ironically, most of our idols today are good things. At least they start out that way. Then we start to live for them. Our idols start to run the show, directing our thoughts and actions until we are consumed by them.
These idols come in different forms and we don’t all struggle with the same ones. Money, power, popularity, and entertainment. Sex, family, and personal happiness. They are all blessings from God that make our lives abundant. But they can also turn into our god.
When God issued the Ten Commandments to Moses, he purposely instructed us to give him priority. God knows the hearts of those he created. He knows how easily we’re distracted. He knows our pursuit of money can become all-consuming. He’s aware that our love for our family can take love away from him. He knows our need to feel wanted and approved. And let’s not even mention our predisposition to worship Hollywood stars and sports teams. God is fully aware of our ability to latch on to something until it controls us. That is why he reminds us that we are ultimately slaves. “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey- whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness” (Romans 6:16).
We are at war and the gods of this world are gaining ground in the church. Christians are quietly surrendering their lives to empty gods and missing out on the only thing that can really save us. We must continually examine our lives, delving deep into our thoughts and heart. Only there will we truly see whether we worship God or gods.