Idolatry is the sin of which Christians must be most vigilant. It is the act of promoting any person place or thing as a priority over the Lord. Through doing such, believer’s violate Christ’s Great Commandment — to love God above all else (see Matthew 22:37-38).
Yahweh repeatedly warned Israel concerning this snare. The first four of the Ten Commandments were warnings against defaming and devaluing the Divine (see Exodus 20:1-8). Unfortunately, Abraham’s descendants strayed in this matter. Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord described their folly: “They have returned to the sins of their ancestors who refused to obey My words and have followed other gods to worship them…” (Jeremiah 11:10).
An idol is anything we exalt as “god” over the one, true “God.” In the current dispensation of God’s grace, we will face temptation in this area. The apostle John has warned us, saying, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
What idols must we avoid? Obviously, few modern Christians are going to bow before a golden-plated wood carving (see Jeremiah 10:3-5). However, there are three allurements which constantly tug at our hearts, tempting us to become idol-worshipers.
The Idol of Reputation —
Some turn from God and worship at the throne of self. Because of pride and self-love, they expend most of their energy on securing a desired reputation. What others think and say of them is of utmost importance. Being in control and being admired is priority number one. Respect and praise are sacred cows. When others slight or speak evil of such people, wrath and bitterness are soon to follow. John referred to this sin as “the pride in one’s lifestyle” (see 1 John 2:16).
The Idol of Possessions —
Money and material things are the real lord of many religious people. Though they are involved in church, they worship the god of wealth. Contentment is found in homes, cars, gadgets, furniture, wardrobes, and bank accounts. While owning material resources isn’t wrong, there is something horribly wrong with allowing them to own us (see 1 Timothy 6:6-10).
The Idol of Comfort —
Many expend too much effort on securing comfort. They are like a man in a parable of Jesus, one who existed for the sole purpose of enjoying ease (see Luke 12:16-21). Travel, ballgames, relaxation, entertainment, hobbies, and prospects of retirement rule as king. God indeed wants us to rest at times and to enjoy His creation. Vocational retirement is not wrong. There is nothing inherently evil with sporting events and entertainment, but such things often hold too much importance in the lives of too many modern Christians. Instead of worshipping such things, believers should make Christ the first priority in their lives (see Matthew 6:33).
Dr. Patrick Latham