Idolatry Refs

Worship of any thing other than the one true God is condemned in Scripture as totally unacceptable. It is called idolatry. But is idolatry really a problem today? This chapter considers idolatry in Bible times, and what might be called idolatry today.

Isaiah 44:6–20

In Bible times, most people worshipped gods and goddesses represented by images of wood, stone, or precious metals. These idols were linked to the sun, animals, geographical features, and other natural phenomena. Often they had very human personalities complete with human sins and weaknesses, and each god had a “portfolio”, such as fertility, war or trades.

Isaiah condemns the worship of such idols. God insists he is the only true God—beside him there is no one else. Through the prophet Isaiah, God shows the foolishness and futility of worshipping something that one has made with one’s own hands. Whether an idol is made from metal, or carved from wood, it is still just a lifeless object with no power or character and certainly no ability to save us from our sins. Idolatry is not merely foolish, it is a dreadful sin in God’s eyes, and one that will keep a person from the Kingdom of God.

1. What do we learn from this passage about the sort of idols that were worshipped?

2. What is God saying about a person who puts their trust in something man-made?

3. There are hundreds of similar passages in the Bible which state the evils of false worship. But is idolatry a dead issue? Do you know anyone who worships idols today?

How serious is idolatry?
Read the following passages and answer the questions.

Exodus 20:1–17   How many of the Ten Commandments relate to idolatry?
Deuteronomy 13:6–11
Ezekiel 8:7–18
  How seriously does God regard worship of false gods?
1 Corinthians 6:9–10   Will there be any unrepentant idolators in the Kingdom?

Modern idolatry
There are three aspects of idolatry that are ?ourishing today. One or two are obvious; the third presents the greatest danger because we may fail to recognise it in ourselves as idolatry.

1. Modern pagan religions.

Hinduism is an example of a religion based on idol worship. There are many others with millions of followers throughout the world. Lately some ancient pagan religions have been revived; some of the most popular are old Celtic earth-worship cults which have re-emerged in Europe. People actually call themselves modern Pagans. The New Age movement has much in common with old pagan religions and the Christian should not get involved with these philosophies.

2. Idols are anything that receives our devotion other than God.

We are all familiar with the term “pop idol”. Young people in particular find the personalities and lifestyles of rock stars attractive. The issue here is not your taste in music, but whether you are attracted to the person and their image or way of life.

Perhaps you have posters of rock stars on your bedroom walls. If so, why did you put them there? What was the objective? What do you think of when you look at them? Do they foster godly thoughts and attitudes, or inspire adulation of people whose ways may not be God’s ways, or something else?

Can you think of other people or objects that inspire devotion which belongs only to God? What about objects or activities that take up a lot of our time, or dominate our thoughts and plans? When does interest or love become idolatry?

A jealous God
Exodus 20:5.
The wickedness of idolatry
Deuteronomy 13:6–11; Ezekiel 8:7–18; 1 Corinthians 6:9–10.  
Putting God first
Matthew 6:33; Matthew 6:19–21; Luke 12:13–21; Matthew 10:37–39; Colossians 3:2.  
Decision-making tools
Philippians 4:8–9.
Greed and idolatry
Galatians 5:19–21; Colossians 3:5–6.  
The danger of greed
Romans 1:28–32; Isaiah 57:17; Mark 7:20–23; Luke 12:15; Ephesians 5:3–5.  
Avoiding greed
Psalm 119:36–37; Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 6:19–21, 25–34.  

3. Greed is idolatry!

Watch out for this one! Our whole society runs on greed. Greed is simply wanting more (usually because you see someone else with more). Adver tising is cleverly designed to manipulate us into wanting more—“you need it”, “you deserve it”, or “this will save you time/money/effort”. Greed eats into us like a cancer; the more we get, the more we want. This hunger for bigger, better and more possessions probably seems innocent enough because it has become so much part of us. Yet greed is idolatry according to Scripture (Colossians 3:5–6) and will keep us out of the Kingdom of God! Why is greed called idolatry?

1. Read the Ten Commandments again in Exodus 20 and see if you need to modify your list of those commandments
that refer to idolatry.
2. Read Matthew 6:25–34.

(a) What are modern day equivalents of the things that Jesus told us not to worry about? What do you think are the major worries of people today? What
Scriptural advice applies to these concerns?
(b) Advertising tries to confuse our wants with our needs. Can you think of some examples? What Scriptures may help you to distinguish between wants and needs?
(c) Is it right to pray for/about things we need?
(d) Is it right to pray for/about things we want?

1. Make a list of some modern-day forms of idolatry. How much influence do they have in your life? Ask God to help you identify and overcome them.
1. 2. Read 1 Corinthians 8.
1. (a) What are some modern equivalents to sitting in an idol’s temple, eating meat that had been part of a pagan sacrifice?
2. (b) Discuss the role our consciences play in these situations.
3. (c) How does Paul’s advice apply today?
2. 3. Conduct an advertisement study of the television programs you watch and/or the magazines you read and list the specific goods or lifestyle aspects they are enticing you to covet. What methods are used to fuel your greed?

• The dimensions of a disciple: planning for spiritual growth by Stan Dawes (published by the author, 1993), pages 49– 50. This short chapter covers greed and covetousness.
• The genius of discipleship, by Dennis Gillett (published by the Christadelphian, 1984). Chapter 20 (5 pages) is entitled “Principles of progress: let us lay aside every weight”. It looks at the things that hinder our progress in godliness.
• The shelter of each other, Chapter 5 “One Big Town” by Mary Pipher. This book is not written from a Christian perspective but is very informative for those who need convincing about the deeply entrenched greed and ungodliness that our society takes for granted. It is quite an eye-opener and challenges our complacency, particularly about those values the media thrusts on us.
• Reformation, by Harry Whittaker (published by Biblia, 1985). Chapters 8 and 23 cover austerity and materialism.

48. Worry
58. Wealth and money