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.
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
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?
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.
many of the Ten Commandments relate to idolatry?
seriously does God regard worship of false gods?
there be any unrepentant idolators in the Kingdom?
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.
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.
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?
wickedness of idolatry
13:6–11; Ezekiel 8:7–18; 1 Corinthians 6:9–10.
6:33; Matthew 6:19–21; Luke 12:13–21; Matthew
10:37–39; Colossians 3:2.
5:19–21; Colossians 3:5–6.
danger of greed
1:28–32; Isaiah 57:17; Mark 7:20–23; Luke
12:15; Ephesians 5:3–5.
119:36–37; Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 6:19–21,
3. Greed is idolatry!
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
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.
58. Wealth and money