Have you ever heard of idols? They’re mentioned a fair bit in the Old Testament, particularly when people turned away from God and decided to create a “new God” themselves so that they could worship that instead. But whilst these images were the most common forms of idols that we see in the Old Testament, these aren’t the only idols that exist.
Got Questions defines idols as “anything that replaces the one, true God”. Suddenly, the whole concept of what an idol can be, is flung wide open. I’m sure most of us have heard the Bible verse that says that we cannot worship both God and money – but what else do people sometimes worship? What are we allowing to take God’s place in our lives?
I wanted to explore some of the things that we right now, as people, as society, often find ourselves making into idols and putting in the place of God. This is not an exhaustive list at all, literally anything can become an idol in our lives, these are just a few that I think have become particularly common in our society, and that we need to be aware of to ensure that they don’t become idols for us.
So, what are some of these modern day idols?
Politics is certainly something that I see becoming more and more of an idol in the current situation. I think perhaps the lack of control we have over our lives right now makes us want to put it all upon the people who appear to have the most control (even if they actually don’t) – politicians. This idol definitely looks different for different people – some people make an idol out of a particular politician, literally worshipping them as an individual. Others make politics as a whole they’re idol – pouring their energy and passion into “converting” other people to believe the same as them, often considering those who differ politically as some kind of enemy.
This is a really dangerous idol as it can cause real division where there should be unity, and it will push you to place all of your trust in people, who cannot ever fulfil you or bring you the joy and peace that Jesus brings.
I have written a small amount about the self-love movement in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully on board with looking after ourselves, stewarding our bodies and minds, and all of that. However, I think the self-love movement as it currently exists, can lead to people creating idols of themselves. It just takes a quick search on Google, or pinterest, or probably many other platforms, to see some of the quotes relating to the self-love movement. Many of these quotes focus upon the fact that we are the most important person in our lives, how much we deserve from other people/the world, and how we should place our own needs above the needs of others.
Obviously, not all people who are interested in self-love believe these things, but I do think they highlight the fine line that exists between self-love and self-worship.
When we talk about idols, I think money is the one that many of us think of first, but I do think it’s worth mentioning again because it can just be so easy for money to become an idol. Particularly thinking about the times that we are in now, mid-Covid, this is definitely something to be aware of. It may be easy to remain focused upon God rather than money, when you have a steady income, but what about when your job is at risk? Or you’re on furlough?
Even when we’re anxious about our finances, we need to place our trust in God, not in money. My recent sermon about generosity touches upon this trust, so do check that out. If money is something you struggle with, you should also check out CAP’s resources here.
Social Justice is another concept that has had increasing popularity and attention this year, meaning that again we need to be increasingly aware of in order to prevent it from becoming an idol. Personally, I disagree with the idea of social justice (and hear me out here). By its very definition, this is justice whereby society decides what this justice is. This makes justice incredibly changeable. What is allowed in one generation, can be “outlawed” by the next generation. Society (or, more likely just the loudest voices in society) get to decide what is OK and what is not OK – and that simply does not line up with the Bible.
God is the same yesterday, today and forever. His laws remain the same, and his justice remains the same. Rather than following the ever-changing world of social justice, I would much rather stand upon the firm foundation of biblical justice.
So what does it look like when this becomes an idol? It can look like preachers being more interested in sharing the social narratives of the time, than the gospel (I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk about oppression, just that it shouldn’t be at the expense of the gospel). It can look like people being more worried about keeping society happy than pleasing God.
Marriage is an interesting one, because God created marriage and marriage can be a wonderful reflection of Christ and the Church. But it can also so easily become an idol for people. It is so easy for people to fall into the trap of seeing marriage as the end goal, the achievement they are working towards (many people in the church definitely don’t help fix this narrative!); or even that if they follow God he will reward them with a spouse and a family.
In reality, God does not promise us a marriage (I have blog posts that you can read all about things that God has promised to us, and things that he has not promised to us). Some people are called to singleness, and really there are many advantages in singleness for how we can serve God.
It’s OK to want a marriage, but it shouldn’t become more important to us that our relationship with God.
What other modern day idols do you think we need to be aware of?