When someone mentions the term idolatry, your mind might go to images of the golden statues described in the Old Testament. Perhaps you picture the Israelites turning their backs on God repeatedly to worship other things.
In Exodus 20:3, God gives the first of the Ten Commandments and states, “You shall have no other gods before me.”
But it wasn’t long before the Israelites were caught worshiping a golden calf (Ex. 32). Since we often learn all of this together in a single Sunday school lesson, we can easily assume that idolatry is an Old Testament issue that modern Christians do not struggle with.
A New Definition
Grab a dictionary and flip (or scroll) to the word idolatry, and you’ll find a two-pronged definition. Idolatry is:
- The worship of a physical object as a god.
- Immoderate attachment or devotion to something.
Golden calf worship would fall under the first definition. Modern idolatry usually looks more like the second definition. We are worshiping an idol when our devotion to a person, object, or idea is greater than our devotion to God. Unlike the Israelites in the Old Testament, we don’t have to create a statue out of gold for idolatry to grip our hearts. If we aren’t careful, we can commit idolatry in our hearts and not even know it.
We are worshiping an idol when our devotion to a person, object, or idea is greater than our devotion to God.
Idolatry is always the result of not believing God’s truth about your life and situation. We’re not sure He will come through, so we give our love and affection to something or someone else.
Romans 1:25 declares, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”
We commit idolatry when we exchange God’s truth for a lie and begin devoting ourselves to the lie. Let me show you what I mean.
Three Modern Idols
Sure, you probably don’t have a picture of a golden calf in your room, but do you have a phone? A mirror? A boyfriend/crush? These can all become idols if you’re not careful. Here’s how.
Modern Idol #1: Your Phone
A smartphone can quickly become an idol when we believe the following lies:
- I might miss something.
- Someone is talking about me.
- I have to see what everyone else is doing.
To feed the lies, we begin devoting ourselves to the worship of our phones by constantly scrolling through our feed.
Do you want to know if this is an idol in your life? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you able to disconnect without feeling anxious?
- If you had the option to scroll through your feed again or pay attention to church or do your daily Bible reading, which one do you choose?
- Are you able to pay attention in class and during activity with others, or do you constantly take out your phone and pretend like you’re paying attention?
Your answers to these questions may reveal that your phone has idol status in your heart. It may be time to take a break and refocus your eyes on God.
Modern Idol #2: The Mirror
The mirror idol can manifest itself with two different lies. The first is you are not pretty enough. The second one is you are extremely beautiful and your beauty defines you. Regardless of which one you believe, you devote yourself to the mirror by chasing or obsessively maintaining the unrealistic view of modern beauty.
Is the mirror an idol for you? Consider the following:
- Do you obsess over your looks?
- Are you constantly worried if others are looking at you?
- Do you feel judged by how you look?
Psalm 139:13–14 reminds us, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
God’s Word defines our value, not the arbitrary, ever-shifting standards of the world.
Modern Idol #3: A Boyfriend/Crush
Has a guy ever become an idol in your life?
I believed the lie that my happiness would be complete if I had a boyfriend and would devote myself too much to our relationship. I forgot the truth that a human being will never meet my deepest desires to be known. What I was seeking was the joy that only comes from a genuine relationship with God.
Could a boyfriend/crush be your idol? Think of your answers to the following:
- Do you believe that you cannot have joy without him?
- Does the relationship cause you to place your relationship with God on the back burner?
- Do you feel incomplete without a boyfriend or a crush to think about?
This idol can easily overtake your life if you’re not careful. Always be mindful that a human being will never fulfill your deepest desires. Only God can do that.
It’s Time to Turn
A human being will never fulfill your deepest desires.
Idolatry is not just an Old Testament concept involving golden statues. It is a current temptation that hinders many of us in our relationship with God. If you realize you have an idol in your life, pray and ask God to show you how to turn from idols and worship Him alone.
Do you struggle with any of these idols? Can you think of any to add to our list? Let us know in the comments below.