What are Some Modern Forms of Idolatry?
When the topic of idolatry comes to mind, many people think of the concept of worshipping or praying before carved images or man-made objects. Others think of idolatry in relation to animal worship, ancestral worship or worshipping at some kind of pagan altar.
However idolatry has many forms and the sin of idolatry is just as prevalent in our modern day world just as it was in the past.
Idolatry can be defined as the worship and giving of oneself to someone or something other than the true and living God.
Another definition of idolatry would be: anything or anyone that we love, adore or worship more than God, or place ahead of God, or put in place of God.
In our modern day society we may not be kneeling before carved images and we may not be involved in animal worship, but there is a good chance that many people in the world are falling into the sin of idolatry every single day.
Below are some of the modern forms of idolatry that we need to beware of:
The Worship of Money & Riches
In our modern society money and the desire for riches has become an idol to millions of people.
People will do all sorts of strange and wicked things to obtain money. People will lie, steal, betray and even kill in order to have money. The continued growth in the lust for money is very evident in society today.
1 Timothy 6:9-10 says: But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Having money or being wealthy is not wrong. However, trusting in riches or seeking after money instead of seeking God first is wrong.
1 Timothy 6:17 says: As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.
In Matthew 19:16–30 we discover that the young rich man claimed to obey all the 10 commandments. However when he was asked by Jesus to sell all his riches and follow Christ, the rich man did not wish to let go of his wealth which ironically revealed his idolatry for money which was a direct opposition of the first commandment.
Therefore when we love money more than we love God – that is a form of idolatry. Sadly the preaching of such false gospels as the prosperity gospel only serves to add to the idolatry that we see within the church and society as a whole.
Matthew 6:24 says: No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
The Worship of Self / Narcissism
Pride, conceitedness and narcissism has been a growing culture within humanity.
2 Timothy 3:2-4 mentions several characteristics of people that reflect self-worship. This scripture says that in the last days “people will be lovers of self… proud, arrogant… ungrateful… swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,”
With narcissism comes coveting, boasting, pride, disobedience, unthankful heart, blasphemy and a lot more. Narcissism is motivated by the desire to be praised, admired and also the need for power and recognition or acknowledgment.
Even philosophies and false teachings such as the New Age spirituality, the Law of Attraction, the Word of Faith theology and pantheism all teach that man is a “little god” or that man can become like God.
Such doctrines further encourage self-worship and narcissism.
In addition such seemingly harmless things like yoga or physical workouts can lead to a form of self-worship. While it is good to do physical workouts and exercises, the Bible tells us that it is more profitable to grow spiritually. So our physical training should not lead us towards narcissism.
1 Timothy 4:8 says: “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”
Honoring Others Above God
We live in a world where people will elevate their pastor, prophet or apostle more than Jesus Christ.
We live in a world where the traditions of men are elevated above God’s word.
We live in a world where people will forsake honoring God in order to please others.
Galatians 1:10 says “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Matthew 10:37 says “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of Me.”
In these scriptures, God is not saying that we should not love or honour people. However God is saying that we are to put God first above everyone else in our lives. We are to honour God and seek to please God more than seeking to please man. So our relationship with God must take priority above our relationship with others.
The Worship of Titles & Power
Many people desire to be recognized. They desire having titles and the recognition and power that comes with it more than the desire for such virtues like humility, integrity or authentic relationships.
A title is supposed to be something that helps identify the function or duties of a person so that others get the assistance they need.
Our titles may distinguish us in terms of function, but it should never mean that all people are not equal. We are all made in the image of God.
A person with a title is actually in a position where he/she ought to serve the people but instead many who are in positions of authority or influence desire to be revered and feared. This is idolatry once you want to be acknowledged and spoken highly of.
Matthew 23:5-11 NLT – “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. 6 And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. 7 They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’
8 “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. 9 And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant.”
How To Knock Down Your Idols
So how can we avoid falling into idolatry? What should we do when we discover that we have been putting certain things or people above our relationship with God? There is always a way when it comes to God. So we can knock down our personal idols in the following ways:
1. Confess & Repent. We must acknowledge our faults and the fact that there have been many times when we have failed to give God the worship and glory that He deserves. Repenting requires us to change our mind and to begin the lifestyle of worshipping God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). The Bible also says that if we confess our sins, God is just and faithful to forgive us (1 John 1:9)
2. Replace our idols with Christ. We need to learn to set our minds on Jesus Christ. We need to learn to put Him first above all things in our life (Colossians 3:1-4)
3. Serve others with a humble heart. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3 NLT – Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
4. Seek God’s kingdom first and His righteousness and everything else falls in its rightful place. When God is our focal point we need to trust God that He will take care of all our needs.
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need – Matthew 6:33 NLT
5. Pray to avoid anxiety. When we get anxious we should make all requests known casting our cares unto the Lord. We should not allow anxiety to cause us to take matters into our own hands. Nor should we allow anxiety allow us to seek after other gods. Instead we should learn to totally depend on God.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done – Philippians 4:6 NLT
It is said that too much of a good thing can be dangerous. Even something as common as your cellphone and social media can be an idol. So we need to beware of putting anything or anyone above our relationship with God. It is God alone who deserves our worship and adoration.
God loves us so much that He gave us good things to enjoy but also warned us not to forget Him when we have access to these good things (Deuteronomy chapter 8).
Knowing God and seeking a relationship is more important than anything else in the world.
Here is one verse to ponder on that helps us understand that we need to know our true standing with God before it’s late. Matthew 7:22-23– On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
Be blessed and I pray we call upon Jesus the only name that saves (Acts 4:12).