People often think of idolatry as a form of worship having idols and images as their gods. The Bible speaks about idolatry in many forms. Idolatry is not just bowing down to idols and images. If we study the Bible, we can find that idolatry is trusting in one’s power as creator and sustainer. For example, if we say we worship God but put trust in bank accounts, home, businesses and organizations, then we can be considered as idolaters.
Indeed, the Bible has put emphasis on idolatry especially in the Old Testament. The Old Testament tells about how Israel was loved by God, fed them with His own hands, gave them commandments and made covenant with them because of His promise to Abraham. Although most of the Israelites know that there is only One true God, often times, we can view them as an idolatrous race because of their associations to many false gods.
One of the highlights of the Ten commandments given to Moises was very clear that Israel are commanded not to have other gods besides the one true God. They are also commanded not to create nor worship any images or idols and make as their gods. Exo 20:2 – 5 “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt, where you were slaves. Worship no god but me. Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth. Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the LORD your God and I tolerate no rivals. I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation.”
This commandment was repeated many times in the Old Testament. Prophets sent to them often rebuke them because of their associations to different false gods. Why? Because God hates idolatry. It is a grave insult to God being the supreme creator of the universe and be likened to a man made image. Deut. 7:25 Burn their idols. Do not desire the silver or gold that is on them, and do not take it for yourselves. If you do, that will be fatal, because the LORD hates idolatry.
He hates idolatry that He is very much willing to curse the people who makes them and worship them. – Deut. 27:15 ” ‘God’s curse on anyone who makes an idol of stone, wood, or metal and secretly worships it; the LORD hates idolatry.’ “And all the people will answer, ‘Amen!’
Many times, the anger of God was provoked because of their idolatry. Deut. 32:16 Their idolatry made the LORD jealous; the evil they did made him angry.1Kings 16:13 Because of their idolatry and because they led Israel into sin, Baasha and his son Elah had aroused the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel.
Other forms of Idolatry
In the New Testament, idolatry was seen not only as having images and idols as gods. Apostle Paul explains that greed is a form of idolatry. Eph. 5:5 You may be sure that no one who is immoral, indecent, or greedy (for greed is a form of idolatry) will ever receive a share in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.
Greed is explained as the desire of earthly things not only of the material riches or wealth, but also the sexual immorality, indecency, lust and evil passions. Col. 3:5 You must put to death, then, the earthly desires at work in you, such as sexual immorality, indecency, lust, evil passions, and greed (for greed is a form of idolatry).
If we love our works, family, relationships and worldly things more than God – even if we don’t bow down to images and idols, we are being idolatrous. Remember that there is only One true God. He is a jealous God too. He doesn’t want us to have something in our lives that we will love more than Him.