Throwing Out Modern Idols from the Deep Recesses of our Hearts

SunStar Cortez
SunStar Cortez

Many of us know by heart the Ten Commandments. The first of these commandments states, “I am the Lord your God … You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-3). This commandment enjoins us to worship God alone. It forbids idolatry – the worship of anything or anyone which is, or who is, not God.

But what does worship mean? In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to worship means “to honor or show reverence for a divine being or supernatural power,” or “to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion.” On the other hand, in the Bible, the command to worship stems from the first part of the greatest commandment, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). To apply that kind of love to any creature, instead of to the Creator, makes for that person an idol out of the creature.

In the Old Testament, idols often took the form of graven images, pillars, figured stones, or anything like them, that people worshipped. These idols were a direct violation of God’s command, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God …” (Exodus 20:4-5). They were described in Psalm 115:4-7 as “made by human hands, having mouths but cannot speak, eyes but cannot see, ears but cannot hear, noses but cannot smell, hands but cannot feel, feet but cannot walk, and throats but cannot utter a sound.”

Idolatry, however, is more than the act of worshipping graven images. In our modern times, idolatry takes the more subtle form of loving and valuing various things, or even persons, more than the love and value that are due to God. Although there are many such modern idols, let us take a look at some of them – money, worldly pleasures, work, and other persons.

To many people, money and wealth have become their gods. They will do anything to amass great riches; never mind if in doing so, they steal, cheat, deceive, destroy, and kill. The Bible warns us that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Money, per se, is not bad; it is loving it that breeds wickedness.

Worldly pleasures, pursued relentlessly, have also become modern idols. Excessive drinking and smoking, gambling, drug addiction, illicit sex, and other vices enslave people and blind them from worshipping the one true God. Even seemingly harmless activities like eating, partying, or pursuing a hobby, when valued more than God, turn into idolatry. We are reminded, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

Work, by its nature, is desirable. By working, man participates in the creative act of God. Work serves as a means to provide livelihood to a family, and it contributes something important to societal life. Done in excessive levels, however, work can also become an idol. Such may be the case of a person who, with no justifiable cause, works for 16 hours a day, 7 days a week – leaving so little, or no time, for family, other people, self, and God.

It is a good thing to love others – family, relatives, friends, fiancé/fiancée, and the like. The Bible says, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love his brother and sister, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). The Bible, however, also says that, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). By all means, we must love our fellowmen, especially our own family, but above all else, we must love God.

After the Israelites entered the Promised Land, Joshua, their new leader, instructed the people, “ If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you. Now then, throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel” (Joshua 24:20, 23). Like those people, it is good to ask ourselves, “What foreign gods do we need to throw away? What idols are enticing our hearts, minds, and souls away from the true God? What are the things, and who are the people, that replaced God in our priorities? Let us search in the deepest recesses of our hearts and cast away false gods that are taking the throne of our sovereign Lord. God reminds us, “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me.”

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