Regardless of their religious faith or practice, it seems that most people can quote at least a few of the 10 commandments. The first one, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod 20:3) seems pretty universally known, but not necessarily practiced. But God knew that this would need some clarification so the very next statement further explains this statement. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Exod 20:4-5a)
To worship God is to ascribe the ultimate worth to Him, making Him #1 in your life. So when things come between you and your God, you are making that thing an idol. With Eve, that ‘thing’ was the fruit that would give her the knowledge of good and evil. With the Israelites who had been rescued from Egypt, it became a golden calf.
Plenty of cults have placed some other authority between them and their deity, but that’s a topic for a whole other blog. The point of this blog is to discuss the idols that Christ followers fall too.
There are two categories of idols to discuss. The first is the religious idols. I watched people in Manila, Philippines bow down to a statue of Jesus as if it were Jesus Himself standing there. They strive to just touch the toe of the statue, valuing that piece of wood or metal over a relationship with Christ. Statues of Mary and Saints would fall into this category. These are the most obvious violation of the first commandment because these people are worshiping a statue, even a statue of Jesus is a “carved image or likeness of anything that is in heaven”. When the Israelites first did this while Moses had been on the mountain talking to God, God was so furious he was ready to smite them, but Moses pleaded for another chance.
The second category is one that many more of us are guilty of from time to time. When we place a higher priority or value on anything over God, we have turned that thing into an idol. That can be positive things like work, kids sports, church activities, etc. Good things can actually become so controlling of your schedule and life that it has become an idol for you. It of course can also be bad things like drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc.
The point of an idol is not what it is or isn’t, the point is that it takes the place of the one you are supposed to be worshiping, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matt 22:37-38)
So, it’s time to examine yourself, your calendar, your wallet, your priorities in life. Are there things that you have allowed to take over, to become more important than living out the Greatest Commandment and fulfilling the Great Commission?
Our call is not easy nor without challenge, but it is simple. Love God above all else, love others as God loves them. Teach others near and far about His gospel message and train them to be disciples, repeating the same steps themselves. Do that, and you will eventually hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matt 25:23)