Today very few of us bow down before pieces of wood or stone or gold. The whole concept seems silly to us. So, we may feel convicted when Paul talks about sexual immorality, jealousy, malice, or drunkenness. But when he speaks of idolatry, we get a pass.
Or do we?
In his book Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller says this:
The Bible often speaks of idols using the religious metaphor. God should be our true Savior, but we look to personal achievement or financial prosperity to give us the peace and security we need. Idols give us a sense of being in control, and we can locate them by looking at our nightmares. What do we fear the most? What if we lost it, would make life not worth living? We make "sacrifices" to appease and please our gods, who we believe will protect us. We look to our idols to provide us with a sense of confidence and safety.
If my idol is money, then I am willing to sacrifice my integrity in order to rake it in. I will cut corners, cheat on my taxes, and embezzle from my company. I will sacrifice the needs of my church or people who have run into hard times because I need the money for myself.
If my idol is success, then I am willing to sacrifice my relationships with loved ones in order to climb the ladder. I will work non-stop, compete with everyone, and neglect my family in order to fill my tank with the accolades that come along with being successful.
If my idol is my family, then I am willing to sacrifice the broader world in order to give them everything possible. Involvement in church and in God's work will take a back seat to recitals, sporting events, and other activities. The great irony of this idol is that it is deceptively selfish. We tell ourselves that we are putting our family first, but it is really a way for us to fill our own tank at their expense. By placing too high a value on our family we end up ruining it.
If my idol is the approval of others, then I will sacrifice truth and authenticity in order to get it. I won't tell anyone that they are wrong. I will smile and nod and approve and reinforce. I will sacrifice even my own identity so that this god can give me the approval for which I so desperately crave.
Idolatry is not a problem of the past or of tribal communities. It is a problem for all of us.
What are your idols? And what sacrifices have you offered to them?
The great news when we come to the gospel is not that God doesn't demand a sacrifice, but instead that he himself has provided the sacrifice that he demands. He sent his Son in order to fulfill all that he requires. The true God, the one and only, invites us to a peace-filled relationship based on the sacrifice that Jesus offered for us all. This is why he is the only God worthy of trust and worship.