Christians Can Be Guilty Of Idolatry

November 02, 2023
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Christians Can Be Guilty Of Idolatry

One of the local cults in the Philippines is dedicated to the worship of Jesus Christ. There is nothing inherently wrong with adoring Jesus as the Lord. This is due to the fact that He is actually deserving of our adoration. On the other hand, they hold the heresy that Jesus is a creature that His Father created and is thus deserving of worship. Idolatry would be present if this were to be the case. 

Idolatry can take various forms. It could also be money, a spouse, children, any person, leisure, status, ministry, yourself, or anything else. To be guilty of idolatry, one does not need to pray or kneel down to any of these. All that is necessary is to place things on a higher priority than God or to consider them on par with God's importance. And if you are devastated and shattered when the Lord takes any of these away from you, they undoubtedly have become one of your idols. 

True, Exodus 20:3–4 warns the Israelites against heathen idols by forbidding them from owning, making, or bowing to them. Regrettably, the Pharisees are adamant about restricting this rule to tangible statues or images. This is without comprehending that it can be applied to anything that elevates something or someone above God.

However, when the Lord Jesus Christ preached, He explained that if one places a higher value on money than on God, they are guilty of serving money and making it an idol in their lives. No wonder Jesus said,

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” - Matt. 6:24

If a believer can't let go of an immoral relationship, that person becomes your god. The person involved has engaged in idolatry. If one is unable to give up illegal drugs, pornography, drunkenness, or gambling, these vices become gods. This is idolatry. When one devotes more time to games, personal social media, work, the gym, leisure, friends, and family recreation while ignoring God and the things concerning Him, then these things become idols. Jesus Christ said, 

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” - Matt. 10:37

This indicates that if a person's love for his or her family is greater than his love for Jesus Christ, then idolatry has already crept into their hearts.

We can fool other people but never can we fool God. Idolatry does not require a person or object to be bowed to. All that is required is to elevate that person or thing above Jesus. These are difficult teachings that no one can easily follow unless they have a genuine faith in Jesus Christ and are willing to deny themselves. When the disciples do not understand Jesus' explanation about communion, it becomes difficult for them to follow Him.

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” - Jn. 6:60

When Moses received the ten commandments from the Lord on Mount Sinai, the prohibition against idolatry was emphasized at length. This is because the Lord forewarns the Israelites against this pagan practice, which they are very prone to adopting (cf. Exo. 20:4). It is not necessary to bow down or pray to someone or anything in order to be guilty of idolatry. The Lord Jesus emphasized that anyone who serves anything (or anyone) without first dedicating their time, treasure, and talent to the Lord is already guilty of serving another master or lord. To commit idolatry, all that is required is to "serve" (Gk, douleo), which in a negative sense means to be engaged in the service of someone or something without regard for the Lord. This also implies putting something or someone before the Lord. Pesel is the Hebrew word for "image," which can also imply "idol." Furthermore, an idol based on the Hebrew word can also be rendered a "lie.” The following are some examples of idolatry, in which a believer abandons responsibilities to Him and His kingdom in favor of elevating something or someone above the Creator Himself. 

(1) Familiolatry - This is putting your family before the Lord to the extent that you use them as an excuse to avoid serving Him in the local church. (cf. Lk. 14:26; Mk. 3:33-35) 

(2) Diakonolatry - This is putting your church ministry above the Lord to the point where you neglect solitude with Him (cf. Lk. 10:40-42). 

(3) Ergolatry - This is putting your business or work ahead of the Lord so that you neglect the Lord's day or the assembling of believers for encouragement (cf. Heb. 10:25). 

(4) Kardiolatry - This is putting your emotions before the Lord by disregarding His word because you are only concerned with how you feel (cf. Jer. 17:9). 

(5) Ploutolatry - This is putting money, riches, and possessions ahead of the Lord without using your material blessing to advance His kingdom. (cf. Luke 12:16-21) 

(6) Sarkikolatry - This is putting your flesh before the Lord when you follow the dictates of your worldly or carnal desires in order to satisfy yourself (cf. Col. 3:5). 

(7) Hupsomolatry - This is putting your own intellect and rationale above the Lord to the point where you disregard the truth and principles of God's word (cf. 2 Cor. 10:5). 

(8) Egolatry - This is putting yourself and your selfish needs ahead, so that you are solely concerned with your own welfare and interests over everything else and lose sight of what God wants you to do with your life. (cf. 2 Tim. 3:2, 4; Phil. 2:3). 

True, we must love ourselves as we love our neighbors because doing so is both self-respecting and God-honoring, as we were made in the image of God. Obviously, it is even wrong to neglect your family responsibilities in order to focus on the ministry, as this behavior is even worse than that of an unbeliever (cf 1 Tim. 5:8). We must learn to achieve a balance without sacrificing the time, treasure, and talent that are God's. How are your moments of solitude with God? Are you utilizing your talents and skills to build up the church? Are you concentrating so much on the world's material goods that you neglect doing things for the Lord? Are you so self-absorbed that you indulge yourself? Are you spending most of your money on yourself without regard for the propagation of the gospel and the advancement of God's kingdom? To what degree do we adore the Lord? Reverend Chuck Swindoll offers a superb illustration. His encounter with Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch watchmaker and Christian writer, during her lifetime was recalled. Pastor Chuck narrated, 

“Shortly before her death, Corrie ten Boom attended our church. Following the service I met briefly with her, anxious to express my wife’s and my love and respect for her faithful example. She inquired about my family ... how many children, their ages — that sort of thing. She detected my deep love for each one and very tenderly admonished me to be careful not to hold on too tightly. Cupping her wrinkled hands in front of me, she passed on a statement of advice I’ll never forget. I can still recall that strong Dutch accent: ‘Pastor Svendahl, you must learn to hold everyting loosely ... everyting. Even your dear family. Why? Because da Fater may vish to take vun of tem back to Himself, und ven He does, it vill hurt you if He must pry your fingers loose.’ And then, having tightened her hands together while saying all that, she slowly opened them and smiled so kindly as she added, ‘Vemember ... hold everyting loosely ... everyting.’” (Charles Swindoll, Holding On Loosely)

How about us? Do we have idols in our hearts? Yes. Anything can be our idol. 

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