An idol in the Bible is always a representation of something real that people replace for God. They may offer it love, worship, prayers, and offerings; they may even pray to God in its behalf for answers to prayer for its protection. In other words, idolatry is the tendency in humanity to assign a religious, spiritual, or sacred value and power to something that is of the nature of this world.
It is not wrong to make a statue of a person or an animal any more than it is wrong to have a love for things, or for animals, or for nature. What is evil, the Bible tells us, is the confusion two different realities. Isaiah tells us that an idol is only a piece of wood. But, for the one who worships it, an idol is not valued as only wood, it is rather symbolical of a spiritual reality, of a god or power, a power that can be transferred to the worshiper.
People of today are generally of the opinion that these idolatrous pagan cults are gone from our lives. No longer do we worship animal images or wood, and in the Catholic Church, they are careful to draw a distinction (a false distinction) between what is offered to a saint or to the Virgin and the worship given to God.
Yet, without being aware of it, our highly developed world is filled to the brim with idols. They are not the same as those in, say, African religions. We have our own. A text from the Bible may be a pointer to what they are. Paul writes that covetousness is idolatry. In other words, love of money, the desire to have more and more of it, trust in money and what it can do–this is idolatry.
We need to ask some precise questions:
· In whom, or in what, do we place our trust, on what does our faith rest?
· Where do we look for peace and safety?
· Whom do we expect to guarantee our future?
· What do we think can guard our liberty?
· Whom do we believe on the subject of truth?
· How do we explain where we came from?
If we are honest we will see very quickly that, even if we are Christians, even if we pray, in reality, we are looking to other certainties and other truths, and this is where our idolatry lies.
We believe that money along with insurance is our best warranty against the future. It is this that gives us hope and the promise of a golden finale to our years.
We believe that the state is the agent of our security, and from it, we expect justice, unity, and even truthfulness.
We make an idol of science. It is here that we believe the road to truth and the future lie. We like to think that science will solve all of our problems and open up the path to the promise land. It will explain our origins and our destiny, and everything in between. This is the assertiveness of the everyday man and it replaces the love of God and of Christ.
Money, the state, and science are not evil in and of themselves any more than were the bulls of ancient idolatry. Idolatry happens in our hearts and defines how we approach those things and it forms our attitudes, and places them in direct opposition to God, and renders them profoundly evil.
Don’t think that these three stand alone, they are only chief among many other idols. People idolize race, nationalism, entertainment/entertainers, social class, abilities, and even books, even the Bible itself.
Finally, we must include some popular modern beliefs: we put faith in the guru, the psychic, the modern Christian myth-maker, all mushrooming in an amazing way. All of these are condemned as idolatry and false religion. There is no room in the human heart for both the God of Jesus Christ and for the love and adoration of any of these other influences and powers.
We are a flawed humanity and unless we continually, daily, die to the desire for any of these things we have no rights to the Kingdom promised to us by God, because God will have no rival or rebellion either now or forever. AMEN