The Culture of Idolatry
by Zeal Clark
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Most Americans have shown their willingness to idolize people who are prominently represented in the news, or on stage, or on television or movies. Not only will they willingly idolize celebrities, they actually insist on it. They seem to have this need to have physical idols. Somehow it seems to make them feel complete.
Although many non-Christians willingly admit to this inclination, most Christians will adamantly deny that they idolize others. But in examining the actions and affections of many Christians, itís clear that what they are indeed actually engaging in idolatry. Even still, when confronted with this, sometimes the truth is hard to accept.
God knew well in advance the tendency for man to select and worship idols; therefore, He made a declaration regarding this inclination in the 19th Chapter of Leviticus, 4th verse:
4 'Do not turn to idols, nor make for yourselves molded gods: I am the LORD your God. NKJV
Then He followed up in I Chronicles, 16th Chapter, 26th verse:
26 For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens. NKJV
Despite His repeated warnings and reprimands, Godís chosen people in the Old Testament repeatedly returned to the worship of idols after a period of time. God knew that it was the tendency of man to seek for gods to fill their day-to-day thoughts and activities. But it was His desire that they would turn to Him and let Him fill that need and that void in their hearts.
Unfortunately not much has changed in this regard since then, except that the worship of graven images is largely a thing of the past. The primary difference is that the choice of gods has changed dramatically. Since this tendency to seek for gods to fill this void is still prominent and many will not allow the true God to fill this void, many have sought and found other objects of worship. While this might be expected of non-Christians, it is scripturally prohibited for those who profess to be Christians to respond to this need by choosing to engage in idolatry.
Considering this, what exactly are these idols that so easily and successfully attract Christians to them? One major object of idolatry is found in the 135th Psalms, 15th verse:
15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold, The work of men's hands. NKJV
This is probably the primary inanimate idol that attracts Christians and non-Christians. While Godís intent is for men to seek to maintain themselves and their families, it was never His intent that we should turn the fruit of our labors into a form of idolatry. And although this should be somewhat expected of non-Christians, it should not be expected of Christians.
But it seems that nothing tests and reveals the level of integrity of Christians more than their desire to acquire money and increase their finances. Both in personal and business financial transactions, it has reached the point that when someone professes to be a Christian, they need to be distrusted as much as, or more than, those who donít begin the transaction by announcing their Christianity. Failure to exercise this caution often results in disappointment. Although we all need money to survive and provide for our needs, this lack of integrity indicates a form of idolatry.
Another example of idolatry is shown in the 3rd Chapter of Colossians, 5th verse:
5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. NKJV
Perhaps the most unacknowledged form of idolatry is covetousness. In fact, God was so intent on our recognizing this tendency that He made it one of the 10 Commandments. In the 20th Chapter of Exodus, 17th verse, it says:
17 "You shall not covet Ö anything that is your neighbor's." NKJV
Most Christians vehemently deny any form of covetousness in their lives and in discussions they resist any suggestions that expecting others to finance their needs is a form of covetousness. This issue has become such a political issue that is seems hard to objectively evaluate the issue of total dependency on othersí tax contributions for financial support. Not to suggest that there is not a need for assistance for those who are in need, but to what extent does claiming ownership of othersí finances become covetousness? Has the generosity of others in coming to the aid of those in need resulted in the forming of a natural state of covetousness of their finances?
And then, of course, there is the tendency for us to engage in the more obvious forms of covetousness, wherein we become envious of others success or their possessions. Many almost instinctively yearn for whatever others have accomplished or what they possess. This covetousness is also idolatry.
Another form of idolatry is seldom referred to as such. In I Samuel, 15th Chapter, verse 23, it says:
23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. NKJV
This refers to our tendency to become stubborn against the Will of God. God knew that we would resist His Will when confronted with the truth of His Word and He declared this stubbornness to be idolatry. In other words, our stubbornness becomes a substitute for Him and becomes the object of our worship. By rejecting His Word and replacing it with stubbornness, we are engaging in idolatry.
And then, of course, there is the widespread idolizing of those who have been made to be celebrities by the media. Seemingly without realizing it, many of those who profess to be Christians fall in line with the rest of the world in being led into a form of worship of these individuals. Without naming any of them, after all they hardly need more attention, they range from entertainers and athletes to politicians. Many of them have repeatedly shown a lack of decency, integrity or character, and still they are held up as idols. Putting aside the obvious problem of idol worship, where are the standards of Christians who would worship such?
And then beyond all this, how many spiritual leaders are being idolized? When there is a discrepancy between what the pastors teach and what Godís Word clearly says, which do they follow? If the answer is the pastor, then that clearly indicates the object of their worship.
I Corinthians, 10th Chapter, 14th verse, says it all:
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. NKJV
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