We tend to think of idolatry as a sin of the past or an eastern mysticism thing. We certainly don’t have idols in western culture, right? Actually, idolatry is surprisingly modern and very prevalent in our culture. Part of the reason we don’t think about idol worship today is because our definition of idolatry is off. We think idolatry is confined to bowing down to a golden statue or praying to a wooden trinket. Since we don’t do those things, we assume we don’t have idols.
But we do have modern day idols. Lots of them. They look different than the idols of the past, but we still practice idolatry today.
Before we look at idol worship today, we need to get a better definition of what an idol is. What is idolatry? What is an idol?
What Is Idolatry? what is an idol?
So, what is an idol? An idol is when something or someone becomes more important to us than God.
Even good things can become idols when we make them the ultimate things in our lives. Anything, or anyone, can become an idol if we place the value for that thing/person above our value for God.
In ancient times that would have looked like bowing down to worship a golden statue. Modern-day idols look different- more like getting our identity from our job or staring at our technology all day. Anything that becomes more important to us than God becomes an idol; and we all have them. Idolatry today might look different, but it is all around us.
Ed Stetzer, in an article called Idolatry Is Alive Today, gives this idolatry definition: Is it that a 12-inch tall piece of wood or bronze can do something bad to us? Or is it that we do something awful to ourselves when we place adoration and attention that should go to God in other things? When it comes to idolatry, the danger is not in an item… it is in us.
Tim Keller, in his book Counterfeit Gods answers what is an idol this way, “An idol is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, and anything that you seek to give you what only God can give.
So, what is an idol? What is idolatry? An idol is something that we have placed above God. Anything that is more important to us than God, is an idol.
Idolatry is alive and well today, and we are all prone to have idols in our lives. So what does the Bible say about these modern day idols? Let’s look at some examples of Idolatry in the Bible.
Idolatry In The Bible
I want to briefly look at what the Bible says about idolatry. To put it concisely, it doesn’t say anything positive. Idol worship is condemned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Here’s a full list of what the Bible says about idols: Bible Verses About Idolatry
God sets the precedent for his people early on that his people shall have no Gods except him. The 10 Commandments lead off with a command against idolatry (Exodus 20:3). And in most subsequent books in the Old Testament echo this commandment.
The New Testament is also vocal about idolatry. Colossians 3:5 and Romans 1:22-23 remind us of the dangers of idolatry. Many times the New Testament warns of being seduced by the things of this world to the point where they become the most important thing in our life- which is, by definition, idolatry.
We see time and time again in the Bible that we tend to drift away from God. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament are full of warnings against idolatry because we are so prone to wander. We must be diligent in examining our life for idols.
Now that we know what is an idol and have a good idolatry definition, let’s switch gears and look at what modern day idols are still worshipped.
Idol Worship Today
Before you read this list, hear me on this: I’m not saying we should rid ourselves of the things on this list. For many of the things, that would be impossible. Rather, we need to evaluate our lives to make sure they are in the right order and none of these things have become more important than God to us. When that happens it’s idolatry.
With that in mind, here are 6 modern day idols we still worship.
1. Our Identity
It’s easy to place our identity in something or someone other than God. Whether it be our social media following, our position at work, our abilities/skills, or the achievements we are after, many have their identity wrapped up in the wrong thing.
Not only is this an idol, but it’s also a tough way to live. If your identity is in your work, your skills, your looks, or anything else, you will constantly feel like you don’t measure up. They are harsh masters. But when our identity is secured in God, we can live in freedom. While we will still fall short, God’s love will never fail us.
For some, their identity has become an idol. They have placed more value on who they are, rather than in God.
It doesn’t matter if you have money or are broke. The pursuit of money and the acquisition of things is an idol for many in our culture. Many people trust their money more than they trust God.
Hear me on this. Money is not bad. Money is a tool. And like any tool, you have to use it correctly; otherwise, it can cause much damage. Money isn’t the problem, it’s how we use and view it that can become a problem.
Many have placed their hopes and dreams in money. They trust it to provide for them, care for them, and protect them. The problem is, it can’t live up to what we are trying to get from it.
Money has become the ultimate thing for many of us. If the motivating factor in your life is money and not God, then that’s an idol.
We are obsessed with being entertained. And it comes in many forms- from Netflix to vacations and video games to podcasts. We love entertainment in all forms.
Again, as with the other modern day idols, it’s not that entertainment is bad. It can be a good thing. But when our lives become all about the search for entertainment and chase of the best experiences we can find, then it’s become an idol. It’s become more important than God.
I would argue that entertainment is good and a gift from God, but we should worship the giver not the gift.
We are obsessed with sex in our culture. It is everywhere. It might be the only thing we think about more than money. We have taken a gift from God and made it into the god of our lives. And for many, their lives are controlled by sex.
To even question the sexual ethic in our society will bring a slew of accusations, showing how tied to our idol we actually are. Our sexual identity, sexual practices, and sex lives are sacred to us.
The church has some blame for this. Rather than portraying sex as a good gift from God, in recent history, they have heaped guilt and shame. You could argue this is one of the factors that brought the over-exaggeration of sex. But regardless of how we got here, for many today, sex is an idol. We value it more than we do God.
For more, check out: What The Bible Says About Sex (hint… it’s a lot)
There is an endless list of products promising to simplify and add comfort to your life. We have made our lives much easier and much more comfortable than at any other time in history. Tasks that used to take all day can be done in minutes. Many menial tasks are now automated. While that’s a good thing, our pursuit in life should not be comfort alone.
Jesus tells a very different narrative for his followers. He says that his followers will face trials, persecution, and difficulty. While comfort isn’t bad, it can become damaging when it becomes the main pursuit in life. When comfort is an idol, we will struggle when God calls us to something difficult.
6. Our Phones
Smartphone addiction is increasingly becoming a worrying trend. This is especially true for Gen Z and Millennial generations, but it’s certainly not confined to them. For many, they simply cannot live without their phones (or online presence). This is quickly becoming an idol for many.
The problem isn’t our phones or social media or any form of technology. It’s the value we place on it that makes it a problem. When our lives revolve around how many likes we get, what our following looks like, or if we can’t sit in silence for 5 minutes without refreshing our newsfeed, we might have an idol. Anything that takes the place of God in our life, anything that becomes more important than him, is an idol.
How To Know If You Have A Modern day Idol
Again, let me reiterate. This isn’t a list of things to avoid or a list we should use to beat ourselves down or ammo to shoot at others. This is a list of things that can take the place of God in our lives. When a good thing becomes an ultimate thing, ultimately it becomes a destructive thing in our lives. That’s idolatry.
What we should do with this list is use it to prayerfully evaluate our lives to make sure nothing has become more important to us than God. We should each ask ourselves what is an idol in my life?
So how do we know if something has become an idol? Here are 4 questions to ask yourself to help you identify idols in your life:
Where Do I Spend My Time?
Where Do I Spend My Money?
Where Do I Get My Joy?
What’s Always On My Mind?
Actually think about those questions. They will lead you to what either is an idol or what you might be tempted to make an idol. Spend some time in prayer asking and seeking what is an idol in your life.
Idol worship today might look different, but it still exists. We shouldn’t let anything, even a good thing, take the place of God in our life.
I’d love to hear from YOU! Share your thoughts below! What is idolatry How would you define it?
You might also like: 6 Things Jesus Never Said (but Christians believe)
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Don’t forget to leave a comment! What idolatry examples would you give?
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