Summary: We substitute many things for the worship of the one true God. Idols never satisfy, but we still craft with our hands things that we hope will satisfy the longing of our hearts.


(Exodus 20:4-6)

You hear a word like the second commandment, and think “C’mon preacher, this is twentieth century America. We don’t have totem poles and fetishes here. Be relevant.” Did you see the comedy film, Cool Runnings? It’s about the first Jamaican bobsled team to go to the Olympics. John Candy played a former American gold medalist who becomes coach to the Jamaican team. He wins the team’s loyalty and they affectionately dub him, “Sled-god.” Later in the movie, his dark history is revealed. After his gold medal performance in a subsequent Olympics, he broke the rules by weighting the U.S. sled, bringing disgrace on himself and his team.

One Jamaican bobsledder could not understand why anyone who had already won a gold medal would cheat. He nervously asks Candy to explain.

“I had to win,” says the coach.

The bumper sticker reminds me just how relevant this commandment is. You’ve seen it—”HE WHO DIES WITH THE MOST TOYS WINS!” And God said, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:4-5).

Some think this commandment prohibits statues or pictures in places of wor-ship. But God Himself placed images of cherubim above the mercy seat in the tabernacle. God is not against artwork; He’s against artificial worship. This commandment doesn’t stifle artistic talent. It censures idolatrous substitutes that turn our hearts from genuine worship.

I continue to contend that God gave the Ten Commandments to release us, not to restrict us. He desires to set us free. These statutes are “a release order from the prison house of sinful selfishness.”

My best guess is that you cannot walk twenty-five feet in any direction from your front door without stumbling over an idol. We substitute many things for the worship of the one true God. Idols never satisfy for long, but we continue to craft with our hands things that we hope will satisfy the longing of our hearts.

Idol making is more than making shapes of wood and stone before which we bow. Many worship at the shrines of prosperity and personality. We have come to tolerate many gods. Let us consider three.


A. Money

George Barna, the Christian research specialist says, “The average adult be-lieves they need another $8,000-$11,000 per year to live comfortably. Tracking studies show, however, that even when adults reach or exceed the income levels to which they had aspired, they still claim that they need another $8,000-$11,000 to live comfortably.

After the captivity the Jews were never again overt idolaters. Jesus spoke only once of idolatry, but it had to do with this subject of money. He said:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21). No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money (Matthew 6:24).

When I was a boy, the slogan on Cracker-Jacks treats was, “The more you eat, the more you want.” That is the dilemma of a materialistic culture. Material things, bank accounts, property, stocks and bonds, or expensive jewelry can never satisfy. When he was the richest man in the world, John D. Rockefeller was asked, “How much money does it take to make a man happy.” He replied, “Just a little bit more.” He had made an idol of money.

George Bernard Shaw said that it is easy to find people who are ten times as rich at sixty as they were at twenty; but not many will tell you that they are ten times as happy. Solomon said, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

Another writer says, “Money is intoxicating. It is an opiate that addicts as eas-ily and as completely as the iron grip of alcohol or narcotics. Its power to change us is close to that of Jesus Christ. Money possesses the power to rule our lives, not for good and forever, as Christ; but to lure us, like a moth, too close to the flame until, finally, our wings are set ablaze.”

Today the idolatry of possessions afflicts even the very young. I was appalled to read in the Los Angeles Times:

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