Summary: 4 areas from which many idols come (Material adapted from Greg Laurie's book, The Great Compromise, Chapter 5 called "What's Your Golden Calf?", pgs. 71-87)
James Michener, tells the story of a man named Urbaal, who, was a farmer living about 2200 B.C. He worshiped two gods, one a god of death, the other a goddess of fertility. One day, the temple priests tell Urbaal to bring his young son to the temple for sacrifice—if he wants good crops. Urbaal obeys, and on the appointed day drags his wife and boy to the scene of the boy’s “religious execution” by fire to the god of death. After the sacrifice of Urbaal’s boy, and several others, the priests announce that one of the fathers will spend next week in the temple, with a new temple prostitute. Urbaal’s wife is stunned as she notices a desire written more intensely across his face than she had seen before, and she is sad to see him eagerly lunge forward when his name is called. The ceremony over, she walks out of the temple with her head swimming, concluding that “if he had different gods, he would be a different man.”
In our culture we make fun of those who set up an idol and worship it. However, an idol is not simply a statue of wood, stone, or metal. Anything we love and pursue in place of the one true God is an idol, and can also be referred to as a ‘false god.’
Even the NT warns us against idolatry: “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.”” “Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.” 1 Corinthians 10:6, 7, 14, NIV. “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21, NIV.
Idolatry is not limited to the worship of statues. The truth is that a person can faithfully attend church every Sunday and still be caught up in idolatry. Sadly some people think that if they go to church on Sundays, they can do as they wish for the rest of the week, now that they have racked up their quota of “brownie points” with God. Which is better, to be a common sinner or an insincere saint. God says of this type of person, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Isaiah 29:13. Terrifying is that God is intolerant of this. He listed it at the top of the Ten Commandments: ““You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an idol...” Exodus 20:3, 4, NIV.
Jesus says much the same thing in the Great Commandment: “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:37, 38. Same in 10 Commandments and same with Jesus
An idol is any object, idea, philosophy, habit, leader, occupation, sport, or pastime that is the main focus of our devotion. They have first place in our hearts. An idol is where our loyalty lies. Alan Redpath defined idolatry this way: “Our god is the thing we think is the most precious. For whom we would make the most sacrifice. Who moves our hearts with the warmest love. If we lost this thing or person we would be desolate.”