The first two commandments of the Ten Commandments prohibit the worship of any other god or idol: "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God" (Exodus 20:3–5). However, many continue to place idols of all kinds before love of God. Why is idol worship such a powerful temptation?
Why is idol worship so tempting?
When we think of idols, we usually have in mind statues of other gods that people bow down to in worship. Yet other kinds of idols also exist. In fact, an idol can be anything that we worship or treat as a god. Colossians 3:5 states, "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." Idolatry is equated with coveting, or desiring what someone else has. An idol can come in many forms, whether a home, car, job, religion, or relationship. We can idolize comfort, our status, financial security, entertainment, etc. An idol is anything that takes the place of God in our lives.
Even for Christians, idolatry can be a problem. First John 5:21 ends John's letter by warning, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." Idol worship was clearly a problem among New Testament believers since many warnings were given against idolatry (Acts 15:20; 17:16; 1 Corinthians 8:4; 10:7, 14, 19). Many early Christians lived in cultures that included worship of other gods, especially in the city of Corinth where Paul spoke against the idolatry that was so prominent in society.
In Acts 19, the people of Ephesus caused a riot against Paul and other Christians because of the changed lives of the believers. After turning to faith in Jesus, they stopped worshiping Artemis, a practice that included the use of silver shrines that was the business of a silversmith named Demetrius (Acts 19:24). A biblical lifestyle that opposes idol worship can sometimes lead to persecution. Because of this, it is tempting in some cultures to continue idol worship and practices associated with it in order to avoid social problems with family and friends. In Paul's case, he had to flee the city to avoid physical harm.
Idolatry is often seen with addictive behaviors. Drug and alcohol abuse are common areas for addictive behaviors, yet other lifestyles can also become addictive and take priority over God as a form of worship. These can range from video games or sports to work or a dating relationship. These areas, which each can have positive aspects when engaged with appropriately, can become a god or idol when we look to them to take God's place in our lives. Because they bring personal pleasure or instant gratification, we are drawn to them. They seem to satisfy at first, but then we need more and more to achieve the same level of gratification. Thus we become addicted. Only God can ultimately satisfy. Our idols may provide temporary pleasure or escape from pain, but ultimately lead only to disappointment and death.
In summary, idol worship is a difficult temptation for many reasons. These can involve social pressures, attempts to avoid persecution, personal pleasure, and instant gratification. However, Scripture is clear there is only one God and He alone is to be served. No other god or idol can compare or take His place.
What is the definition of idolatry?
The Ten Commandments mention a 'graven image.' What is a graven image?
What does the Bible mean when it talks about being a slave to sin?
Why does God demand our worship?
How should I worship God?
Truth about Sin