Idolatry has traditionally been associated with the worship of physical idols, gods and goddesses in the form of statues made by human hands. Still today, many around the world bow down before various idols. However, there are other forms of idolatry that are also addressed in the Bible. What are these modern forms of idolatry?
What are some forms of modern idolatry?
Colossians 3 is the key chapter that speaks to this issue. Verse 5 notes, "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." Contrasting the former lives of his readers with their new life in Christ, Paul lists various sins that serve as other "gods" in place of Jesus Christ. He adds in verses 7–8, "In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth."
Paul's list specifically includes 10 forms of idolatry, but these are likely not intended to cover every possible form. The idea is that idolatry can include any way of life that places another object, person, or practice before the Lord.
How can these modern forms of idolatry be stopped? Paul offers a positive alternative in verses 12–17. These 10 practices include compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, bearing with one another, forgiveness, love, peace, and thankfulness. In the end, he summarizes, "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:17).
When everything a person does is for Jesus Christ, then idolatry is no longer a controlling factor in a believer's life. Paul wrote to Christians who lived in a society in which both literal idolatry and other forms of idolatry were common. Regardless of the form of idolatry, the answer is to turn from idolatry and to live as God's children, doing everything for the glory of God.
This same principle is spoken of throughout Scripture. The first of the Ten Commandments was that God's people should have no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3). The great Shema of Israel was to love God with all your heart, soul and strength (Deuteronomy 6:4–5). Jesus repeated this teaching, calling it the great and first commandment: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment" (Matthew 22:37–38).
Idolatry is clearly sinful to God. Idolatry can include both literal worship of idols as well as worshiping other things or giving higher priority to anything other than Jesus Christ. The way to overcome idolatry is to love God completely, replacing sinful practices with God-honoring practices, and doing everything to the glory of God.
What is the definition of idolatry?
The Ten Commandments mention a 'graven image.' What is a graven image?
Why is idol worship so tempting?
What is meant by 'dying to self'? How are Christians supposed to die to self?
What is a 'living sacrifice'?
Truth about Sin