idol worship in christianity

The Problem of Contemporary Idol Worship

In the Book of Judges chapter 17, we see a story of a man called Micah. He steals 1100 shekels of silver from his mother. When she threatens to put a curse on the person who stole the money from her, he decides to return the money to her. It is likely that he did so because he feared the curse pronounced by his mother.

She then takes 200 shekels of the 1100 shekels returned to her, and hands it to a silversmith to create a carved image and a molded image.

Her son Micah had a shrine and made an ephod and household idols; and he consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest to attend to his idols. The Bible says that in those days there was no king in Israel and that everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

Here are some of my observations of the story:

  1. Micahs mother stated that she wanted the stolen money back because she had “wholly dedicated it to the Lord.” She claimed that her intention all along was to use the silver to make a carved and a moulded image to adorn the shrine her son Micah had in his house. In other words, she did not intend to using the money for herself. It was to be used to worship the Lord at her sons household shrine and therefore for his benefit.
  2. The amount stolen was 1100 shekels. However, when she hands over the silver to the silversmith to create the idols, only 200 of the 1100 shekels is given to him. It appears that she lied about her intention to wholly dedicate the stolen money to the Lord, possibly suspecting that her son had stolen the money, and using it as a ruse to get it back. The other possibility is that once the money had been recovered, she changed her mind. There are many who promise their money to God but when push comes to shove they find it difficult to do so. It is mainly because they love their treasure more than the God they claim to worship and serve.
  3. In any event, the idols are subsequently made by the silversmith and land up on Micahs shrine.
  4. Micah appoints his son as a “priest” to preside over the shrine and the idols.
  5. Verse 6 of the passage states “in those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right on their own eyes.”
  6. In chapter 18 we see that the Danites also adopt Micahs idolatry.

The problem of idolatry in Christianity today

This story reveals the problem of idolatry in a contemporary context. Today we see a type of Christianity where people worship God as they see fit. In Judges 17 we see that both Micah and his mother contradicted Gods laws for worship. Firstly, idol worship in Israel was expressly forbidden by God. Secondly, not just anyone could be appointed as a priest; only those who were from the tribe of Levi.

Both Micah and his mother sought to sanctify their idol worship by claiming that what they did was for the Lord. But how could this be true? Clearly the same God they claimed to serve had forbidden their practices (i.e. idol worship and priests not of the tribe if Levi).

It may even be true that Micah and his mother were sincere in their claims and practices. But no amount of misplaced sincerity can please God. Those who worship God must do so in spirit and in truth. As Christians we do not have a right to worship God as we please. By deciding for ourselves what constitutes true worship of the living God, we become guily of making decisions based on what we believe to be right or wrong. In other words, we do what is right in our own eyes rather than obeying the patterns and principles of worship found in the Scriptures.

Just as in the days of Micah, when there is no “king” to govern the people, everyone decides for themselves what is right and wrong. But for Christians King Jesus must rule and reign on the throne of our lives if we are to be pleasing to Him. We are not free to do as we please. God has given us His Word to instruct us in righteousness. Jesus said “If you love me, obey my commandments.” Commandments are not options.

How Christians can sanctify their idols

The real reason we prefer to do what is right in our own eyes is that it suits us. It becomes easy to sanctify our disobedience or idolatry when we simply claim that all is being done for the Lord and in His name. Idol worship is all about satisfying our carnal desires. In essence the basis of idolatry is pride which always results in the worship of self. We become controlled by the urge to gratify our carnal desires. Eventually we place ourselves as god on the throne of our life. The creature is then worshipped rather than the creator.

Freedom from the tyranny of self

Man is designed for worship. But either we are slaves to sin or slaves of righteousness. Either way we are slaves. We all serve something whether we like it or not. Either we become a servant to the tyranny of self, or we submit to God whose yoke is light. Christianity is ultimately about death; death to self. We cannot serve both God and Mammon at the same time because they will compete for our loyalty and affections.

Materialistic Christians are idol worshippers

Materialistic Christians are idol worshippers. The love of the “good things of this world” is idolatry warns the Apostle Paul. The deception of wealth is one of three primary strategies used by Satan to divert people away from the worship of God. The other primary strategies are the pride of life and the lusts of the flesh.

  • The pride of life (glory)
  • The lusts of the flesh (guys or girls)
  • The deception of wealth (gold)

Whatever we love will control us and what is not offered to God is offered to demons.

We can lead others astray

As people, we do not live in a vacuum. We rub shoulders with many people in the course of our day. People observe our lives. They get to understand what our beliefs and values are by being around us. But most of what others learn about us is revealed by what we speak about. The Bible says that from the abundance of the heart the mouths speaks. Another way of putting this is that from the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Simply put, people cannot help but speak about the things that are important to them. Jesus said that we will know what people are all about by the fruit in their lives. So if a Christian is obsessed or preoccupied with the things of this world, they will speak about the things they really love and value, and will act in accordance with the values they are driven by.

The way we live will influence others around us either negatively or positively, including other Christians. Please take a moment to consider that your Christian lifestyle affects other Christians. Consider the grave implications of this. If it is true that the Bible warns about the dangers of false teaching in the church, is it then not also true that the way we live must honour God and conform to His Word? If, for example, we have fallen for the deception of the “prosperity gospel”, we will influence other Christians with our thinking and lifestyle. It is inevitable. Just as the Danites adopted the idolatry of Micah in Judges chapter 18, so too we can lead others astray.

It is possible for Christians to worship a false God created in their image

It is entirely possible that professing Christians can worship a false god; a god of their own imagination, created in their image … who loves everything they love and agrees with everything they agree with. The Bible says “Let God be true and every man a liar.” As Christians, we are not to conform to the things of this world. Instead, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. And it is the Scriptures that renew our minds bcause gods Word alone constitutes the truth. If we are not constantly conforming to the Scriptures that instruct us in righteousness (right living from God’s point of view), we will default to conforming to the things of this world.