Are you an idol worshiper? What place do idols or images have in your religious life? What light does the Bible shine on idol worship or veneration? Many people in traditional and tribal religious systems around the world use idols or images as part of their religious devotion. Even some Christians, longing to have their Christianity be relevant to their former religious beliefs, sometimes incorporate idols into their Christian religious expression. In fact, a recent survey in Mongolia revealed that as many as one-quarter of professing Christians still have a Buddhist or Shamanist idol in their homes. Even worse, as many as half of the Christians surveyed keep a Christian image of some kind in their homes for the purpose of worship or veneration.
What is an idol?
An idol is any representation of a deity or exalted person that people venerate or worship. Idols are usually a focus of worship or a tool used to direct veneration or worship to what it represents. In the Bible, the Old Testament speaks of idols that Israel sometimes worshipped in hopes of having good crops, wealth, blessings upon children, or defense. The idol of Baal, discussed in the Bible, was a fertility god of the Phoenicians. For hundreds of years God’s people worshipped images of Baal, even though God had forbidden it. Some of the idols that the Israelites worshipped were particularly cruel. An example of a cruel idol from biblical times was Molech, a false deity that required child sacrifice. In fact, one Israelite king, Manasseh, sacrificed his own son as a burnt offering to this false god. God fiercely condemned the worship of all false idols, commanding his people not to adopt the practices of idol worship.
In modern times many people worship idols of money, possessions, or reputation. Some people venerate historic figures that are important to them. These may include religious figures in history, ancient ancestors, philosophers, or even political or national leaders. Essentially, an idol is anything real or imagined that takes a person’s focus off of the one true God and gives dedication, veneration, or worship to something or someone other than the one true God.