Idolatry in Our Modern World: How to Recognize Your Idols

Growing up in Christian education, I remember learning about idolatry. I was taught that in the Bible, people would carve images or statues, and then bow down to worship the idol they had just made. As a child, it made perfect sense to me why this was wrong. Obviously, the statue wasn’t a god. It seemed so simple.

Idolatry in Our Modern World: How to Recognize Your Idols |

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In His second commandment for the Israelites, God spoke of idolatry. In that day and age, the worship of statues and false gods was all the rage. Every pagan nation had multiple (even hundreds) of idols that they worshiped. So this command from God would have struck a chord with the Hebrew nation. They knew exactly what it meant to carve an image for yourself.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…” – Exodus 20:4-5

I can honestly say that I have never once been tempted to carve a statue and worship it. But even so, that doesn’t mean idolatry has left the scene. Our American culture has its own unique form of idolatry. Remember, an idol is anything we worship that is man-made. It’s the worship of creation rather than the Creator.


Idolatry is the worship of something man-made rather than the worship of the Creator. Click to Tweet


I have a friend who once said, “An idol can be anything we give all our strength to or draw our strength from.” By that definition, an idol can literally be anything. Even a good, God-given thing (or person) can become an idol in our lives.

So what drives you? What sustains you? Who or what do you rely on for strength, peace, and joy? If the answer to these questions is anything other than the Creator, then it may be time to tear down some idols.


We spend our lives searching for something that fulfills. We build our bank accounts, we give all we have to our children and spouses, we further our careers, we make names for ourselves… many of us find our strength and security in these accomplishments; but in the end, only God can satisfy and sustain us. Salvation comes from Him alone. Nothing on this earth can save us.

In today’s culture, it’s easy to have idols in our lives and not even realize it… especially when things are going well. We spend so much of our time achieving goals and seeking success, that for many of us, our most dangerous “idol” may, in fact, be ourselves.


When the prophet Jonah was faced with a difficult circumstance (being swallowed by a large fish certainly qualifies as a “difficult circumstance”), he turned to the Lord for strength. (Jonah 2:8-9)

Jonah understood that God alone is the source of safety and security. Even in the midst of the most difficult time in his life, He could rely on God. Unfortunately for many of us, it takes hitting rock bottom to realize that God alone can save us and that He alone is worthy of our devotion. Nothing in this world is like our God!


Nothing we create or build for ourselves can last forever. Our finances, our careers, our reputations, our possessions… they can (and most likely will) fail us at some point. None of these things are bad on their own… but they can easily become idols if we allow them to be our source of strength, security, or devotion.

And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, guard yourselves from idols. – 1 John 5:20-21


Where does your hope lie? Where do you find security? Who do you go to for strength?

Rather than worshiping something made by your own hands, worship the God who made you.


Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God's place in your hearts. - 1 John 5:21


*Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

**Photo by Ben White at


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