Q17: What is idolatry?
ANSWER: Idolatry is trusting in created things rather than the Creator for our hope and happiness, significance and security.
We tend to imagine idolatry as a primitive practice, one we’ve placed firmly in our rearview mirrors as modern scientific knowledge and technological mastery supplant ancient superstition.
Yet the Scriptures repeatedly emphasize the lamentable human propensity to idolatry, depicting it as a constant temptation. And though we may no longer literally bend the knee to graven images as did our ancient forebears, we are not fundamentally different from them. As the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel writes, “men have taken their idols into their hearts.” Modern societies are every bit as idolatrous as ancient Greece or Rome in that we, like them, place our trust in and seek fulfillment from something other than God. Consider all the penultimate things in which we place our hopes, dreams, significance and security: money, political or social power, career success, physical pleasure and beauty—just to name a few. Each of these can become a false god—an idol. Each makes its own demands on us and requires its own elaborate rituals and practices. And ultimately, each fails to satisfy.
The reality of the human condition is that we must place our trust in something larger than ourselves; the question we must answer is what that larger thing will be: the One Triune God, Creator and sustainer of all that is, seen and unseen . . . or something less. As that esteemed theologian Bob Dylan once said, “you gotta serve somebody.”
Romans 1:21 and 25
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.
Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them?