Exodus 20:4-5 | Romans 1:25 | Colossians 3:5-6

“Dude! That guy is worshipping a statue!”

Warnings against worshipping idols do not sound very relevant today. When was the last time you saw someone bow down to a golden cow statue?

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.”

(Exodus 20:4-5a NLT)

God commanded the Israelites not to worship any other gods–even fake ones–because He wanted to keep his relationship with his people exclusive. He didn’t want his beloved nation two-timing him, running around on him with other gods.

To take things a step further, God instructed his people Israel not to make pictures or statues of angelic creatures or even himself–if it meant they would worship the pictures instead of The Real Him.

What if someone you loved took your picture and made it into a life sized cardboard cutout…and then started hanging out with the cardboard cutout? You might ask, “Do you want to watch a movie later?” and they would say, “No thanks. I’ve got a date with your cardboard cutout. It’s such a great listener!”

It sounds outlandish because it is. But how outlandish is it for someone to think that the cross on their necklace protects them from bad luck? Does it? Or is it, instead, a symbol–of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s unending love for us?

They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.

(Romans 1:25 NLT)

Don’t worship the cross. Worship who died on the cross for you.

But religious jewelry is not the only thing from which to make an idol. At the risk of sounding like an infomercial… You can make an idol from nearly anything! It’s just that easy.

Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming.

(Colossians 3:5b-6 NLT)

It starts in the heart: craving, wanting, enjoying, being satisfied by anything that you treasure more than God. That is an idol.

John Piper, DesiringGod.org

Anything that you enjoy or care about more than God is an idol. If reading that statement makes you say, “Uh-oh…” you are not alone. It is really easy these days to find things to enjoy more than God.

Here are some common idols among young people today: sports, popularity, video games, girlfriends/boyfriends, social activism, music, money. All these are fine on their own but when they bump God from the number one spot in your heart…guess what? They become idols.

And this is bad because idolatry makes God angry. (Remember Colossians 3:6 above?) If you are feeling some conviction after reading this, because you are putting something else before God, what can you do?

Pray. Admit to God what has become your idol, and ask him to help you put it back in its place. Then, take whatever steps the Holy Spirit inspires.

God desires and deserves top billing in your life. He is more interesting, more loving, and more worthwhile than anything on earth.

Questions for Group Discussion

  • What is one thing that could become an idol in your life? If there is one thing that you are at risk of enjoying or caring about more than God, what is it? 
  • How does it make you feel to think that God is jealous for your affection? Is jealousy always a good thing? What makes God’s jealousy okay?

Challenge: Make Your Own Idol

Okay…if you read the title of this challenge, you are probably thinking, “I’m not doing that!” Good. Don’t become an idolater. But do look past the title and try this challenge. We promise we won’t challenge you to worship what you make. (Just to be safe, let’s rename this challenge “Make Your Own Anti-Idol,” since that is really what we are proposing.)

The Challenge:

  1. Make a statue. Get creative! Mold clay or plaster, carve wood, use papier mache…whatever means by which you can make yourself a sculpture of whatever size you like. About 12” (30 cm) tall is ideal. It can be a statue of a person, an animal, or whatever you like. Paint it however you like, BUT don’t decorate it completely. Leave some blank space for what is prescribed below.
  2. Ask yourself, “How silly would it be to think that this statue could hear my prayers?” Then, “How crazy would I be to worship this thing?”
  3. Now attach symbols of things in your life that could actually become idols. Think of things that you might enjoy, think about, or care about more than God. Attach or draw a picture of each thing to your statue. If it’s easier, just write the name of the thing on the statue instead.
  4. Prominently display your new “Anti-Idol” as a reminder to keep God first in your life.