American Idolatry

Posted on January 21, 2012. Filed under: Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Former logo of American Idol from 2002 to 2008.

Image via Wikipedia

If you’re like me, when you think of the Ten Commandments, you probably made a mental check list, “Well, I’ve lied, but I haven’t murdered anyone, so that’s pretty good.” However, the Bible tells us anyone breaking the least among God’s commands will be least in heaven. Often times, we try to make ourselves feel better by focusing on what we haven’t broken (Matthew 5:19).

Idolatry is one of the sins that I typically thought I was ‘safe’ from… I mean the likelihood of worshiping a golden cow as a god is pretty low. The commandment says, “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,” so as long as I’m not bowing down to Osiris or Ra, I should be in the clear right (Exodus 20:4-5)? Or maybe, that’s not what God meant. Maybe I’m just as guilty as the Israelites. Maybe the American idol is more than just a TV show that just launched its 974th season…and counting…

Christ told us that when we curse someone, we are subject to judgement, just as those who murder are subject to judgement (Matthew 5:21-22). He said that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart (Matthew 5:27:28). So clearly, God wanted the Jews to connect the dots between their hearts and the law He gave them. According to Jesus, the sin starts in the heart, it’s not just in the action. If that’s the case, then the second commandment implies that idolatry isn’t just carving an image out of gold or stone; idolatry is putting anything (or anyone) in your heart where only God belongs:

“So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world” (Col 3:5, emphasis mine).

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world” (1 John 2:15-16, emphasis mine).

So, don’t worship the bad things like the endless pursuit of money, sex outside marriage, or plot with Pinky and the Brain to take over the world and you’re good right? I think there’s more to it than that. While some might be tempted to think bowing down to a man with a falcon head is ridiculous, the ancient Egyptians might think watching pictures in a box for  5 solid days a month insane. Television, like a mutant statue, is not intrinsically bad. And certainly taking pride in your work, as John wrote, is not bad (Proverbs 10:26). I think it’s the meaning we put in these these things that makes them idolatrous. Striving to provide a good home for your family is good, but not if you’re spending so much time at the office your kids don’t know you. Pursing companionship in a mate is good, but not if it means you’re compromising your faith.

How do we know if we’re committing idolatry? One way is by examining the fruits of our life choices, which is certainly how others will evaluate us (Matthew 7:16). In the end, it comes down to are we pursing what we want over what God wants for us (as He instructed in the Bible). After all, the first sin came down to man (yes, technically woman) making himself his own idol.


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[…] because it isn’t centered on “me” (selfishness) or even the other person (idolatry); it’s centered on God and how He has called us to […]

[…] American Idolatry ( […]

[…] because it isn’t centered on “me” (selfishness) or even the other person (idolatry); it’s centered on God and how He has called us to […]

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