17) What is idolatry?
Idolatry is trusting in created things rather than the Creator for our hopes and happiness, significance and security.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened… They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is for ever praised. Amen.” (Romans 1:21,25)
Homo sapiens is naturally religious. If he does not know (or does not want to know) the true God, he will worship someone or something else. It may be a material object or a person, it may be a philosophical system, it may be a ‘god’ invented by human imagination. But whatever it is, something will govern his thoughts and actions – and it will be something less than the true God.
Does this matter? Yes – because whatever we focus our minds on and devote our lives to will eventually come to dominate us (Psalm 115:4-8). A wrong attitude to God distorts our whole value system, and has knock-on effects on our behaviour. This is particularly evident with the most prevalent idol in our society – Money. “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (I Timothy 6:9,10).
The Israelites had a continual fascination with pagan gods (e.g. Judges 2:10-13). And Christians are not immune either (I Corinthians 10:7). Idolatry can be the most insidious of sins. It is not even necessarily the worship of bad things, but can simply be the elevation of good things (e.g. work, family, church) to a higher status than God. This is why Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26) All things must be subordinate to Him.
Your Son left the riches of heaven
And became poor for our sake.
When we prosper, save us from pride;
When we are needy, save us from despair,
That we may trust in You alone,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Collect for 8th Sunday after Trinity)