The Cost of Idolatry
“Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods. I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood or even speak the names of their gods.” (Psalm 16:4 NLT)
I suppose if you traveled into some of the tribal regions of Africa or India you could find people who still bow down to physical idols, but this is a form of devil worship which is now confined to primitive cultures.
Even in New Testament times, the meaning of idolatry was already in transition. The Romans and Greeks had their mythological gods who were represented by statues, but the apostles were already looking past the physical, literal concept of idols to the propensity within the human heart to prostrate itself before “images of desire.” For instance, Paul said that covetousness was tantamount to idolatry. (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5)
Whatever the case may be, it is commonly held among Bible scholars that the concept of idolatry extends beyond the ancient practice of worshipping a carved pole or little statue to allowing anything to take God’s rightful place in a person’s heart.
I once preached a message entitled, “America: Land Of Idols.” I wish I could say that those who were guilty of idolatry in that congregation really responded with heartfelt repentance. But unfortunately, it was one of those churches where most of the people refused to hear the truth being presented. Perhaps when I had concluded that message, the Holy Spirit said, “Leave them alone, they are joined to their idols.” (Hosea 4:17) If we could see what is going on in the unseen realm around us, I suspect the consequences of being given over in the pursuit of some idol would appear terrifying to us.
The truth is that America is a land of idols. Our prosperity and technological advances have provided an enormous variety of ways a person can indulge his flesh. There is no end to the idols in people have to choose from.
Consider Psalm 16:4 from the following translations:
- “Those choosing other gods shall be filled with sorrow.” (LB)
- “Those who rush to other gods bring many troubles on themselves.” (GNB)
- “What do they do but lay up fresh store of sorrows, that betake themselves to alien gods?” (Knox)
The wording is different but the meaning is the same: pursuing interests that displace one’s passion for God brings a world of grief. John said it simply and said it best: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21) May it never be said of any of us: “Leave him alone, he is joined to his idols.”
And how about you? What idols have you overcome in your life? What idols remain intact? Do you still find yourself longing to give place to those worldly allurements? Or have you allowed the Lord to thoroughly eradicate them from your heart?