Modern Day Idolatry | 8 Surprising Idols That Can Separate Us From God

Modern Day Idolatry | 8 Surprising Idols That Can Separate Us From God

What is Modern Day Idolatry?

Idolatry seems like a pretty simple concept in the Bible, right?

Don’t bow down to golden statues? Check!

Don’t worship false gods at their altars? Check!

But believe it or not, idolatry is still alive and well! And it’s so well disguised that we often don’t even realize we’re participating in it. So what does modern day idolatry look like?

I love the way John Piper worded it, “It starts in the heart: craving, wanting, enjoying, being satisfied by anything that you treasure more than God. That is an idol. Paul calls this covetousness — a disordered love or desire, loving more than God what ought to be loved less than God.”

Identifying our own idols can be tricky, but there are a few questions that can help get the ball rolling:

  • Do I love or treasure anything or anyone more than God?
  • Do I prioritize anything or anyone before God?
  • Does anything bring me more pleasure than the things of God?
  • Do I place my identity in anything over my status as a child of God?
  • Do I look to anything or anyone to meet my needs instead of God?
  • Do I seek fulfillment or satisfaction from anything outside of God?
  • Do I seek comfort outside of God?

Here are some of the most common modern day idols, and a few questions you can ask to help identify them in your own life.

Modern Day Idolatry in Financial Success

Money

Having money, even being incredibly wealthy, is not the same as holding it up as an idol. First Timothy 6:10 clarifies, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (NIV).

Do I love money? Do I trust money to meet my needs more than I trust God?

Am I drawing a sense of stability from God, or from a fat savings account?

Nice Things

Do I love the things money can buy more than I love God? Do they bring me more joy than the things of the Lord?

I experienced an ugly breakup 15 years ago and responded by attempting to shop away my depression. I filled my closet with tops and shoes that made me feel beautiful, invested boatloads of money into more beauty products than I could possibly use all at once, and decorated and redecorated my apartment several times.

Rather than turning to God for comfort and a renewing of my joy, I sought satisfaction in things. And surprise, surprise, it didn’t work, even $10,000 later.

Careers

It’s no crime to work your way up the ladder, become one of the best in your field, absolutely love what you do for a living, or even take pride in your work. In fact, Proverbs 16:3 instructs us, “Commit your work to the Lord, and He will establish your plans.”

But we have to ask ourselves, does my career bring me more satisfaction than my relationship with God? Do I identify more as a #girlboss than a child of God?

Do I trust my employer to provide for my needs, more than I trust God?

Modern Day Idolatry in Personal Identity

Weight and Appearance

Of course, we want to treat our bodies well. They’re the temple of God.

But it is so easy to place special diets, cross-fit classes, Fitbit readings, or the number on the scale, front and center in our lives. First Timothy 4:8 reminds us, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

We should eat well and exercise, but we can’t allow reaching our goal weight to distract us from our true purpose on Earth, helping others to know and follow Jesus! 

Hobbies

It’s so easy to find an identity within our hobbies.

I run marathons. Or everything I make in the kitchen is to-die-for.

Or I’m crafty and always throw Pinterest-worthy parties. I’m a foodie…a gardener…a reader.

None of these activities are good or bad. It boils down to how we hold them in our hearts.

Just like a career, do I identify more as a runner, or as a believer? Do I look forward to making my next craft, more than I look forward to spending time with God?

Maybe the toughest question of all, do I invest time and energy into my hobby, that I should be investing into time with God?

Modern Day Idolatry in Relationships

Romantic

Whether it’s your spouse, someone you’re dating, or that handsome coworker, seeking satisfaction in our significant other not only sets them up as an idol, but also sets them up for failure.

Why? Because God created humans so that the only one that can truly complete us and bring us a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction is God.

Books, magazines, tv shows, and movies tell us differently, don’t they?

Children

When a life is completely dependent on us for survival, it’s easy to forget that being a parent is not, in fact, our entire identity. It can feel like it, especially when our children are small, but it’s not.

Our identity must always be found in God, and in his calling on our hearts. It’s also very easy to treasure our children more than we treasure the Lord, or seek to please them more than we seek to please God.

Of course, our children are precious to us. They’re precious to God, too! In fact, God loves them even more than we do.

But we cannot allow our children to take God’s place in our hearts.

Friendship and Family Relationships

We love connecting with our friends and family, spending time together, planning dinners and game nights, and leaning on one another for everything, from acting as our workout partners to patiently listening while we vent.

But we have to ask ourselves, am I seeking fulfillment from this relationship? Am I looking to them for things that I’m supposed to be drawing from God?

As a Christian speaker once said, am I going to the phone first with my problems? Or to the throne of God?

Wrap It Up

Modern day idolatry is alive and well. Anything that you love, treasure, prioritize, identify with, or look to for need fulfillment outside of God, can be acting as an idol in your heart and life.

Once we’re able to properly identify modern day idolatry, we can ask ourselves what needs we’re meeting with those idols, and then bring those needs to God for true fulfillment and satisfaction.

After all, Psalm 37:4 (ESV) promises us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Teaching Kids About Jesus | Free Resource Worksheet

P.S. Want to teach your kids about Jesus, but don’t know where to start? Download a free worksheet full of links to short Bible stories, simple memory verses, free Bible coloring pages, and more HERE!

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31 Comments

  1. Oh, personal identity and relationships… really good thoughts behind those!! I know in my more unhealthy seasons, personal identity has come front and center. Thank you for thinking these out and for sharing this!

    1. Amen, my brother. I too have done the same. I keep growing in my relationship with The Lord and am starting to truly realize I need Him for every single second of the day and how weak I truly am if I didn’t have His Mercy, Grace and Love to guide me, lend me His strength and show me when I falter His Grace to get back up. God Bless you amd your family and hang in there, The King if Kings, Christ Jesus is coming! Hallelujah!!

  2. Can I simply just say what a comfort to uncover someone
    who genuinely understands what they’re talking
    about on the internet. You certainly know how to bring a problem to light and make
    it important. More people should look at this and understand this side of your story.
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    1. I thoroughly enjoyed your article and how insightful and clear defined on some of todays idolism. This is so spot on and I learned some very important facts that you have worded very precise and honestly, I have to hold a mirror up and take a deeper look at things I wasn’t aware I am placing above God and I DO NOT WANT ANYTHING BEFORE HIM. Thank you so very much and you can use my email to send links to more of your articles if you wouldnt mins. God Bless You

      1. Thanks so much for reading! It’s certainly a constant battle to remain aware of those things I’m placing before Christ, as they tend to sneak in, in the slyest of ways. God bless you and your family!

  3. Hello there! This blog post could not be written much better!
    Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He constantly kept preaching about this. I most certainly
    will send this post to him. Fairly certain he’ll have a great
    read. Many thanks for sharing!

  4. Hello, Deb Preston,
    In the Mosaic Law, idolatry is a key topic. It is mentioned too in the New Covenant. Then in modern life, there is this odd, great, silence on what was once a major topic! Did we finally manage to get it right on avoiding idolatry at all costs, or did the Slanderer get the better of us?
    I attended Catholic school, and studied four years in India, and even the statues for worship there pale into insignificance in the replacing of the Unseeable God with idol worship in our hearts.
    I have always sought to study idolatry, I had an idea that anything else I did on Sunday morning apart from attend service was idol worship,
    Your article is the most radically illuminating that I have yet read.
    In this complex modern life, which mocks the worship of God, it is encouraging to see that there are still those who take the worship of God seriously.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words, Evan. How interesting that after studying in India and observing the worship of traditional idols/statues there, you found our country’s idol worship radically worse! That’s incredibly eye-opening and saddening to learn. We must certainly guard our hearts carefully. I wish you all the best!

  5. Idolatry in America today is blatantly visible but yet the vast majority of Christians are blind to it. I have had this on my mind for over 5 years and your writing is spot on. We refuse to admit what will require us to change our lifestyle, so we just refuse to admit its there. God says to have NOTHING to do with idolatry. Another way to put it is what do you put your trust in to bring you happiness or satisfaction other than God. We either love God with every fiber of our being or we don’t. If we love and trust Him, then His blessings overtake us. But if we don’t, then the ENEMY wreaks havoc on our daily life. Thanks for your article.

    1. Thanks so much for reading! And I completely agree, it’s anything you trust to bring you happiness or satisfaction other than God. Very well said! I think it requires constant self-assessment to identify idolatry in our hearts, since our world is constantly encouraging us (both in obvious and inconspicuous ways) to find happiness and satisfaction in those things.

  6. Hello so is watching tv and being on a mobile phone idolatry even if you pray read bible daily and try to do better?

    1. Hi, Chloe! No, I think it really comes down to where your heart is. It requires each person asking themselves, “Do I enjoy, crave, or love this thing (TV, social media, career success, etc.) more than I enjoy, crave, or love God?” For some people, TV or social media can very much be an idol! But I believe if you’re seeking God above all else, you can enjoy those things in their proper place in your heart. 🙂

  7. I was reluctant to comment until I saw your fairly recent response. Your article was an eye opening read. I want to know how other people feel about multiple 70″ tv screens, stages, lights, large sound systems, integrated audio and visual equipment, and smoke machines in a church. When is it too much and become idolatry?

    1. Oof, I personally feel conflicted in that area! On one hand, I believe that bigger churches need stages, large sound systems, and 70″ tv screens facing a few different directions in order for everyone to see and hear what’s happening in a large auditorium. Even with those amenities at my church, I have to sit in an area where the seats slope/step upward in order to see over the person in front of me (God did not bless me with height, haha).

      However, those things can quickly become idols. Light shows, fog machines, some might argue they contribute to the worship experience and make it easier for the modern person to enter into God’s presence. But I would ask if we’re teaching our congregations to be moved by God’s spirit or by the volume increasing during the song’s bridge. It’s a fine line and I feel each person has to gauge in their own heart if those things have become idols to them.

  8. As a Military retiree, I felt ashamed that many idolized the American flag. Placing it above humanity itself and hiding the reality of this act behind political patriotism and lies.

    1. Yes! Patriotism is a big idol and seems interchangeable with Christianity in many people’s minds, I suppose because our country was founded on God?? But it’s certainly a scary misunderstanding.

  9. I guess an idol can be defined as anything (apart from God) that consumes most of your time, money and energy.

    You cannot say that Jesus is your God if you spend only ten minutes a day praying and reading the Word.

    1. You’re very right, anything that consumes you more than God can become an idol. It can be a challenge in today’s world, especially for those working, caring for loved ones, and/or dealing with heavier circumstances. There are some days that my spouse is bedridden due to his health and I’m logging 8-9 hours at work, caring for him and our daughter, cooking, cleaning, running errands, etc. that I might only spend 15 minutes in the Bible before crashing into my bed (although I’m praying and worshipping throughout the day). There will likely be some days that that’s all you fit in, but I think they should be the exception rather than the rule.

      After all, the definition of worship is “to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion.” It would be impossible to accomplish that in just 10 minutes a day. I do believe there’s a way to posture your heart throughout the day to stay connected to the Holy Spirit, but that in order to truly know Someone, you have to hear their words regularly.

  10. This is an excellent and thought provoking article. I am currently looking at idols and what took the heart of Judah away from God in the times of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 570. Idolatry was pointed out as the most dangerous sins then, as it is now and to identify what is idolatry today is vital. So much of what we accept as every day modern life is actually idolatry. I pray that a renewal of heart and mind comes to us here in North America, and save us from a destruction akin to what happened to Judah. However, I fear we are on the same path, and only until we are refined and see things the way God sees them, will we once again rise.
    Blessings for you and your article.

    1. Yes, I totally agree about the importance of properly identifying idolatry today! So many Christians read the Bible and say, “So don’t bow down to golden statues? Check!” But we fail to see how we bow down to money, popularity, health, etc. I love that you’re studying Judah and the fall of Jerusalem, there is so much to be gleaned from that part of our history. Thanks so much for reading and sharing!

  11. As I was reading your article,a conviction came over me and i cried and confessed my sin before almighty God. Thank you Holy Spirit.
    You see,I made my work and gym a high priority. Posting my successes at work and my gym activities constantly.
    I am so ashamed.
    Even my wife complains about me working so much. i am a perfectionist at that and love what i do but i know i invest too much neglecting her & the kids craving my for attention when I am home.
    At home but my mind is elsewhere.
    What drew me to this article is seeing the link between the worship of idols and the anger & judgment of the Father and I am now more aware of what he loves.
    I am reading book of Kings in OT.
    Thank you for this clearly articulated article and you responses shows that you have a close& personal relationship with Jesus

    1. I believe it’s often difficult to recognize idols in our day and age – they’re often cleverly hidden and even praised by our society. Working hard at work and in the gym are good things…until or unless they take the place in our heart that God was meant to fill. I believe it’s something I’ll wrestle with my entire life, as different passions and accomplishments creep up in my heart. But I also believe that God honors our efforts as we intentionally strive to honor Him with our thoughts and actions. Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your story!

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