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
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?
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.
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!
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
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.
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.”
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!
Disclosure: While all opinions are our own, we are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other affiliate advertising programs, designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites, at no additional cost to you.