Those of us who grew up in the church probably heard dozens of sermons and youth group lessons about idolatry. It’s important to God, that’s why He made it one of the Ten Commandments. It’s not just worshipping statues, anything can be an idol: cell phones, your favorite music, movies, and sports teams (that one hurts). Anything that you give the majority of your affection and devotion to instead of God is an idol. We believe these things to be true, but I think far too often we let those truths go in one ear and out the other. We don’t take the problem of idol worship serious enough. Worshipping something other than Jesus as the lord of our hearts is directly tied to our faithfulness, and lack of faithfulness can have grave consequences in our spiritual lives and in others.
Imagine your heart personified, and a throne that represents what your heart is devoted to. That place is rightfully Jesus’s, but we let other things creep up and sit there instead. They aren’t always bad things, like sports, gadgets, or hobbies. They could even be tools that could be used for God’s kingdom, like our talents and abilities. But whenever they take the place of our devotion that should be reserved for Jesus, they become our idol and sit on the throne of our hearts. At this point, our faithfulness to God is at a dangerously low level, and the bible is full of warnings about what happens when we aren’t faithful to Him (see: Israel throughout the Old Testament, Paul’s letter to the Romans). The life of a Jesus follower should be marked by our complete and utter devotion and faithfulness to Him and him alone, and idolatry completely undermines that. When we aren’t faithful to God, the door of opportunity for sin to ravish our lives is left wide open, and I promise you that favorite video game that has become your idol isn’t going to be able to do anything about it. In this state of spiritual lowness and lack of faithfulness, we completely miss any opportunity for God to use us to impact His kingdom. We can look to Daniel chapter 3 for an example of how all of this can play out.
In Daniel chapter 3, King Nebuchadnezzar decides that he is going to make a golden statue that everyone in the nation will bow down and worship multiple times throughout the day. You hear the music, you pray to this massive thing. Refusing to submit to this kind of idolatry and remain faithful to their God, three Jewish officials named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego continue praying to the King of kings instead. Other officials in Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, who still hadn’t warmed up to the Jewish presence in the kingdom, decide to uncover their dissension to the king. The king threw them into the fiery furnace. We know the story from here: not only do the flames not touch their bodies, the angel of the Lord walks with them through the fire, which Nebuchadnezzar sees, and is utterly amazed. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s story is an incredible testimony to remaining faithful to God in the midst of idolatry and certain death. They knew in full that God would take care of them, but their actions had ripple effects throughout history and eternity as well. This whole event caused Nebuchadnezzar to declare that the God of Israel is the only true and powerful God (Daniel 3: 28-30). But God also used this miracle along with all the others in scripture as a testimony. The apostles spoke of these miracles while evangelizing and spreading the Gospel, and we are still encouraged when we hear these stories today. Because of their faithfulness, God used and is still using the testimony of these three young men to speak to the hearts of people.
Idol worship not only erodes our relationship with God and our faithfulness to Him, but it prevents us from being a part of God’s work building His kingdom. As we face the temptation to allow something else the devotion that only Jesus deserves, I pray the Holy Spirit would remind us of this truth and empower us to be faithful to our Creator and the work He is doing.