Are we guilty of idolatry without knowing it?

The Bible warns us against idolatry.

1Cor. 10:14 ¶ Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

1John 5:21 ¶ Little children, guard yourselves from idols.

What is an idol? We often think of an idol as being a carved image; and since those are not common in our society, we may think idolatry is not a problem in our lives. However, the Bible gives us a definition of idolatry that makes it clear that idolatry is something that is a problem in our society. Before we look at that, let’s look at an example of how idolatry can gradually creep into our lives.

Jacob deceived his father into giving him a blessing that had been intended for his brother Esau. As a result, Jacob had to flee his brother’s wrath. As he was fleeing, Yahweh appeared to him in a dream. What vow did Jacob make after the dream?

Gen. 28:10 ¶ Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran.

Gen. 28:11 He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place.

Gen. 28:12 He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

Gen. 28:13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants.

Gen. 28:14 “Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

Gen. 28:15 “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Gen. 28:16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.”

Gen. 28:17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

Gen. 28:18 ¶ So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top.

Gen. 28:19 He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz.

Gen. 28:20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear,

Gen. 28:21 and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the LORD will be my God.

Gen. 28:22 “This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”

After his dream, Jacob vowed that Yahweh would be his God. Over the next twenty years, Jacob got married, had many children, and became very wealthy. When he was on his way back home after being away for twenty years, Yahweh appeared to him again and told him to go to Bethel, the place where he had had his dream. Notice the presence of idolatry in his family.

Gen. 35:1 ¶ Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”

Gen. 35:2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments;

Gen. 35:3 and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”

Gen. 35:4 So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods which they had and the rings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem.

Gen. 35:5 ¶ As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.

Gen. 35:6 So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him.

Gen. 35:7 He built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother.

Jacob had vowed that Yahweh would be his God; however, over the years, as Jacob’s family and wealth grew, idolatry crept into his household. The negative aspect of this is that Jacob allowed the idolatry to exist in his family. The positive aspect is that Jacob recognized the importance of getting rid of the idolatry before he returned to Bethel and made an alter to Yahweh.

Are we like Jacob? Do we allow idolatry to exist in our lives, even though we claim to follow Yahweh? Consider the following definition of idolatry.

Col. 3:5 ¶ Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

Colossians clearly says that greed is idolatry. We may not have carved idols in our society like they had in Bible times, but we certainly have greed in our society. Are we guilty of greed? Have we allowed greed to creep into our lives the way Jacob allowed idolatry to creep into his family? If so, are we willing to clean the greed out of our lives the way Jacob cleared the idols out of his life?

Let me close by repeating the warnings against idolatry, remembering that greed is idolatry.

1Cor. 10:14 ¶ Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

1John 5:21 ¶ Little children, guard yourselves from idols.

Greed is idolatry. We need to guard ourselves against greed and flee from it.


Further Reading

How do we decide which God to follow?

What is the best inheritance we can leave our children?


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“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”