The dictionary definition of “idol” is “an object of excessive devotion or admiration.” The Hebrew of the OT had several words: “a likeness; something carved or made; nothing (as in ‘good for nothing’)”
The Greek of the NT uses “eidolon” which has been adapted into English as “idol.” It generally referred to vision or sight. Literally: “the way I see things.” A good working definition of idolatry is that it is the worship of the self – what I desire and want.
Augustine: “Idolatry is worshipping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that ought to be worshipped.”
Dan Allender: The Wounded Heart: “Idolatry is placing our longings for what only God can provide in the hands of a creature instead of the Creator. When I live for my work or my wife, I have made them my false god.”
Ed Bousman: “People create a god in their own minds and fall down and worship that god. In reality, they worship themselves.”
We have modern idols. To some it’s money, possessions, and material things. To others it’s some kind of system (whether it works or not). The system might be political, sociological, institutional, or economic. Material possessions, hobbies, people, political parties, a cause, a job, a sport, an addiction, lusts, pleasures, or some other thing, can become an idol. Astrology, money, gold, silver, investments, success, popularity, pride, and many other such things, are also idols to people. Selfishness can be an idol, as “self” is more important than God. Many people hate to give up their time – that’s why they aren’t here. Stubbornness/pride is idolatry in the eyes of God. Covetousness/greed is idolatry in the eyes of God (Colossians 3:5).
There are people in churches all over who have no clue as to why they have gathered together. To some, it makes them feel better. To others, it gives them good business contacts. Some come because it makes their parents/spouse happy. Some come because their family has done it for years. Some do it because they believe they are supposed to. Others believe that if they go to church and give some money, they’ll get to heaven. It’s the philosophy that says if I attend the meetings and pay my dues, I’ll be a club member in good standing. Ultimately, we’re here to worship what is most important in our lives. Your reason for being here is basically what you worship. Make sure it’s not trusting in something that’s false.
Anything, which is more important to a person than obeying God, may be considered an idol. To put anything before God, or to esteem any created thing more than God the Creator, is wickedness and a form of idolatry. Idols are an abomination to the Lord. God is a jealous God.
God’s warning is clear: don’t do it – Exodus 20:3-6; 23:13; Deut 4:15-19; Deut 4:23-24; Deut 7:25-26; Deut 27:15; Deut 32:17; 1 Samuel 15:23; 2 Kings 17:35-36; Isaiah 41:29; Isaiah 45:20-22; Isaiah 46:6-7; Isaiah 47:12-14; Jeremiah 51:17-18; Daniel 5:23; Habakkuk 2:18-20; Romans 1:22-23; 1 John 5:21; Revelation 9:20-21.
Idols that are made cannot see, hear, speak, smell, handle anything, walk, know anything, are dumb, have no breath, are a fraud, are worthless, are a mockery, are vanity, are wind and confusion, do not profit, are profitable for nothing, cannot answer nor save a person out of his trouble.
I read a news article not long ago about a house fire in the Middle East. A man ran back into his burning dwelling to get his valuables but he didn’t make it back out. He was found in the ashes clutching an ivory idol. The headline read, “Man dies trying to save his god.”
2000 years ago, Jesus Christ came to earth wholly God and wholly man. He died on a cross for a lost and dying world but rose again from the grave three days later. If there had been a Jerusalem Post back then, I wonder if the headlines might have read: “God dies to save mankind?”