Modern Day False Idols

pagan wooden idols set against a cloudy sky

People Today Don’t Believe in False Idols….Right?

Christian’s reading their bible today may not be able relate to the idea of false idols spoken about throughout the Word of God. Can you imagine anyone you know actually worshipping a golden calf?

Preachers often speak about your career being a false idol. Other false idols lumped into the category of anything that takes your eyes of God include entertainment, hobbies, or even your retirement fund. What about something more tangible that hits closer to home…like a rosary or a crucifix? Does fingering a rosary count as a false idol? What about kissing that cross around your neck?

Let’s look at, and discuss a few of these ideas, and turn our attention to less personal, and more universal practices that might be considered the worship of false idols.

illustration of Israelites dancing around a golden calf

Environmentalism is a False Idol

The low-hanging fruit of course is Environmentalism. Environmentalism, the green movement, or extreme activism advocating for the planet’s well being can all fall under this category. Taking care of planet earth is a good thing, let’s get that out of the way. Despite this planet’s ultimate outcome, hastening the planet’s early destruction is not in our best interest.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

2 Peter 3:10

Radical environmentalism isn’t the solution either, however, and becomes a false idol to many that pursue that interest. It is reported that $12.5 billion in climate change donations was given in 2021. Non-believers think they can actually make a real difference in the planet’s outcome. Not to sound like Judas here, but how far could that money have gone to help the homeless, given to hospitals with failing budgets, improving rehabilitation for prisoners, or simply enforcing the climate and pollution laws already in place?

The false idols of Environmental Activism is mostly just that….a false climate scare. Can some improvements be made…sure. Should we at least try to do better…absolutely. When we put the environment above the well-being of man, however, that becomes a problem. When non-sensical political decisions are made that are scientifically unproven, that’s even worse.

The Worship of Mary, Jesus’ Mother

I’ve tried to look favorably on the Catholic Church, but there are just too many red flags. In addition to what seems to be an inordinate amount of attention paid to Mary, there is the whole celibate Priest thing, which has not turned out well at all. A study of Martin Luther reveals how he felt about the Catholic Church at the time, and what he did about it. Perhaps “worship” of Mary is too strong, yet if you are praying to someone other than the Trinity, is that not worshipping false idols?

Mary should be highly respected for her faith, love, and trust in the Lord, as revealed in The Magnificat. Peter told Cornelius in Acts 10:26, “Stand up; I too am a man.” He recognized that he should not be worshipped. Neither should Mary. Nor should she be prayed to. She had great faith to be admired, that’s it. Paul had the same great faith, but we don’t worship him. I have a little problem with the priest/pastor being called “Father” as well…but perhaps that’s just me. There are a few other Catholic practices I don’t subscribe to, but I digress…and admit that I am not fully qualified to debate this matter extensively.

Nevertheless, it would seem to me that praying to Mary is false idol worship.

The virgin mary floating in a cloud
Mary was awesome, but she is NOT to be worshipped or prayed to.

Flag Stuff – False Idols or Just Respect?

I’m including this here because truthfully, this was the original genesis of this article about false idols. The environmentalism and Mary thoughts have been brewing for a while, but the original anchor was me being made suddenly aware of all the “Do’s and Dont’s” surrounding the handling of the American Flag.

With no Boy Scout or military background, I had what I thought was a normal respect for the American Flag. Fly it on the days that seem proper, and if it’s all shredded and crappy looking, take it down and throw it away and replace it with a new one.

Wow…was I wrong. Apparently there is a whole set of ethics around disposing of an American Flag. The aforementioned Boy Scouts even hold Flag Retirement Ceremonies. It goes well beyond that however. There are a whole host of guidelines about when, where, & how it can and should be flown.

I would not go so far as to say that following all of these rules is akin to worshipping false idols…but it seems like a ton of rules and concern for inanimate object. I get that ultimately, we are honoring the humans that fought for our freedom and our right to fly Old Glory, I really do…but it does seem a little overboard to me. Remember that these are my Boomer Opinions, and you know my motto – Saying What I Want to Say….Because I Want To.

I would however, NEVER knowingly or intentionally do anything to disrespect our flag or those who fought for it. In fact I currently do not own a flag for that very reason…I don’t want to do anything wrong or offend someone, but I’m also not willing to memorize and follow a bunch of rules concerning it.

Overusing the Term False Idols

I am aware that as a religious society we like to label almost anything as a false idol. Food, video games, movies, books, sex, television. Again the phrase, “if it takes you away from time with God”, we tend to see it as a false idol.

I think it’s more complicated than that. I recently wrote that COVID had ruined my prayer and bible study time. In this case, I did let my career become a false idol. Partially out of fear, and partially because I found great satisfaction in working, learning, and creating. At this point, at least to me…this crossed the line toward idol worship. I willingly chose to let work consume time I had previously set aside for the Lord.

This is the line in the sand that I see. I don’t care if you watch 5 movies a day, if you manage to spend enough time in the Word and in prayer each day as well. You want to collect automotive memorabilia? Go for it…just don’t let it consume so much of your income that you cannot give sufficiently back to God, in some form of tithes and offerings.

You want to be a sports nut and consume every flavor of ESPN content available?. Not a problem…just make sure you are at church on Sunday, with an open heart and mind ready to hear from God, and not just counting the minutes until kick off.

False idols can be different for everyone. It’s up to each of us to look internally to make sure there is nothing out there preventing us from working out our salvation and looking into the face of God daily.

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