If you were to page through the biblical prophecies of the Old Testament, you would see what would appear at first glance to be an excessive amount of copy about the sin of idolatry, or simply the worship of other gods. You might wonder how that could possibly apply to our modern space-age era. Worshiping grinning, leering idols is definitely not a major problem in the "enlightened" Western Christian-professing world of the Judaeo-Christian ethic.
However, the biblical definition of idolatry is nowhere near so constrained or narrow as that. It includes much more than a mere stone sculpture of some god-form. Idolatry involves anything (including any philosophic concept) that comes between you and the true God.
The number one commandment in the Decalogue is "you shall have no other gods before me." Number ten is "you shall not covet." It should come as no surprise that these two commandments are closely intertwined and interrelated. Paul, the New Testament apostle to Gentile Christians, wrote that covetousness is idolatry! (Col. 3:5.)
Perhaps covetousness is the major form of national idolatry in America. Covetousness rears its ugly head in myriads of ways in the United States. Take TV quiz shows. Watch one if you get a chance. The contestants sometimes become so mentally incapacitated with lust that it's embarrassing. They gibber; they can't remember their own names for the moment; their eyes bulge out; they're gasping; they hug and kiss the master of ceremonies; they jump up and down at the prospect of owning that fantastic new sports model on the other side of the curtain. The lust, the greed, and the vanity you see exposed in these people's eyes is nothing short of incredible.
In the United States today, we worship automobiles, money, and the status that money brings with it — material possessions, fine homes, and swimming pools. James Moffatt put the words of the prophet Isaiah in the modern vernacular: "They worship the things that their hands make" (Isa. 2:8).
Actually, this manifestation of modern idolatry is perhaps the gravest and most serious sin in the United States of America today. We claim to be a Christian nation, but our greedy conduct belies our outward profession! Covetousness is eating away at the vitals of our nation.
All but ignored is the biblical admonition of "let your conversation [conduct) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have" (Heb. 13:5).
What about the white-collar executive who is basking in a six-figure income? Sadly, sometimes these people in the highest income brackets are the most unsatisfied and unhappy of all. Some of them so deeply desire more and more and more!
This drive for materialistic security with all of its unwanted side effects is yet another form of covetousness in this country.
Once a nation sinks into idolatry, it loses not only contact with and blessings from God, but its appreciation of the lessons of history, its sense of direction, and its national purpose. And, not the least, it loses its sense of justice, rightness, and high moral values.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, ever since his forced exile from the Soviet Union, has been stressing his view that the major reason for the apparent success of the communist philosophy is the existence of a religious-moral crisis in the West, along with the abandonment of God for materialism, leaving the so-called Christian world defenseless against communist inroads.
The last verse of the last chapter of Judges in the Old Testament states the nadir of idolatry into which a nation can descend: "... every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25) — in other words, total self-gratification, "doing your own thing," serving and being concerned only for the self instead of honoring, obeying, and worshiping the Creator God.
Idolatry, simply stated, is the glorification of material things and human ideas.
Now, with that definition, do you see idolatry being practiced around you?