In his book on idol worship, Timothy Keller explains how the human heart is an idol factory that mass-produces idols.1 Additionally, the central principle taught throughout the entire Bible is the rejection of idolatry2 especially since, as Martin Luther taught, if you obey the first two commandments you will naturally obey the rest.
When we worship, we mentally ascribe ultimate value to someone or something. As a result, we often are guilty of worshiping ourselves, our image, our pleasure, our time, other people’s approval, other people’s stuff or even other people’s lives. In an attempt to show how all sin is really rooted in the worship of someone or something other than God, I have listed out the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) and explained some (Certainly not all) of the ways that they are really acts of idolatry.
How Is All Sin Misdirected Worship?
- Don’t worship other gods - This is the branch which all other sin stems from.
- Don’t have idols - This is the worship of any object, person or thing besides God.
- Don’t use God’s name carelessly - This is the worship of ourselves by elevating our name above God’s.
- Don’t abuse the sabbath - This is the worship of our time, priorities and tasks over God’s desire for us to take a day off.
- Respect your parents - This is the worship of our own desires and wants over our parent’s wishes, whom God has placed as authorities over us in our upbringing.
- Don’t murder - This is the worship of self and image by unlawfully elevating ourselves to God’s position as life giver and taker.
- Don’t commit adultery - This is the worship of sex and personal pleasure while not enjoying the spouse that God has or will bless us with.
- Don’t steal - This is the worship of possessions and not trusting God to provide what we need.
- Don’t lie - This is the worship of ourselves and other people’s view of us and not of God.
- Don’t desire other people’s stuff - This is the worship of possessions or success and not appreciating what God has already given us.
This explanation provides a way for us to look at our sin as really forms of idolatry. Since we are created as people who pour out worship continually, it is our job to focus it on the one person who is truly worthy of it. God.
In one way or another we are likely guilty of worshiping technology, money, sex, power, success, intelligence, religion, theology or anything tangible thing that exists; but in the end, they will all fail us. That is why God instructs us to worship him and him alone; because he will never let us down and leave us in despair without hope.
As God’s creation, we are free to enjoy the good things that God has given us, but we are not free to allow ourselves to be consumed by them.
What do you worship in the place of God as a functional or temporary savior?
- Keller, Timothy J. Counterfeit Gods: the Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. New York: Dutton, 2009. 155. Print.
- Keller, Timothy J. Counterfeit Gods: the Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. New York: Dutton, 2009. 3-4. Print.