When reading the Old Testament it is easy to ask why the Old Testament people could have had so much trouble with idols. The prophets are continuously rebuking them for following and worshipping idols. It is easy for us in the twenty first century to think of them as being superstitious and unsophisticated. Believing in idols is somehow very old and quaint. We have grown beyond such things. In our modern times, no one believes in and worships idols any more. Or do they? Perhaps we do so, only giving them more modern names.
There are four idols which are frequently worshipped in the world today; power, control, approval and comfort. We can describe them by putting them into sentences. Power idolatry can be described in the following manner. "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless --- I have power and influence over others.” This leads to the desire to always be in command of others, making decisions for them and controlling them. Control idolatry is described by the sentence "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless --- I am able to get mastery over my life in the area of _____.” It might be our weight, our addictions, our jobs, etc. This leads to the belief that we should be in total charge of our lives, the master of our own destiny. Approval idolatry is described "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless --- I am loved and respected by _____." We may seek approval from our spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, parent or child or boss. Approval idolatry leads to conditions of co-dependence where we are always looking for approval from others. The final idol is comfort. "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless --- I have this kind of pleasure experience, and a particularly desirable quality of life." Comfort idolatry leads to narcissism, hedonism and the pursuit of personal happiness.
The danger in worshipping these idols is that all idols always disappoint. They are weak: They can't deliver. When you succeed; they only raise the bar to a higher level. You are never satisfied, always wanting more. They will never forgive you when you fail. They are harmful and grievous, causing pain and harm to oneself as well as others. They hurt you spiritually, emotionally and physically. They hurt others by undermining your ability to love. Most importantly, by going after these idols one is saying to God: "Jesus is not enough. I also need _________ in order to be happy and content with my life.” The perceived need for happiness and comfort often leads to the compromise of our morality and the breakup of families. How many divorces are caused by succumbing to the comfort idol? Teenagers particularly find the approval idol enticing, often doing things they wouldn’t normally do in order to gain peer approval. Many relationships are broken permanently due to a person’s worship of the power idol. How many of the weekly visits to one’s psychologist result from finding that the control idol is a hard taskmaster? All four of these modern idols exact a huge price from their followers.
The idols of power, control, approval and comfort are all counter to God’s desire for our lives. In his kingdom the first shall be last and the last shall be first; Jesus, the Lord of our lives, is the one in control; we should be more concerned about God’s approval of our lives than those around us, and we need only rely on God for our daily needs. Put yourself into the sentences that describe these idols. Which one has the most allure for you?