Commandment #2: You shall not make for yourself an idol… You shall not bow down to them or worship them. For I the LORD am a jealous God…
Everybody worships something. It’s what we were made for. The big question is what we will worship. Worship isn’t necessarily what you sing about, or even what or whom you pray to. Worship is what we live for, what we value most, what takes precedence above other things, what most affects our decision-making.
At the time the 10 Commandments were given, those things were almost always caricatured in the form of an idol. So some people would have an idol to represent fertility and growth for their family, their fields and their farm animals. Others would have an idol to represent their family or their king. Others had idols to represent the gods which they thought controlled the afterlife, the rains, the rivers and the stars and the planets. And having made idols people would pray to the gods they represented, seeking their blessing or their protection.
Some societies, even some religions, still practise this, but this commandment is absolutely clear: we are not to make an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. And we are not to bow down to them or worship them. We are not to give authority over our lives to anything else except God. We may feel pretty safe on this one. But I wonder if we are. We may not make little statues of the things that we care about most, but there may be things that we bow down to more than we bow down to God. If our career takes precedence over our Christian discipleship, that is an idol. If our family or our friends take precedent over our Christian discipleship, that is an idol. If our football team, our desire for popularity or power or wealth or even personal safety takes precedent over our Christian discipleship, that is an idol. And if so, then like the pagans of old and today, we have substituted the worship of something created, for the worship and obedience we owe solely to our creator. And that’s not only unwise, but sinful.