The Heart of Idolatry
The Bible presents us with many different categories of sin. According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” Where does idolatry fit in? Idolatry is arguably at the root of all sin. Some would say that pride is the root of all other sins. However, I would argue that the self-regard of pride is a second step of sin. The first step is turning from God to another allegiance. In idolatry, we disregard God and elevate the wisdom of man or the work of human hands above him.
When we choose against God, we, in a sense, “de-God God” (DA Carson’s phrase). Of course, God is unchanged in his perfections when humans turn from him. This is what makes idolatry such a foolish endeavour. In Romans 3:20, at the end of his shocking description of the universality and horror of sin, the Apostle Paul used the phrase from Psalm 36:1, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” When there is no fear of God before our eyes, we will turn from him to idols. A
ll sin is, at root, rebellion against God. Consider these biblical examples of sin and consider how they relate to idolatry:
- What did Jesus say was the greatest commandment? “ You shall love the Lord your God with all heart, and with all our soul and with all your strength” (Matthew 22:37, compare Deuteronomy 6:5). Failure to do this is to break God’s chief commandment.
- Consider the commandments in Exodus 20 – They begin with a warning regarding the exclusive worship of God alone and a prohibition against making images of God (or “gods”). - Presenting a root sin of all the sins listed in Romans 1, Paul says “...they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him” (Romans 1:21).
- We have repeated warnings in Scripture not to forget God and to fear him.
- When we read the Prophets, we do have warnings regarding injustice and immorality, but over and over again, the great sin of God’s people is turning from him to idols of various kinds.
- In Colossians 3:5, the Apostle Paul equates the sin of covetousness (or greed) with idolatry. This is an indication that idols can be internal and personal.
I don’t deny that there are many categories of sin in the Bible. Idolatry is one of them. However, this basic, insidious sin lurks in places that we may not expect. More on that, Lord willing, next week.