Do Christians worship idols?

The Bible says that those who worship idols become like them.

“Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’ Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them” (Psalm 115:2–8). 1

This is an interesting thing to say about the state of nations who doubt the existence of God and worship idols: They become like the idols they worship. They are lifeless—without true life, as God defines it. And in the absence of life, only death, of one kind or another, remains.

Welcome to the state of a godless world. It is perhaps hard to believe that some of the people you see and hear on media, though they are blinking and breathing, are dead.

Then again, maybe it’s not.

But is this true of the Church? Most of us, Christians or not, in the formerly Christian West, do not worship idols.

Or do we? Does death reign in some ways there, as well?

After the captivity in Babylon, Israel abandoned idol worship. The Pharisees and Sadducees missed their Messiah entirely but not because they worshiped idols.

Or were they worshiping idols of another kind?

Look at this passage.

Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains'” (John 9:40–41).

The Pharisees believed they could see, that they possessed spiritual truth—without doubt enough truth to recognize the Messiah when he arrived. But they didn’t. Why was that?

At least one answer: They thought they had a corner on scriptural truth. They thought they could see, but Jesus told them because they thought and said that, they were blind. They couldn’t see the Author of Life as He was standing and moving right in front of them.

Most of them, anyway.

Christian examples?

The church at Laodicea first comes to mind. Jesus’ letter to this church has been discussed on this site, but pertinent to our current conversation is the blindness in Jesus’ statement to them: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

The blind scribes and Pharisees, the blind church at Laodicea all had a common, sinful ailment: they worshiped the idol of self, of pride—pride brightened by what they thought was a thorough knowledge of God and His truth. Like those before them, they thought they had it all covered. They no longer sought Him—they had no need to. They no longer humbled themselves before Him—they had no need to. They didn’t need Him. Their riches, their prosperity, their position, caused them to be self-satisfied. But self does not satisfy. In addition, because they were proud, God Himself opposed them, which could never be a desirable place to reside (James 4:6). Thus, they became lifeless. They possessed no life because they worshiped and put their trust in themselves—something that was not God and because only God has life, had no life in its truest sense.

In other words, they were spiritually dead.

It is far better to say, “I see some things that are true about You, Lord, particularly Your love and salvation. But I don’t have anything close to a satisfactory knowledge of You or of Your Word. Please reveal Your Truth to me as I read Your Word, as I seek Your face, and as I pray.’

That’s a good and humble place to be.

My wife and I have been taught many things by well-meaning pastors and teachers down through the years. Much of what they have taught is true. But some of what they have taught is a shallow misunderstanding of God’s Word.

A blatant example.

We were taught—by our denomination’s district supervisor, no less—that Christians should believe and confess that they are healed after they’ve been prayed for. One of the scriptures he used to prove this point was Isaiah 33:24: “And no inhabitant will say, ‘I am sick’; the people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity.” Therefore, if you say you’re sick when you’ve been prayed for, you’re, um, violating a command. Don’t do that. If you’re still sick after someone prays for you, keep confessing that you’re well.

Boom. We’re done here.

What a load of legalistic, bondage-inducing, guilt-producing hooey, as we soon discovered. This leader should have known better. The denomination should have known better than to have a man in this influential position teaching such error. This turned us into potential worshipers of ourselves. It was now our ability that somehow enabled Jesus to heal us.

Thinking you have the truth of Scripture or the knowledge of God down and are unwilling to accept further understanding from Scripture is a mindset that leads to lifelessness. Error. Legalism. Tragic misunderstanding of who God is, in His fullness. Instead, we should be humble, admit our ignorance, acknowledge that we are blind and deaf, and ask God to cause us to see and hear the truth of His Word. He will answer that prayer.

However, be prepared to be gloriously surprised.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.