Throughout the Bible, God’s people are accused of turning away from God and toward idols. Idolatry is the epitome of godlessness because it denies God his due worship and enthrones some other person or thing in his place.
But biblically speaking, the greatest mass-producer of idols is God himself.
Romans 1:18–25 explains that all people know God, yet they suppress that knowledge and instead pursue unrighteousness. Idolatry is at the heart of this exchange. Verse 25 reads:
“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”
What are they worshiping here? The creature. Who made the creature? The Creator! If the creation itself is the place we shop for our idols, then there is a sense in which God is our friendly neighborhood idol dealer.
Of course, the things that God makes are not idolatrous in themselves. It’s just that every good gift that God gives is susceptible to corruption. God creates a good world in Genesis 1 and 2, and Satan perverts it in Genesis 3. And so the cycle has gone throughout history.
The trick is to keep everything in its right place. The moment we fail to see God’s gifts as God’s gifts, we have dislodged them from their proper relation to God and lifted them to an idolatrous level. In the Old Testament, they did this with stone representations of false gods. In our modern world, we do this with finely crafted automobiles. But it doesn’t stop there. We also do it with flesh and blood human beings for whom we care deeply. We do it with ideologies like success and safety.
Literally every thing is only one step away from being transformed into an idol. We are more powerful than we think.
So take a good look at the incredible gifts that God has handed to you. Your phone. Your car. Your family. Your life. Each of these things has immense value because it has been crafted by the Creator. But be sure to love those gifts for God’s sake. A subtle shift in perspective is all it takes to turn a gift into an idol.