Idols Razed, Idols Demoted

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Idolatry is to place any created thing in the place that should be occupied by the living God alone. Gross idolatry occurs when someone carves or paints an object, and then bows down in front of it. This is prohibited in the ten commandments—no graven images. But idolatry can also occur when we are dealing with legitimate objects in their own right, but we think of them wrongly in our hearts. This is why Paul says that greed is idolatry (Col. 3:5).

A repentant Baal worshiper would have all the images of Baal taken out of his house . . . and of course from his heart. But a repentant miser does not have to take all the money out of his wallet. He must still handle the former object of his idolatry, but now he must do so in wisdom and humility.

It is a difference between idols that are razed and idols that are demoted. For the former, you must stop praying to pictures. For the latter, you must evaluate, honestly, before God, whether certain things (good in themselves) must be taken off the god-shelf of your heart. Let me mention some of the chief idols of our day in this regard—idols you may keep, but which must be stored in the basement. These would include the state and its bribes, financial security, your household comforts, your reputation, and so forth.

And of course, for this second category of idolatry, it is virtually impossible for us to gauge the heart of another. Don’t waste any of your energy trying to do that. But it is not impossible to evaluate your own heart in this regard.

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