What is idolatry? In his excellent work Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller says that idolatry “is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” According to the Bible, when idolatry happens, its effects are dehumanizing. We become and function less than our Creator God intends for us, his creatures.
“You must not worship the Lord your God the way the other nations worship their gods, for they perform for their gods every detestable act that the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters as sacrifices to their gods” (Deut. 12:31 NLT)
In other words, the effects of idolatry are not neutral. Because God has been replaced by another, and that which has replaced God is by nature evil, the effects are less than God’s best–they are dehumanizing.
Consider what happens when we, in our own lives, give way to evil in our hearts and lives. We act and become less that God intends. We become subhuman.
Now apply this to a nation. The nations surrounding ancient Israel were given over to idolatry, and look what happened. They were sacrificing their sons and daughters to their gods, gods they fashioned with their own hands.
We may think that we are not idolatrous because we don’t bow down to images we have fashioned with our own hands. But consider this: idolatry “is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”