The Meaning of Idol (Online Bible Dictionary)

The Meaning of Idol (Online Bible Dictionary)

Truly understanding the meaning of idol helps us understand the breadth of idols in our lives that we can overcome them in our pursuit of closeness with God...

Tags: online bible dictionary, idol, meaning of idol

Unfortunately, the term "idol" betrays most Americans.

"BEWARE of idols!" we hear delivered from the pulpits of our churches.

So what pictures pop into your head when you hear the word idol?

For me (and for most Americans, I expect), little pewter and shiny statues fill my mind.


I don't have any of those in my house - I'm good on this idol thing!

But then I learned what real idols are... and what true idol-worship looks like...

...and it's not pretty how much I have immersed myself in a world of idols.

The Meaning of Idol

Webster's dictionary defines an idol as a picture or object that is worshiped as a god.
That explains why we are to have ZERO idols in our lives. As Christians, we have one single God to worship above all else.
Seems simple enough...

But what if we expanded the part of this definition from a picture or object to include:
  • an attitude (e.g., feeling loved)
  • a person (e.g., my kids, my spouse)
  • a job
  • a lifestyle
  • a relationship
  • a skill or ability
  • a hobby or activity (e.g., sport)

  • The Reality of Our Idols

    With a more comprehensive list of potential idols, we are suddenly surrounded by desires that may lead to idol-worship.

    When God is above all else, we are called to put everything else into perspective - including relationships (e.g., children) and activities (e.g., job)that at many times, seem more important.

    As soon as we take an attitude that these things ARE more important, we risk de-prioritizing our relationship with The Lord.

    Here is the really hard part...

    Sometimes that relationship with The Lord doesn't feel very tangible. Sometimes we just don't feel that close to God.

    Be encouraged, though because this is not unusual. In fact, I remind myself frequently that even the great King David went through these times.

    Now contrast this with your relationship with your spouse or your kids. Contrast this with your house and your job.

    The fact is, all that stuff feels VERY real - pretty much 100% of the time!

    Now here's the ultimate challenge...

    Even in the midst of this tension between what feels real and what doesn't, we are continuously called to live for God first. To have NO other idols to worship!

    What does that look like?

    Quite simply, we should be ready and able to lose everything BUT our relationship with God.

    Uncovering Our Idols

    As I have alluded to above, many of us have LOTS of heart idols.

    In order to start addressing them and supplanting them with God, we need to first identify them.

    This can be a painful process, but there are a few key questions to ask yourself that will get you started:
  • What (or who) do I feel like I cannot live without?
  • What would I be devastated to lose?
  • What activities do I force to happen routinely at the expense of other activities?

  • Conclusion

    We have reviewed the definition of "idol" and determined idols go way beyond a picture or object of worship. As such, we have seen that idols are rampant in our lives.

    We have considered how our ultimate goal is to worship God above everything and thus, defeating our idols is a key part of our Christian walk.

    Finally, we have discovered a few key questions to ask ourselves in uncovering any idols that remain in our hearts. It is the first step in defeating those idols.

    Remember, the Gospel is our ultimate weapon in defeating our idols. As important as our things and circumstances seem today, they are meaningless compared with our ultimate, unmerited inheritance through Jesus Christ.

    We'd love to hear from you about what idols you identify and defeat through some reflection. Let us know how you're doing in the comments section below...

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