“My little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21)
I grew up in a large family with colorful relatives. Among them was my beloved Aunt Hazel. Her home was like a museum filled with images and statues of idols from around the world. I don’t think she actually worshipped them but it was clear that she was fascinated by them. She knew their names and their supposed powers.
The last gift that I received from her was a small box of miniature carved statues with a card telling me their names. It is now part of an illustration I have used for years in children’s gospel meetings called the “idol box.” Nobody would argue that these items belong in that box, but the other items may surprise you. A baseball, coins, a miniature television, and other assorted icons of daily life that may be useful or necessary, yet any could become an idol.
What exactly is an idol? The images of man or beast carved into wood, metal, or stone are the obvious ones (Deuteronomy 29:17). Colossians 3:5 ends a list of sins done in the body with “and covetousness, which is idolatry:” I am not so sure that the grammar in the sentence may not dictate that everything on the list is also idolatry, but covetousness is synonymous with idolatry in and of itself.
The basic idea of covetousness is desire. It could be the desire for something that does not belong to us. Or perhaps it could be the desire to be something that we are not. Through the magic of the media we are made acutely aware of what we could have and what we could be and before long we want it.
The root of covetousness is not being content with what we have or who we are. There is an old adage that states “if you want what you have, you will have what you want.” Paul’s similarly admonishes Timothy that “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). What you do not spend (lose), you save (gain). That makes sense.
The idolatry of covetousness drives man into debt or at least wastes his resources that could be better invested. Many always need (want) the newest gadgets and gizmos. (I speak to and of myself). For some it is riches, for some it is relationships, and for others it is recognition. You get the idea. Now you know what to look for.
“My little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).