Christian cliches – idolatry is valuing anything above God

Whatever your heart desires most, that is your god. -Luther

Christians say over and over that idolatry is to have anything with more focus than God. This meme takes various forms: calling drinking a god, calling video games a god, calling sports a god. The problem with this, however, is that the Bible never describes hobbies or obsessions as a god. There may be other sins involved with these things, but it is definitely not the sin of idolatry. The formal commandment against idolatry is as follows:

Exo 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

The problem here, is that this the word here used for gods is el-o-heem’, a word never used for actions, thoughts and priorities, but always used for people, false gods, and most commonly used for God himself.

Why then does modern Christianity try to redefine this sin? It is most probably because most modern Christians have no experience with idols, false gods, and the worship of the same. They attempt to redefine a foreign concept to more fit their direct experience. This holds a dual purpose of also giving ammunition against activities with which they may not agree (going to the movies, watching sports, playing video games, etc). This is wrong to do for several reasons.

The primary reason this is wrong is that it diminishes the severity of the real sin. If one condemns going to movies on the basis of idolatry, then people will start thinking that worshiping a false god is as dangerous as going to the movies.

A second reason is that it is inherently dishonest and false on the face value. If I spend more time sleeping then I spend at church, then does that mean I value sleeping more than church or that sleeping is my God? If I distribute my activities as not to engage in any one activity for more than 1 hour per week, and then worship God for two hours, do I skirt the charges of idolatry? How does one shuffle and categorize activities to make this determination?

Does God ever tell us not to have hobbies or not to devote hours per day to a leisure (or work) activity?

While the goals of these Christians may be pure, trying to sway people towards focusing on God, their methodology (redefining sins) is destructive. We should never add to the law what is not there.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christian Cliches, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

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