The need to feel safe, valuable and loved is at the core of human experience. This singular need has focused our attention towards the external factors (money, fame, power) and not the internal factor (authentic power). Understanding this “mystery” leads me to the concept of “idolatry” or “idol worship”.
We can define idolatry as the worship of an idol or a physical object – such as cult image – which the worshipper regards as a god. Idolatry can also be described as practices believed to verge on worship such as giving honour and regard to created forms. Given this definition we can see that most, if not all, are idolaters. I know some might find this statement provocative, but I urge you to come along with me.
The idol most people worship every day and every night is an image inside themselves of what they think they are, or what they think they should be. Let us take some instances. Some people think of themselves as being the “ideal” businessperson, wife, parent, soldier, athlete, teacher and the likes. If you have any of these images, then you worship that “ideal” or “idol”.
The idol in this regard has the role the worshiper must play or thinks he must play. The idol worshiper dutifully performs this role in order to feel valuable or admirable. Fulfilling these roles gives him satisfaction and a sense of self fulfilment. If the worshiper cannot for any reason fulfil these roles, he becomes depressed, feeling empty.
Let us take someone whose role – the idol he worships – is a soldier. This man responds differently as a soldier than he would if he were a father or a friend. Also if his role is a mother his response to circumstances will be different from when he is a student. An idol worshiper ignores his inner signals and acts as he thinks he should act. Those inner signals are his emotions. This is what idol worship usually does.
The idol you worship is an image of what you think you must be, do or hold dear and won’t let go of in order to feel safe, admired or valuable. Can you now see how you may then be deemed idolatrous if this is your mental state? There are numerous ways many create or make themselves idol worshipers. Any image of yourself that you must conform to in order to feel handsome, beautiful, graceful, lovable or admirable is an idol and must be jettisoned immediately.
What is the origin of idol worship? The concept originated from fear. Idol worship perpetuates fear and always expresses it. There is no power in idol worship as its worshipers have been made to believe. It only keeps the worshiper from experiencing painful emotions rather than facing them.
Back in my undergraduate days in the university, I elected against all parental advice to join the Students’ Union. I saw myself as a “comrade” or someone representing a great cause or struggle on the platform of the strongest students’ movement in Nigeria. This image of myself required great personal sacrifices on my part and that I acted as such no matter the costs. My motivation was not love of the union or those I claimed to represent, although I liked that image, too. It was a deep need to prove myself worthy of admiration from the students’ community. In those days I could not have come out to say openly that this was my intention. Nobody ever did!
Every decision I took or things I did appeared to me as a screen in which I watched myself play a hero with rapt admiration. I assumed everyone else felt the same way I did. It was much later that I realised that I was in fact the only one watching the movie. In the movie I watched myself leading mass of students in a protest in a legendary march for a just cause. I saw myself in confrontation with the university management and the entire student populace watching me and shouting my name with approval. In some cases I watched myself coming out of detention like Nelson Mandela in heroic fashion. I saw myself being in the University Hall of Fame for students’ activism.
Well, that was in those days when I knew not. Like St Paul said “When I was a child I behaved like a child; now I am a man…” Can you now see how most people worship idols?
In order not to fall into the temptation of idolatry which the Holy Bible strongly forbids, you must give up all attachments to images. In Exodus 20:3-5, God strongly forbade idolatry, even issuing a perpetual curse to idol worshipers. My advice to you is that you give up idol worship as there is no power in it. Focus on the inner (authentic) power rather than external (mundane) powers. Trust in the Lord; make Him your strength He alone has the capacity to deliver you, not you chariots, princes or kings. Of what value are these?