How to Spot an Idol

woman hugging computer

Quiz time! Don’t worry, I can’t see your answers and I always grade on the curve.

Which of the items on this list could be considered an idol?

  1. your boyfriend
  2. becoming valedictorian
  3. a golden calf
  4. food
  5. a statue of a Hindu god
  6. playing on the youth praise team

If you circled every letter, you just aced the test.

The dictionary offers three interesting definitions of the word “idol.”

  • an object of worship
  • an object of extreme devotion
  • a false conception

Life may have already taught you that idols come in all shapes and sizes. In fact, I sometimes envy the Israelites. Their idol was easy to spot. It was a calf made of gold that they bowed down to after all (Ex. 32). Our idols are more subtle. In fact, we often idolize—or worship—good things like making good grades, being a star athlete, or our friends. Doing so is serious business.

A topical search of the word “idol” reveals more than 200 verses on the subject. Here’s a look at some common themes:

“Cursed is anyone who makes an idol—a thing detestable to the LORD” (Deut. 27:15).

“Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless” (1 Sam. 12:21).

For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person-such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God (Eph. 5:5).

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21).

Clearly, as Christians we need to be careful not to offer our extreme devotion to anything but Jesus. But doing so isn’t always automatic.

Here are ten questions to help you spot the idols in your life.

1. What do I worry about most?

2. What do I use to comfort myself when things go bad or get difficult?

3. What do I daydream about?

4. What do I make sure people know about me?

5. What do I blog, tweet, or post the most about on social networks?

6. What is my most prized possession?

7. What or who do I love the most?

8. What or who do I have to have in my life in order to feel significant and secure?

9. What am I buying most often?

10. If _______ was suddenly taken away from me, would I consider my life ruined or worthless?*

Extra Credit: What do I consider so important that it seems worth sacrificing time in prayer, reading my Bible, or serving others in order to participate?

If your answers reveal an object of worship other than Jesus, you’ve got some work to do. What does the Bible ask us to do with idols? Get rid of them! Do the questions above reveal an idol(s) in your life? What do you need to do to live out 1 John 5:21?

* Note: Some questions taken from Seeing with New Eyes by David Powlison and “13 Questions to Diagnose Your Idolatries” by Tyler Kenney on

About Author

Erin Davis

Erin is passionate about pointing young women toward God’s Truth. She is the author of several books and a frequent speaker and blogger to women of all ages. Erin lives on a small farm in the midwest with her husband and kids. When she’s not writing, you can find her herding goats, chickens, and children.

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