The Second Commandment: No Idols


Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4-6)

The Second Commandment has two parts. The first talks about making idols, and the second about worshiping them. Then there is the opposite blessing/cursing associated with keeping commandments in general.

I don’t believe that it is a violation of the Second Commandment to make sculptures that replicates what we see in nature. I believe some very beautiful artwork has been made and should be made to decorate and beautify our world. However, doing so to make objects of worship—that is wrong.

Then there’s the act of actually worshiping or serving these dumb sculptures. What does it take to first believe that such an object actually possesses power to do anything for you? And then what does it take to actually mold your life around those invented fantasies?

Compare, for instance, the fact that the living God is a God of knowledge. Worship of Him requires the learning of truth and the understanding of logic and reason. There is power behind worshiping God in this way. As we amass knowledge and truth, and as our powers of logic and reason increase, we increase in health, wealth, and happiness.

Today, there’s not nearly as many people busy making idols because there’s not nearly as many people who worship them. However, I believe the type of idolatry we suffer from today is no different than the type the ancients suffered from.

Do we worship people on this earth who are powerless to help us? If you see a politician, a businessman, a sports star, or a television, movie or music star as anything more than what they really are (which is a fallible, mortal human), then you are worshiping them as an idol.

Do we worship our possessions or our positions in life, our jobs or anything else we can find on this planet? If so, we are worshiping something that is powerless to save us. Our 401ks have no more power to save us from ourselves than psychology or the Theory of Evolution. Our cars, homes, and boats can’t produce the necessary happiness and satisfaction in our lives.

If we put these things, or any thing, ahead of the worship of the only true God, then we are committing idolatry.

I dare say that even those who worship a false god will find themselves in peril of idolatry. The true and living God is a God of Truth, Justice, Mercy, and infinite Wisdom. If we imagine a god who does not possess and indeed define these very qualities, then we are worshiping a false god and committing the sin of idolatry.

The final part of the Second Commandment includes an admonition against those that refuse to obey the commandments and a blessing on those who do.

First, I would like to explain my view on these sorts of things. You might imagine that God somehow pronounces these edicts out of the blue and somehow they take effect. You might imagine a God who is paying close attention to who loves Him and who hates Him and hurls lightning bolts down from heaven to punish those who hate Him.

I don’t see it that way. See, when God pronounces these things, it’s almost as if He is describing the way things are. If you obey the commandments and show your love to God, then you will get the promised blessings, and your children will be that much more likely to obey as well. But if you don’t, then your bad example will translate to bad behavior on the part of your great grandchildren.

Our actions affect a lot more than just us. It affects those who see our actions and live the consequences of them. We need to keep this in mind as we choose to obey or spurn the commandments of God.


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