The Bible is explicit: Idols are burdens.
“Bel bows down; Nebo stoops;
their idols are on beasts and livestock;
these things you carry are borne
as burdens on weary beasts.
They stoop; they bow down together;
they cannot save the burden,
but themselves go into captivity.
‘Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
carried from the womb;
even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.’” Isaiah 46: 1-4 (ESV)
In our day and age, specifically in the Western context, nobody is strapping up their hand-carved idols on the backs of their oxen and parading it around town. If people are doing this, however, I’d like to see a picture!
Isaiah here is lamenting the idolatry of Israel. They, the chosen people of God, have whored after false gods made by their own hands. They’ve rejected the Creator God and have elevated themselves to His place. They’ve rejected the God who has carried them as His own people and are now carrying their own gods on the backs of beasts.
Although the burden stressed in this passage of scripture is a physical one, I’d argue that our burdens today enslave not with a physical burden but a burden of another sort: the burden of judgment.
The great American philosopher–Miley Cyrus– once said, “Only God can judge ya.” Of course, only God is the ultimate judge (Eccl. 3:17, 2 Tim. 4:1), but what about the things we erect in God’s place—our idols?
Think about it this way: God is the only and true God who will judge the living and the dead (2 Tim. 4:1). Idols are the things that we erect in the place of honor and worship that God alone is supposed to occupy. Therefore, when we engage in idolatry, we elevate our idols to a position where they in turn become our judge!
If money is your idol, you’ll be judged by the number in your bank account.
If sex is your idol, you’ll be judged by your sexual activity.
If power is your idol, you’ll be judged by your status.
If food is your idol, you’ll be judged by your consumption.
If your image is your idol, you’ll be judged your mirror and other’s thoughts.
If your family is your idol, you’ll be judged by how they stack up against another family.
If your spouse is your idol, you’ll be judged by the success of other’s marriages.
If success is your idol, you’ll be judged by your failures.
See what I’m getting at?
All of these things are perishing. Money will burn, sex will never satisfy, your spouse won’t complete you, you will fail at some things, and someone will always have a cooler/better/more successful marriage, family, job, etc.—it’s all vanity. All of it. (Eccl. 1:2)
But if God is your ‘idol’…
If God occupies the place in your heart and mind that only He is designed to occupy; if your knee bows to the True Judge, you’ll be judged according to the person and work of Jesus Christ! As a son or daughter of the High King, you’ve been given a righteousness and perfection that is unfading and complete. You’ve been judged righteous on account of your faith in Christ! Our chains of idolatry and the burden of judgment have been broken and lifted so that now we can worship the one true God!
So Christian, realize the freedom you have in Christ. Do not subject yourself to the futility and burdens of idolatry. Worship God – the True Judge – who sent His Son Jesus Christ to live a perfect life, die a sufficient death and rise up from the grave so that He could draw you to Himself to occupy your heart and mind all for His glory.