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4 Sneaky Idols to Look Out for in 2024

Jennifer Waddle

iBelieve Contributor
Published Jan 09, 2024
4 Sneaky Idols to Look Out for in 2024

"We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols." (1 John 5:20-21)

What comes to mind when you picture an idol? Perhaps it's a statue or carved figure that people worship. In the Ten Commandments, God defines an idol this way: "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them." (Exodus 20:4-5)

In the New Testament, Paul says, "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5). Both Bible passages paint very distinct pictures of what idolatry looks like, and unfortunately, idols have a sneaky way of creeping into our lives. As we start the New Year, here are sneaky idols to look out for in 2024.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Tijana87
Man and woman celebrities on the red carpet

1. People

To idolize someone means to place them in an elevated position that should only be reserved for God. It involves excessive admiration, adoration, or devotion towards someone. It often includes overlooking their flaws and attributing god-like qualities to them. Here are a few examples:

-Parents excessively prioritize their child's needs, accomplishments, and happiness over everything else.

-Married couples put their spouse on a pedestal and become overly reliant on them for their emotional, social, and even spiritual needs.

-Employees develop staunch loyalty towards the company or their employer - even when ethics are questioned.

-Fans become excessively attached to celebrities, considering them an essential part of their lives and obsessively following their every move.

-Congregants exalt their pastors, attributing divine qualities to them and believing their words and actions are infallible.

If you believe someone in your life has become an idol, ask God to help you develop the right perspective of them. Pray for your affections to be turned to the One worthy of all praise. Change your thoughts and behaviors toward the person by admitting they are flawed individuals who need a loving Savior.

If needed, don't hesitate to seek wise counsel so that you can remove this sneaky idol from your life. Here is another helpful resource titled 6 Signs You're Worshipping Celebrities as False Idols.

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Woman working on her computer at an office; healthy work-life balance

2. Work

If you've ever been accused of being married to your job, you might have a sneaky idol on your hands. Work-life balance is difficult, especially if you're the main provider for your family. However, putting too much importance on your career can negatively affect your health and relationships.

I've struggled to put work in its proper place, partly because I love what I do and partly because I haven't established healthy boundaries. As a freelancer, clients sometimes request work on weekends and holidays, and in the past, I would drop everything to meet those demands. Now, however, I'm working on prioritizing the people in my life over my work.

Here are a few sneaky ways work can be an idol:

-It has become your identity.

-You'd feel devastated and lost without it.

-You often use work as an excuse not to go to church or fellowship with others.

-All you can think about is the next project or promotion.

Keep in mind that God created us to work, but He also commanded us to rest. Removing a work idol means learning to say "no" to job demands that steal your time and attention from God and others. Your job is not your identity - Jesus is. Your projects do not take precedence - people do. Your promotions do not create your worth - God does.

Here is another helpful resource for work-life balance: How Can I Resolve to Find Work/Life Balance This New Year?

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Delmaine Donson
man on laptop late at night watching porn, is porn a sin

3. Addictions 

As mentioned in the introduction, Paul wrote a serious message to the Colossians, saying, "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5)

The pull of worldly lusts, including alcohol, drugs, food, and pornography, is no laughing matter. Our flesh chases after things that will numb us, reward us, and bring us pleasure so that we can escape life's overwhelming responsibilities.

Of all the idols in our lives, addictions are the most difficult to demolish. But remember Paul's empowering words in 2 Corinthians 10:4 when he said, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." The New King James Version says, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds."

Though our flesh wages war against the Holy Spirit, we are given all the power we need to surrender. Consider which addictions might be sneaky idols in your life and pray for divine help to overcome them. Here are a few things that might help:

-Seek wise counsel and support.

-Change your friend groups.

-Find new ways to have fun.

-Take every thought captive.

-Look to God as your fulfillment and reward.

Prayerfully consider what Paul meant when he said, "Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature." This indicates serious action on our part to remove fleshly idols that consume our focus, time, and energy. Here is a powerful post titled, 7 Prayers for God to Move the Mountain of Addiction in Your Life.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/dangrytsku
4. Money

4. Money

It was Jesus who said, "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." (Matthew 6:24)

This verse has become quite debatable, even leading some to determine that money is evil. But remember 1 Timothy 6:10, which says, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

The key phrase in this passage is "the love of money." This is what differentiates money as a resource and money as an idol. Love or affection for it can produce all kinds of evil, leading people away from faith. Think about that for a moment. Anything that leads us away from God can be a sneaky idol in our life.

Here are a few ways money might be an idol for you:

-You think about it non-stop.

-You constantly plan ways to make more.

-You struggle to be content with what you have.

-Your conversations revolve around money.

-You read your bank statement more than you read the Bible.

Remember that money, in and of itself, is not evil. God provides monetary resources so we can pay our bills and provide for our families. However, He knows how tempting it is to lust after, worship, and devote all our time to making more of it.

Ask the Lord for contentment. Begin thanking Him for the money you do have and look for ways to bless others. Consider Malachi 3:10, which says, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it."

Money might be a sneaky idol, but it can be removed when we refocus our efforts on giving back to God and helping others. Here is another resource to help determine if money is an issue for you: 10 Signs You Love Money Too Much.

From the belly of a fish, Jonah said, "Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God's love for them." Meditate on the seriousness of Jonah's words as you consider the worthless idols that might sneak into the New Year. After all, being aware of them is the first step in preventing them from gaining a foothold in 2024.

Related Podcast: What Is Body Image Idolatry?

You've read the Bible and you know that you "shouldn't" struggle with body image. You know you're fearfully and wonderfully made, and yet you don't feel good enough. In this episode of Compared to Who?, author and speaker Heather Creekmore explores the topic of body image idolatry and how it can keep Christian women stuck with negative body image and insecurity. She also discussed the way out, giving great hope to any woman who struggles in this area.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Deagreez

Jennifer WaddleJennifer Waddle is the author of several books, including Prayer WORRIER: Turning Every Worry into Powerful Prayerand is a regular contributor for LifeWay, Crosswalk, Abide, and Christians Care International. Jennifer’s online ministry is EncouragementMama.com where you can find her books and sign up for her weekly post, Discouragement Doesnt Win. She resides with her family near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains—her favorite place on earth. 

Originally published Thursday, 11 January 2024.