Ultimately, the answer to this question is “sin.” It is the sin nature of man  which causes us to worship modern idols, all  of which are, in reality, forms of self-worship. The temptation to worship  ourselves in various ways is a powerful temptation indeed. In fact, it is so  powerful that only those who belong to Christ and have the Holy Spirit within  them can possibly hope to resist the temptation of modern idolatry. Even then,  resisting the worship of idols is a lifelong battle which is part of the  Christian life (Ephesians  6:11; 1 Timothy  6:12; 2 Timothy  2:3).

When we hear the word “idol” we often think of statues and  objects reminiscent of those worshipped by pagans in ancient cultures. However,  the idols of the 21st century often bear no resemblance to the artifacts used  thousands of years ago. Today, we have replaced the “golden calf” with an  insatiable drive to reach the top of the corporate ladder or with a myriad of  other passionate pursuits. And, sadly, those who aggressively pursue goals and  dreams, altogether excluding God, are often admired for their individualism and  drive. In the end, however, it doesn’t matter what empty pleasure we chase after  or to what or whom we bow down, the result is the same—separation from the one  true God.

Understanding contemporary idols can help us to understand why  they prove to be such a powerful temptation. An idol can be anything we place  ahead of God in our lives, anything that tugs at our heart more that God does,  such as: possessions, careers, relationships, hobbies, sports, entertainment,  goals, greed, addictions to alcohol/ drugs/ gambling/ pornography, etc. Many of  these things we idolize can be very good, such as relationships or careers. Yet  Scripture tells us that whatever we do, we are to “do it all for the glory of  God” (1  Corinthians 10:31), and that we are to serve God only (Deuteronomy 6:13).  Unfortunately, God is often nowhere to be found as we zealously pursue our  idols. Worse yet, the significant amount of time we often spend in these  idolatrous pursuits, leaves us with little or no time to spend with the  Lord.

There is another form of idolatry prevalent today. Its growth is  fostered by cultures that continue to drift away from sound biblical teaching,  just as the apostle Paul warned us, “For the time will come when men will not  put up with sound doctrine” (2 Timothy  4:3). In these pluralistic, liberal times, many cultures have, to a large  degree, redefined God. We have forsaken the God revealed to us in Scripture and  have recast Him to comply with our own inclinations and desires—a “kinder and  gentler” god who is infinitely more tolerant than the One revealed in Scripture.  One who is less demanding and less judgmental and who will tolerate many  lifestyles without placing guilt on anyone’s shoulders. As this idolatry is  propagated by churches around the world, many disillusioned congregants  understandably believe they are worshipping the one, true God. However, these  made-over gods are created by man, and to worship them is to worship idols.  Worshipping a god like this, however, is particularly tempting for many whose  habits and lifestyles, drives and desires are not in harmony with  Scripture.

Given the recent economic breakdown and ensuing global chaos,  many have turned to addictive behaviors, such as drug or alcohol use or even  something as innocent as excessive television viewing as a means of temporarily  “escaping” a difficult situation or perhaps just the harsh rigors of daily life.  The Psalmist, however, tells us that those who place their trust in this  behavior will, essentially, become spiritually useless (Psalm 115:8). We need to place our trust in the lord “who  will keep [us] from all harm” (Psalm  121:7), and who has promised to supply us with all of our needs when we  trust in Him. We also need to remember the words of Paul who teaches us not to  be anxious about anything, but rather to pray about everything so the peace of  God, which surpasses all understanding, can guard our hearts and our minds (Philippians 4:6-7).

The joys of this world for  which we too often seek will never satisfy the human heart. As Solomon  beautifully conveys in the book of Ecclesiastes, apart from a right relationship  with God, life is futile. We were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and designed  to worship and glorify Him as He alone is worthy of our worship. God has placed  “eternity in man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and a relationship with Jesus Christ  is the only way to fulfill this longing for eternal life. All of our idolatrous  pursuits will leave us empty, unsatisfied and, ultimately, on the broad road  that Scripture warns us about most people taking, the one that leads to  destruction (Matthew  7:13).