10 Commandments Bible Study: No Idols

Ten Commandments Tablets. Jemal Countess/Getty Images

In the second of the Ten Commandments, we continue the theme that God can be a little jealous when we put other things before Him. In this commandment, He reminds us that He is the One God, but that we shouldn't worship any idols. How is this commandment different that worshiping God and only God?

Where is this Commandment in the Bible?

Exodus 20:4-6 - You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.  You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.  But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. (NLT)

Why This Commandment is Important

This commandment builds upon the first commandment by not only reminding us that God is the One and Only, but that how we worship God matters. God came to speak to many people in the Bible, but at no point did he come in any consistent or specific form. For instance, God came to Moses, but never appeared directly to Moses. Sure, we are told that human beings are designed in God's image, but we're not his carbon copies. At the time, many other Gods were being worshiped, and they were often represented by carved or molded idols. God didn't want that. He wants us to worship Him in spirit and faith than worshiping a carved statue. When we worship idols we hurt God. We get too caught up in the idol itself rather than God.

What This Commandment Means Today

Most likely you aren't praying to a carved representation of God when you pray. Yet in combination with the first commandment, what idols are you worshiping? We live in a visual world, and everything we do today has some sort of visual component. Our imaginations aren't allowed to wander as they once were. We watch as our favorite books are made into movies. We see videos put to music. We click on a news story, and it comes with a picture. So it seems natural that we would want to have some sort of visual representation of God. Many churches go so far as to not have physical depictions of Christ to avoid worshiping the idol vs. the Lord.

How to Live By This Commandment

There are several ways you can begin living by this commandment:

  • Discover your idols. What images, pictures, or things are you using when you worship God? Are you relying on them as a crutch when you pray or worship? Take a good, close look at the things you use in your faith, because sometimes they're so hidden it's hard to see them.
  • Spend time with just you and God. Put aside the crucifix or the pictures. Try closing your eyes and just focusing on talking to God. Christian meditation exercises are often a good way for you to put the imagery aside and just let the relationship take center stage.
  • Put aside the world's depictions of God. We have all kinds of imagery when it comes to God. Paintings, movies, statues, sand more have tried over and over to tell us what God looks like. We really have no idea. Put aside what you've seen and allow God to guide you in other ways.