The (Subtle) Dehumanizing Work of Idolatry

“Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear, noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.” – Psalm 115:4-8

You are what you eat. We’ve all heard that one. You become like what you worship. Most of us have probably heard something akin to this as well. It’s an idea found throughout the Bible.


Idols are all around us today. Of course, one of the saddest things about fallen humanity is that, if we have no idols around, we find a way to make some. When we consider the things in our culture that many bow down before, the first that come to mind are the usual big three: money, sex, and power.

We are always quick to point out how the “big three” can damage our lives. Greed consumes everything around oneself. Worshipping sex degrades it from its sacramental place in God’s creation. Pursuing power results, far too often, in treading upon the “least of these.”

Certainly, these idols have dehumanizing effects; they make us less human. That’s easy to see. And clearly we ought to avoid them at all costs.

Most of us are also aware that there are also more subtle idols that we worship such as control, autonomy, and achievement.

But the thing we forget (or just willfully ignore, pushing back against the conviction of the Spirit) is that these subtle idols are just as dehumanizing. 

To be human is to be created. To be fully human is to submit as a created being to the Creator.

Our pursuit of the subtle idols undermines this fundamental aspect of our humanity. A desire for control seeks to wrest the reins from God. Autonomy demands that we be independent, antithetical to a Gospel that declares our complete dependence upon Christ. Achievement seeks to create one’s own kingdom in which the first is first, and not last.

Perhaps the dehumanizing work of idolatry runs rampant in our lives because we forget that the subtle idols destroy us in the same way that the obvious ones do. Our only hope is to ask the Spirit to transform us, directing our gaze and helping us fix our eyes on Christ, that our faith may be perfected.

May we remember that our worship is due to one alone, the Triune God. It is only in worshipping him that we fully find our humanity as we are brought into union with the one who is the new humanity, Christ himself.


2 thoughts on “The (Subtle) Dehumanizing Work of Idolatry

  1. Yeah, I hate how much I do things I hate doing and how helpless I feel when I do them, and more so how defeated I feel in life. Thanks for being Christ-centered Mr. Timms!

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