1 Peter – Chapter Four VII

by Ed Urzi

“For there has already been enough time spent in doing what the pagans choose to do: carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and lawless idolatry” (1 Peter 4:3 HCSB).

This catalog of inappropriate behaviors from 1 Peter 4:3 concludes with a reference to idolatry. In speaking of the lawless nature of this conduct, one source tells us, “The Greek word… means ‘contrary to law and justice, illicit, criminal.’ These idolatries were forbidden by Roman law. They must have been pretty bad.” (1)

Indeed, such behaviors were pretty bad, but not simply because they violated ancient Roman law. You see, it was the act of idolatry itself that made them bad. While idolatry may take many forms, we can identify an idol as anything we love, fear, or depend on more than God. When something takes the place of God in our lives, that thing (whatever it is) effectively becomes an idol.

Here’s why: if God does not occupy the highest position of love and affection in our lives, then we must substitute something (or someone) else as the ultimate object of such things. For instance, there are modern-day examples of those who have crafted an idol from a physical possession, a financial asset, or a person.

Let’s take the case of an individual who prioritizes the accumulation of financial wealth above all else. The person who values money above everything else is as guilty of idolatry as someone who bowed before a human-crafted statue in the Old Testament era, for both have relinquished God’s rightful place in their lives to something else. The same is true of anything that takes God’s place in our lives.

In light of this, we may consider anything that displaces the love and devotion that rightfully belongs to our Creator as an idol. This explains why the Scriptures repeatedly warn against engaging in such behaviors. For example…

“Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden” (Deuteronomy 4:23).

“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry…” (1 Corinthians 10:14).

“…a greedy person is really an idol worshiper– he loves and worships the good things of this life more than God” (Ephesians 5:5 TLB).

Therefore, we can say that everything must take second place to God in our lives. Anything that fails to assume that position becomes an idol. As Jesus also reminded us in Luke 12:15, “…Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [1 Peter 4:3] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.