Theresa Harvard Johnson

Copyright 2014 Theresa Harvard Johnson
Idolatry is one of those sins talked about in the Bible that may seem like an old outdated concept to some or point to a lot of religious activity or legalism. The truth is, it isn't outdated and that all references to it in scripture still apply today. Idolatry is defined as “image-worship or divine honour paid to any created object.”[1] It is also defined as divine worship given to anyone or anything other than the true living God.[2] Remember, God wants to be our single most important priority. Our immersion should be in HIM, not in the created thing or another person. Anything in life that becomes greater than Him is viewed, in context with Biblical examples, as idolatry.

In the chart below, I’ve attempted to take the most common types of idolatry we see in our culture today and place them in five general categories. Then, I provided a few scriptural references alongside them in hopes of identifying places or points in the Bible for deeper study. By no means is this expected to be complete list of scripture or every possible example of idolatry. Sources are also cited.

Common Types of Idolatry Today

Biblical References

Hero Worship: Foolish or excessive adulation of an individual.[3] Examples include super stars, spiritual leaders, spouses, children, etc. who are worshipped by others. Practical examples can be seen through celebrities like Michael Jackson, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Beyoncé, Kanye West, movie stars, etc.


Acts 12:21-22 ; Acts 14:12-15 , 28:6; Exodus 20:3 , 1 John 5:21 , Colossians 3:5 , Jeremiah 7:18 , Galatians 4:8 ; Matthew 4:10

Narcissism: The inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity. Synonyms: self-centeredness, smugness, egocentrism.[4] (See Article on Psychology Today’s website.)


Isaiah 14 ; 2 Timothy 3:2 ; 1 Corinthians 3:18 ; Revelations 3:17; Philippians 2:3-4 ; James 3:14-16 ; Romans 1:25 ; Psalms 14:1; Luke 18:9-12 ; Philippians 3:19

Materialism: a doctrine that the only or the highest values or objectives lie in material well-being and in the furtherance of material progress.[5] Examples include lust for money, cars, power, jewelry as well as trusting in education, job security, etc.


1 John 2:16 ; Matthew 6:19-21 ; 1 Timothy 6:10 ; Ecclesiastes 5:10 ; Luke 16:14-15 ; Ecclesiastes 2:11 ; 1 Timothy 6:9-10 ; Psalm 115:4-8 ; Isaiah 46:6-10 ; Job 31:24-25 , 28

False Gods (False Religions/Systems): Any gods other than the Lord himself. Some of these divinities took the form of images, others were mythical.[6] Examples today would include faiths such as Mormonism, Buddhists, Wicca, worship of angels, belief in magic, nature worship, etc. or even faith in systems like the government, healthcare reform, education, etc.

Psalm 146:3,4 ; Jeremiah 46:25 ; Judges 2:10-13 ; Exodus 34:13-14 ; Revelations 19:10;  Isaiah 47:11-14 ; Deuteronomy 4:19 , 13:6-10; Romans 1:24-25 ; 1 Kings 11:7 ; Ezekiel 8:14

Fetishism: The term fetishism was coined in the late 1800s. It originates from the Portuguese word feitico, which means “obsessive fascination.”[7] It can be an obsessive fascination with anything (including objects believed to have supernatural powers)[8]; but is commonly associated with sexual arousal. It is also defined in psychology, a form of sexual deviance involving erotic attachment to an inanimate object.[9] Examples include attaching magical powers to objects like rocks, the moon, stones, talisman, etc. It also refers to associating sexual intimacy with objects like clothing, shoes, crystal balls, amulets, charms, crosses, etc.

Genesis 31:19 ; Isaiah 47:8 ; Exodus 20:1-10 ; Leviticus 26:1 ; Daniel 3:18 ; Acts 14:12 ; Daniel 3:29

M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely. Web:

[2]Wilhelm, J. (1910). Idolatry. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved April 11, 2014 from New Advent:

[3]Merriam-Webster Online,


[5]Merriam-Webster Online,

[6]Dictionary of Bible Themes Scripture index copyright Martin H. Manser, 2009,

[7]Psychology Today Diagnosis Dictionary,

[8]Kulture Kiosk Art & Archaeology Exhibition,

[9]Encyclopedia Britannica,

[10]My Jewish Learning,


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