“But know this, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying it’s power.”(2 Timothy 3:1-4)
THE LATE SINGER ELVIS PRESLEY REMAINS AN IDOL AND “THE KING” TO MANY
All through the Bible mankind is admonished to avoid the worshipping of idols. It seems that the sin of idolatry is one of Satan, the devil’s, most effective tools in turning human beings away from God. In the days of Moses, the Hebrew people, who had just been delivered from Egyptian captivity by several of God’s great miracles, continued to fall into Satan’s idolatry trap. While Moses was away, the children of Israel created a golden calf, which they quickly began to worship as a god. (Exodus 32:4)
Idol worship is a sin that has remained with us for as long as we have been on the planet. Human beings seem to possess a fierce desire to place fellow human beings and valuable material items, upon a pedestal as objects of worship.
IDOLATRY COMES IN MANY FORMS
In our world there are not too many people who outwardly worship statues such as the golden calf. Idolatry today comes to us in a more subtle fashion. One of the great weaknesses of the fallen human race is our desire to elevate fellow human beings that accomplish success in a variety of activities. In the United States and elsewhere, sports superstars, as well as entertainers in television, movies, and stage, have become our golden calves!
The public at large seems to know few boundaries when it comes to heaping adoration upon our heroes. Top sports figures are able to earn millions of dollars per year because of the desire of the masses to see them perform. People are willing to pay enormous prices for tickets to get into events featuring these idols. In addition, billions of dollars are raised in advertising revenues due to the desire of the masses to watch sports on television.
Sports idols are often paid huge sums of money to endorse commercial products. It is an established fact that when a product is advertised by a top sports figure it tends to increase awareness and sales. Basketball star, Michael Jordan, and golf superstar, Tiger Woods, sit at the top of the sports advertising world by earning in excess of fifty million dollars per year endorsing products such as McDonald’s hamburgers, Rolex watches, Buick automobiles, and American Express credit cards!
Adults and children alike are known to wait outside of hotels and stadiums for hours just to catch a glimpse of their favorite sports idol. If they can obtain their signature on a piece of paper it is considered more than worth the trouble! The desire for autographs among sports fans has become so great that autograph shows are now conducted by companies in various cities. At these events an admission charge is usually implemented, in addition to a charge for each individual autograph that one obtains. Autograph shows have become a primary source of income for many retired sports superstars. Another cottage industry that has risen up out of sports idolatry is the sale of sports memorabilia. Items such as the jersey that a basketball star may have worn, or a baseball that a player might have hit for a homerun in an important game, are known to bring in hundreds, thousands, and in some cases more than a million dollars!
CELEBRITY IDOLS OFTEN NOT WHAT THEY SEEM
Jesus Christ said “Woe to you if all men speak well of you” (Luke 6:26). The Lord here is warning us not to get puffed up with pride and self-admiration. How many times have we read in recent years about some major celebrity or sports hero getting into serious trouble? We all know by now of the giant fall from public grace that golfer, Tiger Woods took in 2009. While being marketed as an all-American icon, family man, he was exposed to have been involved in countless extramarital affairs. In the year 2000, football star, Rae Curruth, once a promising wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League, was sentenced to twenty years in prison for his involvement in his pregnant girlfriend’s murder. Former UCLA and Los Angeles Rams star, corner back, Darryl Henley, was sentenced in 1996 to 45 years in Federal prison for cocaine trafficking and soliciting the murder of a Federal judge and a key witness against him. Henley told the author that he was so fawned over and treated so special by fans that he began to truly believe that the rules didn’t apply to him. Boxing champion, Mike Tyson, served a four year prison sentence for raping a young lady at an Indiana beauty pageant where he served as a celebrity judge. Time and time again we hear of well-known celebrities getting arrested for illegal drug use, drunken brawls in nightclubs, and many other crimes, in some cases multiple times.
There were few celebrities so loved and revered as former NFL running back, OJ Simpson. Mr. Simpson was able to market his enormous football talents and his outward charm into a monetary fortune by endorsing products and starring in movies. Prior to the events of 1994 it would have been hard to find anyone who thought poorly of him. Utter and absolute shock was the emotion most felt when in 1994 OJ Simpson was arrested and charged with the brutal murder of his former wife, Nicole Brown, and Ronald Goldman, one of her associates. In Los Angeles, thousands of OJ fans lined the streets to cheer him as he was being tracked down by police in the famous “Bronco chase.” As Simpson’s car was being pursued by police, people on the streets held up signs in support of Simpson. This was not just anyone in serious trouble; this was OJ Simpson, “the Juice”, an icon to millions, truly an idol!
While OJ Simpson was found not guilty in his criminal trial based on “reasonable doubt,” a civil court found him responsible for the deaths of Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown. As a result of this finding, Mr. Simpson was ordered to pay the families of the victim’s more than thirty million dollars. While only he knows what really happened that night, there were many things that came to the surface about Mr. Simpson’s personal life which revealed the fact that he was far from the wholesome sports legend that many envisioned him to be. Testimony revealed that he was physically abusive to his wife. Numerous police 911 calls were made over the years from the Simpson residence by a desperate woman being brutalized by him. Because of his celebrity stature members of the Los Angeles Police Department were reluctant to arrest him for domestic violence. Over the years he had befriended several police officers that were in awe of his celebrity.
In 2012, Mr. Simpson was sentenced to 33 years in prison by a Nevada Court for his involvement in an armed robbery and kidnapping charge.
We are told in the book of Proverbs (16:18) that “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” When someone becomes a major celebrity, the general public places them on a pedestal. Everywhere they go people treat them as if they were royalty. Often in restaurants management will pick up their checks, out of gratitude for their presence in the establishment. They are constantly stopped on the streets by their admirers who heap praise upon them. Enormous sums of money are practically thrown at them to make mere token appearances at various functions. It is easy to see why they begin to believe that the rules of society do not apply to them.
OTHER FORMS OF IDOLATRY — OBSESSIVE LOVE FOR MATERIAL POSSESSIONS
Celebrity worship is not the only form of idolatry in the present evil world. For many, money and riches become their idols. Rather it be a large stock portfolio, a mansion, an expensive sports car, rare art, or diamond rings, these items can become idols. For many, vanity towards their physical appearance has become an idol. Men and women have become obsessed with various beauty products and fitness techniques, which serve to make them more physically attractive. Sex has served as an idol to millions of people. Pornographic images and movies of immoral sexual activities is a multibillion dollar a year industry in countries all over the world.
MISGUIDED PATRIOTISIM CAN BE A FORM OF IDOLATRY
Following the tragic events of September 11th 2001, the people of the United States in their sorrow and fear became engulfed in a wave of patriotism. American flags, patriotic slogans, and a new sense of nationalism, swept the country. While there is no doubt that this was done with good intentions, soon reports of innocent Arab Americans being assaulted by angry “patriots” began to surface. Quickly the lines of good taste were crossed by greedy business executives who began to appeal to our “patriotism” as a reason to buy their products.
In 2017, a great debate in the USA has ensued over those wishing to remove monuments of Confederate civil war heroes as well as the use of the Confederate flag on public properties. Those defending these symbols say that these idols are a part of their “heritage,” while those opposed see them as racist symbols of a time when slavery was legal in the nation. In truth, most of these statues were erected years after the Civil War, during the Jim Crow era in the South as a way to intimidate African Americans. These statues have often served as rallying points for those with racist objectives.
Patriotism, to many, not only represents an allegiance to their nation but also the misguided mentality of “my country right or wrong.” While all Americans can be grateful to live in a nation that values individual freedom, our patriotism should not blind us to the wrongs that exist in our society.
ADOLPH HITLER BECAME AN IDOL TO THE MASSES IN GERMANY
As seen in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s, blind allegiance can be used by Satan to deceive people into doing horrific deeds. Adolph Hitler was given supreme authority by the German masses to institute his will without anyone questioning his motives. When people raised their right arms and chanted “Heil Hitler” they were giving up their will to perhaps the most grotesque mass murderer in the history of the world.
GRAVEN IMAGES ARE DISPLEASING TO GOD
Satan has deceived well intended Christians into one of the most basic forms of idolatry. In the ten commandments we are told “You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in Heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath,” (Exodus 20:4). For centuries the Catholic Church and others have resorted to the use of graven images. Expensive statues can be seen inside of almost any of these cathedrals. These items are often used as props for alters in which followers are to pray to the various “saints.” The use of prayer devices such as medals and rosaries are encouraged as a way to enhance one’s communication with God.
Of course none of this is scriptural, and it should be noted that any image of a biblical character is only an artist’s conception of what they might have looked like. We do not need anything but a sincere heart to pray to the God of the universe. Prayer is a highly personal thing that is between you, the Lord Jesus Christ, and his Heavenly Father.
CONCLUSION — THE SPIRIT OF A SOUND MIND IS CRITICAL
Perhaps the most important trait for a follower of Jesus Christ to possess is “the spirit of a sound mind.” (2nd Timothy 1:7) If we allow ourselves to be carried off into idol worship, we are clearly not of a sound mind. It is not in itself a sin to enjoy the talents of an individual in sports or entertainment. Just like with everything else it should be done in moderation. This is not to say that all successful celebrities are evil persons. Many attempt to be good roll models for young people. Celebrities, such as the late actor, Paul Newman, have raised hundreds of millions of dollars towards very worthy causes that truly help their fellow man.
There is certainly nothing wrong with having an enjoyable hobby or a favorite sports team. The sin occurs when these things begin to come before your love for God. We have but one God, the Father in Heaven, who blessed all mankind by sending his only begotten SON, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins.