The Sin of Idolatry
Defined by Sacred Scripture

 

Ten Commandments - Catholic Reviews

When most people think of idolatry they envision a primitive village with a witchdoctor carving a deity from a piece of wood. When everybody in the village falls down to worship the wooden image, thinking that it has the power to send rain or impart fertility blessings, it becomes a type of god, and therefore worship of it constitutes the sin of idolatry.

Unfortunately, what most people fail to realize is that the sin of idolatry can be committed with almost anything that we place in our hearts before our relationship with God. According to section 2113 from the Catechism, "Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith."

The sin of idolatry can be committed with anything in our lives that takes a greater importance than the Blessed Trinity. The Lord Jesus wants to occupy the first place position in everybody's heart. Anytime we place anything on the altar of our hearts before the Lord, we commit the sin of idolatry. A good example is the love of money. According to Jesus, "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."1 When the desire to accumulate wealth takes a greater importance within a person's heart than God, it has the ability to hinder that person's relationship with the Lord, and thus qualify for the sin of idolatry.

The sin of idolatry becomes even more serious when it is incorporated into our religious practices, because there are billions of fallen angels who want to divert authentic worship away from the Lord, and redirect it toward themselves. A good example is a man who buys a statue and prays to it hoping to get his prayer request answered. Everybody knows that the statue is nothing more than a piece of wood, but when a man tries to invoke supernatural powers from a piece of wood, demons have the ability to gather behind the image and accept the man's worship. Not only do fallen angels have the ability to grant the man's prayer request, but they can also produce supernatural signs and wonders so that the man will continue the false form of worship, and hopefully spread the devotion to all his friends.

A good example of the demonic powers that lurk behind idols comes from the life of Saint Paul when he tried to warn the church in Corinth by saying, "What pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons."2 Saint Paul knew that when pagans sacrificed to a dead piece of wood, demons had the ability to congregate behind the wood and grant the worshipers spiritual favors. Once the sin of idolatry has been committed, it becomes very difficult to get the demonic entities to leave, which is why Saint Paul warned the Corinthian believers by saying, "I do not want you to be partners with demons."

God has already given the Church all the warnings that we need. Throughout the entire Bible, God has constantly pleaded with his children saying, "I beg you not to do this abominable thing that I hate."3 The problem started in the Garden of Eden, and the warnings continue through the Book of Revelation. When God issued the Ten Commandments, he gave specific instructions saying, "You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them."4

Unfortunately, this statement from Exodus 20:4–6 has been omitted from the Catholic list of Commandments. As you can see in the chart below, there's a conflicting difference between the Catholic list of Ten Commandments and the Protestant list:

 

Catholic List

Protestant List

 
I.
I am the Lord your God: You shall not have other gods before me. (1-3)
I.
I am the Lord your God: You shall not have other gods before me. (1-3)
II.
You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain. (7)
II.
You shall not make for yourself an idol. (4-6)
III.
Keep holy the Sabbath. (8-11)
III.
You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain. (7)
IV.
Keep holy the Sabbath. (8-11)
IV.
Honor your father and mother. (12)
V.
You shall not kill. (13)
V.
Honor your father and mother. (12)
VI.
You shall not commit adultery. (14)
VI.
You shall not kill. (13)
VII.
You shall not steal. (15)
VII.
You shall not commit adultery. (14)
VIII.
You shall not bear false witness. (16)
VIII.
You shall not steal. (15)
IX.
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. (17)
IX.
You shall not bear false witness. (16)
X.
You shall not covet your neighbor's goods. (17)
X.
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife or goods. (17)

 

The second Commandment on the Protestant list comes from Exodus 20:4–5 where God says, "You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them."5

To make up for this missing Commandment, the Catholic list needed to divide Exodus 20:17 into two separate sections. The problem is that all forms of coveting are contained in one verse. As you can see from Sacred Scripture, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slaves or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."6

On the Catholic list, Exodus 20:17 has been divided into two Commandments even though Sacred Scripture lists all the items of coveting in one sentence. According to the Protestant list, coveting is coveting. We should not covet anything, whether it be our neighbor's wife, house, or his new car. The Protestant list accurately reflects Sacred Scripture, whereas the Catholic list omits God's directive about bowing down and worshiping idols.

 

Scripture Passages to Set the Captives Free
 

"Why do you break the commandments of God for the sake of your traditions?" — Matthew 15:3

"The Lord your God you shall follow, him alone you shall fear, his commandments you shall keep, his voice you shall obey, him you shall serve, and to him you shall hold fast." — Deuteronomy 13:4

"Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, 'I have come to know him,' but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist." — 1 John 2:3–4

 

Catholic Version of Ten Commandments

Protestant Version of Ten Commandments

 

Notes

The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition copyright © 1993 and 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Excerpts from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for use in the United States of America, © 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.—Libreria Editrice Vaticana. English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Modifications from the Editio Typica copyright © 1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.—Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.

  1. Matthew 6:24.

  2. 1 Corinthians 10:20.
  3. Jeremiah 44:4.
  4. Exodus 20:4–5.
  5. Exodus 20:4–5.
  6. Exodus 20:17.
  7. The Ten Commandments, Catholic Version: http://www.marianland.com/tenco mmandments/ten_commandments.html

  8. The Ten Commandments: http://www.the-ten-commandmen ts.o rg/the-ten-commandments.html