Graven Images Carved from Pixels
US /ˌɡreɪ.vən ˈɪm.ɪdʒ/ UK /ˌɡreɪ.vən ˈɪm.ɪdʒ/
an object made especially from wood, stone, etc. and used for religious worship
US /ˈpɪk.səl/ UK /ˈpɪk.səl/
the smallest unit of an image on a television or computer screen
Three years ago, when the Lord called me to leave my corporate job, I decided to dissolve my Linkedin account. It was tough to hit the delete button. The social media platform contained polished digital photos, pedigrees, and accolades that I had worked so hard to obtain over the years. However, the self-admiration it produced was the very reason I needed to give it up. The image of myself had become my idol. You see, I was not defined by Christ at the time. Unfortunately, I had become defined by the digital representation of myself. It displayed my superficial kingdom, and it needed to be torn down.
In today’s culture, selfies and digital avatars are derived from tiny elements called pixels. In contrast, objects of affection in the ancient world were carved from wood, stone and other natural materials. Nevertheless, the heart of the matter is the same in our present time. The use of modern technology to construct graven images is indicative of man’s desire to worship something other than God. In the contemporary world, most cherished public images are likely to be of ourselves. Vacations, hobbies, accomplishments and self-portraits litter the social media landscape. It is easy to spend most of our time contemplating ourselves. Perhaps there is no greater self-gratification than presenting our “pride of life” to the public.
How do constructed personas and profiles compete with God? What does self-adoration have to do with worshiping God? Well, Jesus states that the greatest commandment is to love God with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength. He uses God’s own words from Deuteronomy 10:12 and Deuteronomy 30:6 in describing our appropriate devotion to the Lord. Our hearts are to belong first and foremost to Him. If we love our Lord, then we will place no other gods before Him. Furthermore, Jesus’ directive to love God embodies the first four commandments received by Moses. These commandments correlate to our relationship with the Lord. The second commandment instructs us not to make idols (graven images) to worship.
The heart’s desire is evidenced by what it pursues and what it projects. The lure of displaying and worshipping our pride is a formidable foe. Even pastors and ministries fall victim to presenting images that display works and worldly accomplishments. Good intentions can easily evolve into a display of self-importance. “Hey, look at me!” competes to gain the attention of thousands or millions of followers. People from all walks of life have been conditioned to engage one another by delivering enhanced versions of themselves. This mindset is unhealthy, and it is counter to God’s command of placing Him first. Only He deserves our worship, and our actions should be used to glorify Him.
Constantly uploading media to display superficial happiness and temporal accomplishments is intoxicating. It is extremely easy for anyone one to fall into the trap of self-idolization via social media platforms. I can personally attest to the attraction. If you struggle with this issue, ask God to change your heart. Ask Him for humility, and ask Him to eliminate all idols that you have created. Christ-followers are defined by Christ. He deserves all of the glory.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment.”
Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
The Ten Commandments
Then God spoke all these words, saying,
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before Me.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who [e]stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak [h]to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven. You shall not make other gods besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves. You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it. And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, so that your nakedness will not be exposed on it.”