You shall have no other gods before me. [Exodus 20:3 (RSV)]
You shall make for yourselves no idols and erect no graven image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land, to bow down to them; for I am the Lord your God. [Leviticus 26:1 (RSV)]
While Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments from God, the Israelites grew restless and impatient with his long absence. Faith in both God and Moses flew out the window (or tents, in this case) and the people convinced Aaron they needed an idol who could lead them in their journey to the Promised Land. Gold earrings were gathered, melted down, and molded into the shape of a calf. As soon as the Israelites saw the image, they proclaimed it to be the God that led them out of Egypt. It was easier to believe in a piece of gold they could see than a real god they couldn’t. As usually happens with disobedience and idolatry, immorality soon followed. In spite of the many miracles God had already performed that allowed them to leave Egyptian captivity, the Israelites chose their golden calf over the true giver of gifts.
Like the Israelites, we often forget our blessings and the one responsible for those blessings. While we may not deify a golden calf, in spite of God’s command, we often worship other gods. Many of us tend to be more concerned about wealth, appearances, or fame than we are about God; that’s worshipping an idol. When we care more about obtaining or maintaining our possessions than we care about God, that’s worshipping an idol. When we give more attention to ourselves and our interests than we do to God, we are worshipping idols. When our standard of living is more important than our standard of giving, we are worshipping idols. These may not be graven images and we may not be worshipping them at an altar, nonetheless, they are idols. The Lord God is the only one to whom we should bow down and the only one to whom we should look up to with adoration.