Read Exodus 20:4-6
4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. 6 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. (NLT)
This commandment has been trivialised by those modern-day Puritans who want to remove crosses from churches and who frown on icons or images. Such things are seen as idols when in fact they can be legitimate aids to true worship of the true God. Those who wear crosses are treated with suspicion by such people because they are giving in to idolatry when all they are usually doing is reminding themselves and others of the centrality of the cross to their professed faith.
Most modern-day idolatry is not of the type envisaged originally by this command. We are more likely to imagine a false deity than to literally fashion one. We imagine a coin in the slot blessing machine God. We imagine a fierce God who will wipe out the sinners we especially abhor. We imagine a mild-mannered old man who chuckles indulgently at our own sins.
Idolatry is about putting supreme value on something or someone other than God. What makes it dangerous is that such objects or people can in themselves be good. Some Christians seem to worship the Bible, others worship a certain Christian writer, yet others even worship ‘worship’. In giving supreme attention to the means rather than the end, we succumb to idolatry.
For most of us, it is not the crosses or the statues or the images that are the problem. It is what is going on in our imaginations. It is not the obviously ‘wrong’ things that cause us to break this command but the ‘right’ things being in the wrong places.