“I see Jesus everywhere in a bunch of paintings and statues. Doesn’t that break one of the Ten Commandments when it says not to make any graven images or idols?”
‘Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the Lord your God.’ – Leviticus 19:4
This is an excellent question and one that I hear frequently. If we aren’t to make graven images, why are there an enormous amount of statues and paintings of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and etc.? Aren’t we making idols for ourselves to worship?
To begin this conversation, you need to know what an idol really is. An idol by definition is the object of worship. We never want to worship a created object in any way, thinking that the object is the source and origination of some godly power. However, having a picture of Jesus around is not a bad thing in and of itself.
Do you have any pictures of your mom or dad, or maybe some of your spouse and children? I know I do, a bunch of them in fact. Do I love those pictures? I may say that, but what I really love are the memories and the images of what they portray. I wouldn’t throw my kids away in favor of their picture, that would be insane. In truth, I love my wife and kids, but I keep their pictures around as a visible reminder of them.
The same thing can be said for a picture of Jesus Christ. I don’t truly love the picture. That picture didn’t die for my sins. That picture isn’t the son of the Most High God. That picture simply reminds me of a love that I share with my Creator and reminds me of the person and works of Jesus Christ.
We are both spiritual beings and physical beings all at once. We connect spiritually through such things as love, compassion, and other feelings. However, we also connect through the visible manifestations of those feelings. I can tell my wife I love her all day long, but she connects with it more when I do something to show her love, like a hug or a kiss. Does that mean the feeling is not needed? Certainly not. Once agin, we are souls and we are bodies, and one needs the other in this world.
One thing of note, and I touched on it before, is that when the visible object replaces the true and real object, that’s when you have an idol. We may look up to sports and movie stars, and that’s ok within reason. But you can eventually start to look to those stars as the end all-be all of your life. That’s when you have an idol problem. An idol is something, anything, that you can’t live without. That can be a person or a drug or even a feeling. Any creation that you raise above the Creator Himself is an idol.
To put it another way, if you are a Christian, you are housing the Holy Spirit within you. You are His temple. And just as I wouldn’t want some strange man in my house living there, God doesn’t want strange idols or anything ruling his house but Him. In short, God wants to be number one in the house.
In closing, a picture or a statue of our Savior is not a bad thing. It doesn’t mean we are worshipping a picture and making it into our idol. If you see something like a painting or even a Bible and it reminds you that you are loved by the God of the universe, that’s a good thing. Just don’t put that picture or that Bible above the Savior it refers to. Reminders are important, but the real thing is better by far.
God’s blessings to you.