The Jewish scholar Abraham Heschel, in conversation with the monk Thomas Merton, said that the first commandment, You shall have no other gods before me , is first because it is the root of all sin (Merton, A VOW OF CONVERSATION: JOURNALS 1964-1965). So, I m thinking that idols aren t so much about worshiping and serving a different god, but about over-emphasizing just one aspect of the one true God, creating a whole new god out of that one feature. God is the god of all gods, king of kings and lord of lords (Deuteronomy 10:17), the God of Baal, Ashtoreth, Molech, Beelzebub and Mammon. All the gods of the bible emphasize one aspect of God. For instance, Baal was the god of success in war and weather: it was important for the Israelites to win their battles and to have good weather to have healthy crops, herds and flocks. Ashtoreth was the god of fertility: it was important for the Israelites that they be fertile and have children. Mammon was the god of wealth and prosperity, simply, money: it is good to have money and to succeed in life. It becomes idolatry when we look to just one aspect of God: we worship a god who always promises success in war; a god who always promises success in agriculture; a god who always promises success in fertility; a god who always promises success with money. The God of the bible is God over all things. He brings success and failure; good weather and bad; fertility and infertility; prosperity and ruin (just read Isaiah 45:7, a book devoted to the decimation of idolatry!). This is why I oppose the kinds of theologies that insist God always promises success, prosperity, ease, health, and every other good thing. This is only a part of who God is. This is idolatry, and this is where churches get in trouble. God is Lord over all, even failure, poverty, tribulation, suffering, and sickness. I have to believe this because of the scriptures, but also because this is the only possible way to have any hope for justice in this world!