An idol is not, merely, a graven image that people physically bow down to. It is anything that occupies a place in our heart that belongs to God. That means an idol can be the problems and bills that we think about all day, the food that comforts us during low moments, the mentors that we turn to for validation, our children who we constantly worry about, the accomplishments that affirm us, and even the ministerial work that keeps us from spending time alone with God. If we are not careful, anything in our lives can become an idol.
As believers, it is easy to measure our Christianity by what we "believe" — however, God is concerned about the nature of our heart. In James 2:19, we are given a harsh reality check: "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and shudder." This Scripture unveils that God wants us to do more than believe in Him. He wants us to worship, adore, obey, rely on, chase, and think about Him — all day, all night, every day, every night, through all problems, and through all victories.
When God gave Moses the Commandments, He said:
"Do not make idols of any kind. ... I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god!" (Exodus 20:3-5, New Living Translation).
In essence, the Lord wants to be the only center of our universe. No person, issue, thing, goal or ministry should usurp His place.