Idolatry: A Family Heritage

There are certain memories indelibly etched into our minds – possibly of times with our family, historical events through which we lived, births, deaths, etc. In Jeremiah 17:1-2, the prophet says the people of Israel have thoughts of idols etched upon their hearts in this time. Back in chapter 7:17, God asks Jeremiah if he sees the idolatry in which God’s people are engaging. These sacrifices and offerings are a family occasion, and they form substantial memories. In Gideon’s time, that judge had to start in his own home, removing idolatry from Israel. Rachel, when leaving her home with Jacob, hides her family idols to take with her. II Kings 17:41 illustrates the idolatry entrenched in Israel’s culture by the time of the Assyrian captivity. The children and grandchildren do as their parents and grandparents.

Our Family Idols

Idolatry is a family heritage, and we all have idols we should be removing from our own lives, lest our children and grandchildren also follow after those same idols.

Social Acceptance

In Genesis 3, Eve and the serpent discuss the nature of God’s statutes within the garden. The serpent talks Eve into partaking of the forbidden fruit and then offering it to her husband. Both Adam and Eve succumb to simple peer pressure. I Samuel 15:24 records Saul acknowledging his transgression from God’s commands, compromising to please the masses. He gives in to the pressures surrounding him. Adam, Eve, and Saul all know, in these passages, what is right and what is wrong, but they have bowed down to the idol of social acceptance.

This pressure knows no age limits. We, as parents, do not want our children to stand out or be targeted, and we compromise our convictions and encourage them to compromise their own. Romans 12:2, however, encourages to avoid conformity and to be transformed into a spiritual being. I Corinthians 15:33 and Psalm 1:1-2 both admonish us to be wary of the influences we allow into our lives, and I Thessalonians 5:21 encourages to test the value of everything, abstaining from evil. We know what we should be doing, but we bow down to the idol of social acceptance.

Weak Marriages

In our culture, weak marriages are a given. We assume failure. Do our children see little hope in their own future relationships because of what they see in ours? Ephesians 5:25-28 reinforces the self-sacrificial love husbands should have for their wives. I Corinthians 13 explores this love more deeply – illustrating a love that prefers others over self, seeking the best in others, and shuns the selfishness that is the root of so many marital problems.

The end of I Peter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3 explore the concept of submission, upholding Christ as the ultimate example of submission. Peter uses Abraham’s wife Sarah as an example of this relationship. Remember, Sarah is a strong Bible woman, even insisting Ishmael should be expelled from her household. God sides with her in this matter, but her behavior remains selfless, and I Peter 3:7 goes on to remind husbands to value and honor wives as irreplaceable and precious. We would not be idolizing weak marriages if we could remove selfishness and pride from our family relationships.


Proverbs 13:3, Proverbs 6:19, Proverbs 16:28 – these and more verses criticize critical mouths. I Peter 3:10 (quoting Psalm 34) admonishes us from keeping our moths from evil and deceit, instead seeking peace. Do our children see an idol of criticism in our homes? Do they see us complaining about our brethren and worship on the way home from worship? Do they see us complaining about authority, about secular issues, about our jobs, about our families? We need to tear down our idol of negativity and criticism to preserve our youths.


Apathy is the greatest enemy the Lord’s people can face. Genesis 35:1-2 records Jacob preparing to travel to Bethel to praise Jehovah. He plans and prepares for this journey. We cannot drift along in indifference, hoping to simply run into God on the way. Likewise, Hebrews 10:24-25 admonishes us to plan to worship together, to build one another up, to anticipate the time together because it is important to us. The Lord’s Day does not sneak up on us; it is always the same day. The idol of indifference, though, allows other things to push God out of our lives.

Replacing the Idols

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 records Moses instructing the children of Israel to etch God’s words upon their hearts. His words should always be on their lips and before their eyes. Whatever the idols in our own lives, we can remove those and teach our children to know God. Throughout the Old Testament, we see the children of Israel turn to idols while never considering themselves having forsaken God. What do we need to remove from our lives to avoid those distractions from God? Let us resolve to focus on Him and make His word and His ways the heritage we leave for our children.

lesson by Tim Smelser