Have you ever been told that an idol is anything you put above God? So it would be something like you watch television more than you read your Bible and pray, maybe you spend more time following sports, more time shopping, more time with family, etc.
But is that what God says idolatry is?
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were constantly falling into idolatry. They made themselves a golden calf only 40 days after hearing the audible voice of God on Mt. Sinai and called it God. But these idols weren’t always exalted above God. The Asherah poles or trees were planted right beside the altar of God. (Deuteronomy 16:21) Or they had household idols while still worshiping the Lord (Judges 17:5-13)
The point is that these idols were not replacements or exalted over God. They were exalted against God by being worshiped at all.
The sermons you’ve heard suggesting that idolatry is anything you exalt over God are at least partially correct in that idolatry can be something other than just a graven image. The Bible says that idolatry is an issue of the heart:
"For anyone of the house of Israel or of the immigrants who stay in Israel who separates himself from Me, sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet to inquire of Me for himself, I the LORD will be brought to answer him in My own person. I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from among My people. So you will know that I am the LORD. (Ezekiel 14:7-8)
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)
But don’t think you have to somehow just give God a little more love then your idolatrous habits. God doesn’t want a little more of your love. He says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) If anything in your life takes a fraction of your love away from God, even the size of a mustard seed, it is an idol.
That’s not to say you can’t love other things, but if you do not love those things through the lens of God’s love, it’s idolatry. Does God love television? Does God love what you’re watching on television? Does God love football? Does God love shopping? Does God love your family? If you think the answer is a “yes”, the next question is “how does God love those things?” That’s how you should love them. Anything else is idolatry.
Why do you think Jesus talks about vomiting lukewarm Christians out of His mouth in Revelation 3:16?
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14)