The Bible’s Viewpoint
Should God Be Worshipped Through Images?
“I was taught that images would make me feel closer to God.”—Mack.
“Our home was full of religious icons. We thought this made our house pleasing to God.”—Herta.
“We would bow to certain images. We gave no thought to how this act made God feel.”—Sandra.
HOW do you feel about those statements? Many believe that religious images help them to worship God. Is this view correct? More important, how does God feel about the matter? Consider what his written Word, the Holy Bible, says.
God’s View of Religious Images
Religious icons and idols are representations, or symbols, of anything that serves as an object of devotion or veneration. They include crosses, statues, pictures, or any other likeness of things in heaven or on the earth.* Flags can also be objects of veneration.
The use of such objects in worship goes back thousands of years. Hence, in 1513 B.C.E., when giving the fledgling nation of Israel the Ten Commandments, God clearly stated his view of religious images. He said: “You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or that is on the earth underneath or that is in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them, because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion.”—Exodus 20:4, 5.
Note God’s twofold prohibition: First, his people were not to make images for worship, and second, they were not to “bow down to them” or serve them. Why does our Creator forbid the making of images? One reason for not making images of God is that “no man has seen God at any time.” Jehovah is not made of physical matter but is a spirit and lives in the spirit realm. (John 1:18; 4:24) A reason for not making images of anything is that God insists on “exclusive devotion.” “To no one else shall I give my own glory, neither my praise to graven images,” he says. (Isaiah 42:8) For this reason, it is also wrong to make an image as an aid to worship. When an Israelite leader named Aaron did so, Jehovah was deeply offended.—Exodus 32:4-10.
Why Not Bow Down to Them?
Regarding idols, the Bible says: “A mouth they have, but they cannot speak; eyes they have, but they cannot see; ears they have, but they cannot hear.” Then it adds this sobering warning: “Those making them will become just like them”—lifeless!—Psalm 115:4-8.
Idol worship is also an act of injustice. Ask yourself, ‘How would I feel if I gave my child an expensive gift and he walked away and thanked a total stranger or even a lifeless object?’ That may help you to appreciate how our Creator and Life-Giver feels when others—including lifeless idols—receive the credit and worship that are due him.—Revelation 4:11.
Think, too, how degrading it is for a human—made in God’s own image—to venerate an inanimate object! (Genesis 1:27) Concerning some who did just that, the prophet Isaiah wrote: “To the work of one’s hands they bow down, to that which one’s fingers have made. And earthling man bows down and man becomes low, and you [Jehovah God] cannot possibly pardon them.”—Isaiah 2:8, 9.
What makes false worship even more offensive to God is that it is, in reality, the worship of demons—God’s enemies. When the Israelites abandoned Jehovah for idols, “they went sacrificing to demons, not to God,” says Deuteronomy 32:17.
Did the early followers of Jesus Christ venerate images or use them as aids to worship? No! Jesus’ apostle John wrote: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21) The book Early Church History to the Death of Constantine states: “Nothing could possibly have been more odious to the early disciples than image-worship.”
The Right Form of Worship
Jesus said: “The true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him.” (John 4:23) Yes, God wants us to know him as a person—his likes, his dislikes, his standards, and his purpose for us. (John 17:3) In fact, that is why he had the Bible written. (2 Timothy 3:16) Also, because God “is not far off from each one of us,” we can pray to him anytime, anywhere, and without the help of religious images.—Acts 17:27.
“When I entered a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I saw no images for worship,” said Sandra, quoted earlier. “The Witnesses used the Bible to show me God’s qualities and requirements. Thus, I learned to pray so as to be heard by God. I now feel that I have a true understanding of the Creator and a close relationship with him.” Yes, Sandra learned how refreshing and liberating Bible truths really are. (John 8:32) You can too.
See the article “Did Jesus Really Die on a Cross?” in the April 2006 issue of this magazine.
HAVE YOU WONDERED?
◼ How is the true God to be worshipped?—John 4:24.