The Subtlety of Self-Worship

Isaiah 44:9-20 - The worship of false idols. We can easily get distracted from worshipping God alone. Self-worship and the worship of others is a subtle danger that we need to be aware of. It is more common than you may think.

Isaiah 44:9-20

How foolish are those who manufacture idols. These prized objects are really worthless. The people who worship idols don’t know this, so they are all put to shame. Who but a fool would make his own god—an idol that cannot help him one bit? All who worship idols will be disgraced along with all these craftsmen—mere humans—who claim they can make a god. They may all stand together, but they will stand in terror and shame.

The blacksmith stands at his forge to make a sharp tool, pounding and shaping it with all his might. His work makes him hungry and weak. It makes him thirsty and faint. Then the wood-carver measures a block of wood and draws a pattern on it. He works with chisel and plane and carves it into a human figure. He gives it human beauty and puts it in a little shrine. He cuts down cedars; he selects the cypress and the oak; he plants the pine in the forest to be nourished by the rain. Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire. With it he warms himself and bakes his bread. Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it and makes himself a god to worship! He makes an idol and bows down in front of it! He burns part of the tree to roast his meat and to keep himself warm. He says, “Ah, that fire feels good.” Then he takes what’s left and makes his god: a carved idol! He falls down in front of it, worshiping and praying to it. “Rescue me!” he says. “You are my god!”

Such stupidity and ignorance! Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see. Their minds are shut, and they cannot think. The person who made the idol never stops to reflect, “Why, it’s just a block of wood! I burned half of it for heat and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat. How can the rest of it be a god? Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?” The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes. He trusts something that can’t help him at all. Yet he cannot bring himself to ask, “Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie?”


This passage in Isaiah 44 makes a pretty blatant point: don’t be foolish by worshipping a false god. Now, for the sake of this post, I'm going to assume that you probably don’t worship a block of wood, a statue of a false god or any idols of a similar nature. And if you don’t, that’s a very good thing. But even if you don’t, we can still get off track with what we worship.

A couple things we can see in this Bible passage:

  1. How much effort and care the blacksmith puts into carving and creating his idol;

  2. The blacksmith’s blindness to seeing his own foolishness.

He is literally worshipping a block of wood yet has no idea that “he trusts something that can’t help him at all”. To us, it’s obvious. To him, it was normal.

You see, this man was not alone in the creating and worshipping of wood and stone. Culturally he was the norm. It's easy to look at him, isolated from the culture he lived in, and recognise the stupidity of what he did. But he was the norm. I know I just said that, but I think understanding this is key to ensuring that we don't become like him in one way or another.

I'm going to say something that will make a lot of you uncomfortable. But I believe it needs to be said. A cultural norm of today is self-worshipping on social media. I scroll through pages of users and I am so saddened by a lot of what I see. Before I go any further, I need to stress that this does not apply to all users. But it does apply to some, including some Christian users, and I think we need to be aware of it lest we follow their normal example.

On the surface, it appears that many influential users are using their platform for God's glory. And partly they are. They post encouraging thoughts and verses, or share a snippet of a talk they gave. But when you dig a little deeper (actually you don't have to dig at all - it's just that we're so used to it) you see that for some of them, it's really a platform for themselves. There's nothing wrong with social media platforms. But there is something hugely wrong with self-worshipping.

I’ve heard it said by Rick Warren: whatever you love most equals what you worship.

Oftentimes those posting very self-indulgent things post them because of two possible reasons: one, conceitedness; and two, a low self-esteem. Both of these reasons are fuelled by a need to feel loved. But self-absorption is never the way to achieve feeling loved.

It is not good to eat much honey; so to seek one’s own glory is not glory. (Proverbs 25:27)

Another translation of this verse says “nor does it bring you honour to brag about yourself”. There is no honour in honouring yourself.

You may not be someone who self-worships, but are you someone that worships others? Do you feel the need to keep track of everything they do or to imitate them? That's just human worship of a different kind.

God's the only one who deserves to be praised and He’ll honour you if you humble yourself before Him:

The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:11-12 NIV)
Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty. (Matthew 23:11-12 MSG)

I can’t put it any better than these words of Matthew 23:11-12.

The next time you post something, think about the motive behind it. Who's going to receive the glory? Who's it going to benefit? The next time you follow someone, think about why you choose to follow them. Is it to be encouraged by them or to be them?

Remember that in all you do, you are a representative of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). People look to you as a role-model. You have significant influence whether you realise it or not – no matter your following.

Don’t worship wood. Don’t worship yourself. Don’t worship others. Worship God, and God alone.


Extra reading:

  • 1 Corinthians 10

  • Psalm 96:4-5

  • Psalm 148:1-2

  • 2 Kings 17:35-36

  • Exodus 34:14

  • Deuteronomy 6:13-14