Bible Study

1 John Bible Study, Day 30: No Idols

Today’s passage: 1 John 5:21

Focus verse: Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)

After John writes a fitting conclusion to his letter in 1 John 5:18–20, he tacks on one more verse. He simply tells his audience to keep themselves from idols.

I imagine John finishing his letter and then reading it. He gets to the end and realizes he forgot to address idols. But for him to insert this extra content into the right place in his letter would require rewriting the entire thing.

So, he takes the practical step and tacks it onto the end. 

But this doesn’t make John’s warning against idol worship an afterthought. It’s a critical issue for his audience of the day, as well as for us now.

Idolatry is the worship of idols. A second understanding defines idolatry as excessive devotion to something.

Though today few of us would bow down before an idol or struggle with the issue of eating idol-sacrificed meat, our world today excels in excessive devotions—many of them.

These excessive devotions become our present-day idols. Here are some common considerations:


Though we must work to earn money to support our families, our jobs are not the goal, but the means to the end. Yet many people hold an excessive devotion to their work.

Placing too much emphasis on our jobs is a present-day form of idol worship.


Too many people view income and their bank balance as a measure of success. More is better. How much more? They see no upper limit. Though we need money to live, we shouldn’t live for money—or let it become our idol.


Our materialistic society has an insatiable desire for more. Too often we buy things because we want them, not because we need them. We desire newer, bigger, and better.

We covet what our neighbors have. This materialistic mindset of buying and owning things can become our idol.


A hobby is a non-work activity we pursue for enjoyment or self-fulfillment. The best hobbies align our passions and interests with ways to advance God’s kingdom or give him glory.

Hobbies kept in balance produce personal benefits. Yet we can pursue many hobbies with an excess zeal which threatens to become our idol.

Leisure Activities

In our self-induced, stress-filled life, we need a respite from the busy lifestyle we’ve created. Though needed for our mental well-being, we must guard against filling our non-work time with a frenzy of pursuits.

We must seek recreation to draw us toward God, not pull us away. Otherwise, it becomes our idol.


Yes, an excessive devotion to family can become an idol, albeit a well-intended one. Too many parents embrace a child-first focus that rises above everything else. The result is making our family’s wellbeing our idol.

Though we would never physically bow down to an idol and worship it, we run the risk of worshiping its modern-day equivalents. Idols were clear in John’s day.

The issue is much murkier now and may be an even bigger threat to us than it was two thousand years ago.

Let us cast aside all our idols and put God first in everything.


  1. Which of the six areas listed above challenge you the most?
  2. What specific idols do we struggle with today? 
  3. What changes must we make in our practices and attitudes?
  4. How can we make our worship of God better?
  5. What activities or attitudes do we need to cast aside to keep God first in our lives?

Discover more about idolatry in 1 Corinthians 10:14–21.

Tips: Check out our tips to use this online Bible study for your church, small group, Sunday school class, or family discussion. It’s also ideal for personal study. Come back each Monday for a new lesson.

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Discover practical, insightful, and encouraging truths in Love One Another, a devotional Bible study to foster a deeper appreciation for the two greatest commandments: To love God and to love others.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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