“Jewish polemic against idolatry and similar Christian rejection of idolatry are directed not only at outsiders but also at insiders, at members of ‘our’ group who ‘set idols upon their hearts.’ And there is a recognition within the tradition that idolatry can assume forms that are not as obvious as genuflecting before a statue, forms that affect ‘religious’ people as well as the irreligious, such as lust for wealth, or that even afflict them more, such as creating an idol out of one’s own interpretation of the divine Law. And even modern people who are not religious may acknowledge that the charm of bodies, the possibilities associated with wealth, and the capacity of the state to maintain public order, while good things in themselves, can get out of hand, threatening to twist existence into a frantic race to accumulate goods and power that do not ultimately satisfy but may instead destroy human flourishing.
There are still times, then, when people of faith are called to stand up and say, ‘No!’ The Bible does not provide strict rules for determining when this should be. There are circumstances in which rendering unto Caesar, or Aphrodite, or the 401(k) may be the right and godly thing to do. But there are also circumstances when an appropriate appreciation for the world’s goods cross the line to idolatry—and the scriptures suggest that this happens with some frequency. The Bible does not provide an infallible template but parables and pointers. Discernment of the line between prudent use of the world in a spirit of Christian liberty, on the one hand, and idolatrous control by it, on the other, is the province of clear exegesis, prayerful theological reflection, and the mutual enlightenment and correction of the community of faith.”
—Joel Marcus, “Idolatry in the New Testament,” in The Word Leaps the Gap: Essays on Scripture and Theology in Honor of Richard B. Hays, eds. J. Ross Wagner, C. Kavin Rowe, and A. Katherine Grieb