Question 17: What is idolatry?
Answer: Idolatry is trusting in created things rather than the Creator for our hope and happiness, significance and security.
One reason ancient people were drawn to idols is because idolatry was much more like a business transaction than it was a covenantal commitment. You could bring a sacrifice to a god as a form of payment in exchange for his or her favor, and your relationship with that god did not extend to much more than that. The gods of the pagan world did not demand complete loyalty from you. They simply demanded an occasional sacrifice to keep you on their good side.
By contrast, the true God who created all things also owns all things and demands the worship of all creatures capable of responding to him. His claims over us are total. There is no part of our lives that falls outside his sovereignty. There is nothing that we do that is not in some way related to him. And for this reason, our lives must be completely given over to him in worship and obedience. This is one of the main ways that Christianity is different from pagan religions.
Suggested passage for family or personal reading: Psalm 100. What does this psalm tell us about God? What does it show that our proper response to God should be based on what he has done?