You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:4-6 (NIV)
While most know the first part of this commandment but don’t go on to read the second part. This has led to various concepts of the verses and the commandment. The Amish have no images (pictures, faced dolls, statuary, etc) because they believe that these can lead to false worship and ego. But then you have the Catholic Church which allow it in certain ways.
The Catholic Church has combined the 1st and 2nd commandments and split the 10th commandment into two commandments. This allows them the use of statuary in private and parish worship. So in this concept, we will look at how not every man made image is an idol or god and how some are within Christendom.
The first part of the commandment leads directly into the second part. What makes a man made image a sin is the person’s giving it adoration given only to God. So the pictures of your kids, a concert poster, an star’s autographed picture, the garden gnome are NOT what the commandment is referring to. These are just images UNLESS you bow down to them and give them the adoration and praise allowed only to God.
The Catholic Church has statuary, prints, reliefs, etc that correspond to those they deem saints, the blessed mother of Christ, the walk to the cross, etc. What makes them sin is the prayers and adoration given them. The catechism states that worship is given only to God (which is true). The part that is in defiance of the 2nd commandment is giving prayers to the saints that these statues and prints that represent them. No where in the Holy Scriptures does it say to pray to the dead (which the saints and mother of Christ are).
It actually says not to pray to them because they can’t hear prayer. For the living know that they will die,but the dead know nothing;they have no further reward,and even their name is forgotten.Their love, their hateand their jealousy have long since vanished;never again will they have a partin anything that happens under the sun. Eccl 9:5-6 (NIV)
Now, they will bring up Moses and the making of the image of a serpent. But as you will see, that image was ordered by God and not worshiped, but only looked upon. They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way;they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived. Numbers 21:4-9 (NIV). Jesus later told what this action actually was.Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. John 3:14 (NIV).Prayer is a form of worship (https://www.thomasnelsonbibles.com/blog/prayer-is-an-act-of-worship/). Worship is to God alone. So not matter what you pray to or worship, if it is NOT God alone it is a violation of the commandment of God. This would include pagan gods and deities. As well as the saints, the mother of Jesus, and any image of them.