Are pictures or photographs the same as graven images?
Pictures may surely become idols. However, just because some people may overdo on picture taking does not make it all a sin. Pictures are often an asset to the work of God. They can also be a great influence for evil. Therefore, let us see what inspiration has to say about pictures and also about idols.
Ellen White wrote: “It is a difficult matter for men and women to draw the line in the matter of picture-making. Some have made a raid against pictures, daguerreo-types [an early photograph produced on a silver or a silver-covered copper plate], and pictures of every kind. Everything must be burned up, they say, urging that the making of all pictures is prohibited by the second commandment; that they are an idol.
“An idol is anything that human beings love and trust in instead of loving and trusting in the Lord their Maker. Whatever earthly thing men desire and trust in as having power to help them and do them good, leads them away from God, and is to them an idol. Whatever divides the affections, or takes away from the soul the supreme love of God, or interposes to prevent unlimited confidence and entire trust in God, assumes the character and takes the form of an idol in the soul temple.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 330.
“A few condemned pictures, urging that they are prohibited by the second commandment, and that everything of this kind should be destroyed.
“These one-idea men can see nothing except to press the one thing that presents itself to their minds. Years ago we had to meet this same spirit and work. Men arose claiming to have been sent with a message condemning pictures, and urging that every likeness of anything should be destroyed. They went to such lengths as even to condemn clocks which had figures, or ‘pictures,’ upon them. …
“A few in _____ had gone so far as to burn all the pictures in their possession, destroying even the likenesses of their friends. While we had no sympathy with these fanatical movements, we advised that those who had burned their pictures should not incur the expense of replacing them. If they had acted conscientiously, they should be satisfied to let the matter rest where it was. But they ought not to require others to do as they had done. They should not endeavor to be conscience for their brethren and sisters.” Evangelism, 216.
Positive counsel is also given regarding the use of object lessons, blackboards, maps, and pictures to aid in explaining lessons to students. (Education, 186.) And warning is given to parents to guard their children against “the lovesick pen pictures presented in newspapers.” (The Adventist Home, 415, 416.)
We are told that we should have no other gods before the God of heaven, so we must put God first and last in everything we do or see. We must be sure that our photos are not a source of pride or have caused a great expenditure of funds that could have been used in furthering God’s work. “Those who claim to believe in Christ need to realize that they are to reflect His image. It is His likeness that is to be kept before the mind.” Messages to Young People, 316, 317.