Here’s the difference.
Man-made gods tend not to make too many demands (not always true, mind you, but a strong tendency nonetheless). Quite the other way around. It’s man that goes to the idol with demands, and sacrifices to appease. A little blood to grease the wheels, to keep the days carefree and the crops coming in. If things get tough, throw more blood on the altar. And if things don’t improve, maybe it’s time to find a new idol.
“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” –Matthew 7:28-29
Jesus, on the other hand, sets standards. Draws lines. He makes demands. He says he doesn’t want sacrifices, but obedience. As it turns out, he knows our hearts, our intentions… so we can’t appease him. We can’t get away with giving him lip service, because he knows when it’s just lip service.
Idols get any power they might have from belief. If no one worships them, they’re just another ugly little sculpture. This is not true of Jesus. He does not need anything. He is the author of the universe, and that will never change, no matter what we believe.
Yet, even though he does not need us, he loves us. To the point of death, and beyond, to life again. No graven image can claim that.
The difference is, Jesus is worthy of worship. Man-made gods are not.
Apparently, this is not as obvious as it should be.