What is the difference between an idol and an icon?

I received this question from a reader of the portal Moldova Creștină

What is the difference between an idol and an icon or a cross? They are the same thing for me as long as people pray to both of them.  Especially since there is a tendency to decorate the icons with chains of gold or the icon itself is made of precious metals …

Orthodox Catechism

The authors of Orthodox Catechism explain the significance of the icon and indicate the difference between an icon and an idol.

We honor the holy icons because they rise our thought to the mystery of the Incarnation of God. Taking a human body, God showed us that we can depict and honor Him in an image. We venerate the holy icons because they also help us raise our minds to the saints that endured and suffered for the right faith, giving us the entirely worthy to follow example. As a picture does, the icon makes us think of the saint its represents. We also honor the holy icons because by prayers before them, addressed to the saints which they portray, the pious believers are partakers of the rich spiritual gifts. Veneration of icons is not idolatry, because we do not honor the wood and the colors, but the saints depicted on wood, as some that are well pleased before God, as some who were worthy to be in a closer relationship with God and therefore can intercede for us. Before being placed in churches and homes of believers, the icons are sanctified by priests, according to the regulation established by the Church.

God has not left a command or exhortation in the Bible to ask people worship the icons.

God stated categorically against idols in the Bible

The first of the 10 commandments of God sent to people through his servant Moses on Mount Sinai, say:

You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exodus 20:3-6)(NASB)

Let us worship God in spirit and truth.

Translated by Felicia Rotaru