The first commandment ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ was one I thought I had down pat as a kid. For goodness sakes, I didn’t carry tinny idols around in my pocket. I didn’t have anything on my night stand or mantel that I would tell my worries to.
I was oh so wrong. I have so many tiny gods.
I may not have a statue in my pocket that I rub for good luck but I have a phone I swipe up on every time that I have a question. I have a phone I rub my finger across when I want to hop on social media to ‘check out’ of real life.
I carry a wallet around in my purse that is full of plastic cards and if I’m really flying high maybe a little cash. At any given moment I could give you a pretty good idea how much money is on each of those cards. The amount that it all adds up to is a pretty good indicator of how secure I am feeling.
I have pictures of 4 adorable people spread all over my home. Those 4 adorable faces are wonderful gifts but they can also become little gods, idols, in my life. I know this because when they are well behaved I am convinced that life is good. Life is running smoothly and everything is in balance when they make me look like a decent human being. When they make a bad decision my anxiety starts to rise. It can be like I have trophies scattered all around my home.
Maybe none of those things are idols for you. Perhaps they are in exactly the right place in your life. Maybe there is something else throwing the balance off in your life. Maybe there is something else that would be considered your idol.
In the large catechism Luther defines a god as
“Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.”
What are those things your heart clings to?
What are those things your heart and mind confides in?
What are the things you run to when life begins to feel a little out of control?
Chances are a lot of the things we run to are on the list you made the other day. Chances are the things we do or the people we serve are the things we run to.
It may sound odd but it is the good gifts that we turn into gods.
What happens is we forget about the completed work on the cross. We forget about Christ and all he has done for us and these things we do become what our hearts cling to.
We forget about the completed work of Christ and our hearts cling to things flimsier than Jesus. Our hearts cling to things like the behavior of our children, our hours of volunteer work, how much sex we are having with out spouse, how clean our homes are, and the list can go on and on.
We forget that Christ freed us from these things becoming our gods. We do not need to go to these things to ‘prove’ our righteousness. Pointing to our well behaved children or to how much work we are doing at church will always leave us falling short. Life will always feel out of balance when the things we do or the things we serve become our gods.
Thankfully God knew that we would not be able to keep our lives in balance. God knew that we would not be able to keep him first.
When Adam and Eve decided they wanted to be like God instead of serving Him He set the plan in action to save us. Eve did not grab that fruit because she wanted something that tasted a little different. She did not grab the fruit because it was the right one for her diet plan. She grabbed the fruit because she wanted to do life on her own. She wanted to be like God. She wanted to know it all and do it all. She wanted to be her own god.
At that moment God did not abandon mankind. When Adam and Eve hid from God because they were overcome with shame he pursued them. He made the first animal sacrifice to cover their naked bodies and hide their shame. In that same moment he promised he would do it all for them. He knew we would be unable to keep life in balance and keep him as God. He knew we would always be striving to be the one to do it all or we would find something to replace him with.
All through history we see God declaring to his people that he will be their God and they will be his people. All throughout history we see God working to make sure that he is their God.
Hosea and Romans tells us that He is our God and we are his beloved. I am so excited to dive into some of those stories next week. The stories of the fierce love of God pursuing his people over and over again. The stories of the fierce love of God pursuing people like you and me who reject him, place other gods before him, and fight to do it all on our own neglecting all of his completed work.
We do all of these things yet remember that in spite of us and because He has a big huge fierce love for us he calls us his beloved.