Welcome back to The Big 10, a series of blog articles about the 10 Commandments.
As I stated in the previous articles, the ultimate purpose of Exodus 20 is our protection. God gave us these boundaries, see Exodus 20, to protect us and others in our society from the bad things that happen when we ignore His direction.
Here is the first of The Big 10: “You shall have no other gods before me.”
At first glance, this seems basic, but let’s ask why this is the first commandment? Is there something acutely important about having only one God (monotheism)? What is wrong with having other gods? What would the consequences be?
In my work as a marriage and family counselor, I often meet couples who are dealing with an infidelity in their marriage. Needless to say, unfaithfulness is devastating to marriages. Here are some of the consequences I observe:
- It destroys trust in the partner.
- It disrupts family relationships.
- It sets a bad example for kids, tells them it’s ok to cheat.
- It forces all parties to become more self-focused, protecting one’s own interests.
Clearly, monogamy is essential to a loving, trusting marriage. We don’t want to “share” our life partners with someone else.
Similarly, monotheism is similar to monogamy in marriage. God doesn’t want to share us with competing interests or objects of devotion. Further, we can’t be devoted and committed to God when we dabble with “other gods.”
Faithfulness to God is central to a healthy, loving relationship with Him.
That’s why this command comes first, to protect us from the temptations that invariably come our way.
Back when The Big 10 was given to the people of Israel, the “other gods” came in the form of other religions and objects of worship, but also in the form of lust for food, sex and possessions. These were things that would turn the hearts of God’s chosen people from God to worshiping things that were unworthy of their devotion.
In our modern society, it is easy to dismiss this command by saying, “We don’t have any problem with this, we don’t bow down to some hunk of gold or wood.” Is it true that we never are tempted to prioritize something more highly than our relationship with God?
Our modern-day gods may not be overtly religious, they are things that tempt us to forget God.
These gods come in the form of
- shiny new sports cars,
- 6-figure 401k retirement accounts,
- houses, clothes, trips,
- approval from your parents,
- impressing the neighbors,
- over-indulgence in food, substances, sex or leisure.
The consequences of devoting ourselves to these gods can be severe.
People can easily become overly dependent on things (materialism), on approval (co-dependency), on lusts (addictions). Rather than finding happiness and contentment through these gods, they become deeply troubled and unhappy.
Just as with the children of Israel, God wants to protect us from these temptations that will ruin our lives and destroy our relationship with our Creator. Instead, He wants to help us experience His love and share His love with those around us.
I hope you’ll join me today in re-committing yourself to loving God and putting Him first in your life.