Idolatry

When we read the First Commandment and see the part about having “No Strange Gods Before Me”, most of us think of primitive societies and the dolls or statues that people make and then worship.  We think “How quaint”, and sort of skim over that commandment, imagining that modern man no longer commits that sin.  But look a little deeper–a “strange god” is anything we worship, pray to, think of as God, live for or teach that isn’t the real “God”.  To worship the real God and not a false one, we have to know who the real God is.  I have heard calls to prayer where the leader asks the group to pray to God “whoever you conceive God to be.”  There we go.  Conceiving God to be anything other than Who He is, is idolatry.  How then can we know who God is?  In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God is unknowable except through the ways He has revealed Himself.  He has revealed Himself in His creation, but its no longer a clear picture because since sin came into the world, creation has been spoiled. 

Most of us are idolators without even realizing it.  When we conceive God as someone who is fierce against those who commit the sins we hate most, yet tolerant of our sins, we are commiting idolatry.  When we conceive God as an indulgent Grandpa, or a Santa Claus, or anything other than what He has revealed Himself to be, we are commiting idolatry. 

How do we know what God has revealed about Himself?  Its written by the prophets, and Jesus Himself taught us Who God is and what He is like.  We can trust Jesus, because He claimed to be one with God, and backed up His claims with miracles and His resurrection from the dead.  We can trust the prophets because Jesus vouched for them.

Another way we commit idolatry, is to put anyone or anything ahead of God.  Its been said if we look at our calendar and our checkbook we will see what we worship.  Our god may be our hobby, a human relationship, our children, our career, a possession, or our own ego.  Those who say man is the highest authority are making themselves out to be their own god, and that is idolatry.  So, the first commandment can be and is broken by modern man every day, and we would be wise to examine ourselves and repent in our thinking.  In fact, if we think we are without sin, we ought to first think about our relationship to God and about whether we give Him the appreciation He is due, and whether we thank Him for all He has done for us.

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