You shall have no other gods.
A commandment that we have known since childhood. It seems so simple, right? There is only one God and we are to fear, love and trust in him above all things. We may often forget how easy it is to fail in keeping this commandment. When we hear it, we are often drawn to those false gods like Buddha and Allah, or maybe the multiplicity of gods included in the Hindu religion. We easily dismiss thoughts of worshipping gods of that caliber because they often have no real appeal to us.
But if we really dig deeper into what it means to have another god, we may have to re-evaluate how easily we let ourselves off the hook. In the Large Catechism Luther explains what a God is…A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.
So in whom do you trust. Do you really and truly rely on God for everything? We like to think that we do, yet we are constantly drawn to trust in ourselves or the work which we do to earn us some money. We trust in our car to keep us safe, our insurance to provide in case of an emergency, or even our government to bail us out when things go wrong. While none of these things are wrong in and of themselves, we see how easy it is to be drawn to trust in them for the blessings which only come from God.
Over the next several months I will take portions from the catechism in order to give us an opportunity to review those teachings which we have learned from scripture regarding the basic teachings of God’s Word. A review of the Catechism starts with the commandments because it offers to us a needed opportunity to reflect on God’s will for us in our lives. The law tells us what we are to do and what not to do but it cannot save us. More often than not, the law simply reveals to us our sinful condition and the inability of mankind to live according to God’s will.
The first commandment directs us to the source of all goodness and mercy. Only in the one true God can we alone find comfort and joy. Why? Because as the psalmist says He forgives all our iniquities and heals all our diseases, He redeems our lives from destruction. When God commands allegiance to Him and Him only, it is because if we place our trust in something else…we have no God at all and are doomed to eternal death. But only in Him can there be full confidence, because God cannot fail.
He did not fail. He sent His Son as promised and completed the way to make us right again before His eyes. In the first commandment God intends to tell us: “Whatever good thing you lack, look to me for it and seek it from me. I am the one who will satisfy you and help you out of every need. Only let your heart cling to no one else.”