Exodus 20:1-17 (ESV)
1 And God spoke all these words, saying,
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
There are only ten. Anyone should be able to manage ten. Let’s see.
The first commandment is, “You shall have no other gods before me.” No problem. We are, after all, Christians. We believe there is only one God. Check that one off the list.
Not so fast.
Read the commandment again. “You shall have no other gods before me.” This commandment says nothing about believing there is only one God. Rather, it is about the place of God in a person’s life. God insists that he, and he alone, occupies the place of supremacy, preeminence.
The fact is, people are prone to manufacture idols. An idol is anything that we treat as more important than the one, true God. Today’s gods are not so much images carved out of wood or stone like in Old Testament days. Our gods can be anything that we elevate over God himself.
Let’s be more concrete. One of the most popular idols today is personal freedom. Freedom is, of course, important. But, when we use our freedom to elevate our own choices above what God has said, that is an idol. It places us above God.
Here are some other popular idols: career advancement, finances, children, beauty, fitness, entertainment, popularity, homes, cars, relationships. None of these is bad. They are mostly neutral or even good. The problem arises when we begin to value them, when we think about them, when we seek them more than God himself. Anything we want more than God is an idol and a violation of the first commandment.
Ultimately, idolatry is a matter of wrongly ordered priorities. With that in mind, read the commandment one final time. “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Dear God, show me my idols so I can remove them from my life. Amen.