Among American Gods: No Other Gods


For Meditation

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”  C.S. Lewis

This quote from C.S. Lewis strikes at the heart of the first commandment. God tells Israel, “You are to have no other Gods before me.” In just nine words, all of the beauty and frailty of human identity is laid bare.

One of the remarkable things about being a human being is that we were created for worship. The author of Genesis says “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” We are creatures made by God, like God, and for God himself. So, of all creatures in creation, only human beings reflect and refract God’s likeness to the world. We are, first and foremost, imaging creatures. This is our worship.

The tragedy of the human story is that sin has distorted the aim of our worship. The biblical word for this is idolatry. Whenever image bearers seek life, significance or flourishing in someone or something other than God, an idol is born. And every time I take a good created thing, and then invest it with a greatness reserved for God alone, I worship falsely. If we are honest, the entire landscape of human life is littered with such idols. Sex. Money. Power. Fame. Security. Nationalism. Politics. Technology. Family. Marriage.

What we worship, we love as ultimate. What we love ultimately, we worship. And if we are honest, it's difficult to love the right things. Our love is disordered.

When asked what is the Greatest Commandment in the Law, Jesus responded, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

The ordering of human love, toward God and others, is the heart of true religion. It is the noble end of all worship. This is not an idea Jesus invented himself. The idea finds its origin at Sinai. A voice speaking like thunder from a shroud of dark and gloom and lightning. In Ten Words, blazing like fire, in the mouth of God.

The Ten Commandments tell us there are two directions for human love - vertical and horizontal. The first four commandments examine the vertical. They speak on mankind’s primal love, our love of God. The following six commandments examine the horizontal. How love of God rightly ordered, spills out, into the world as love for others.

The right ordering of human love and worship is what we will explore this week in the first three verses of Exodus 20. What does it mean that we are worshipping beings? How do we reflect and refract the image of God? How does our love get disordered? Is there hope for reshaping of love’s aim back to the One True and Triune God?

Our weekly worship guide can be found here once finalized. 

Exodus 20:1-3

And God spoke all these words:

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.