‘What does it mean to have a god? … a god is whatever a person looks to for all good things and runs to for help in trouble … it’s only the trust and faith in your heart which make them both what they are – God and an idol’ (Martin Luther, Large Catechism, the First Commandment, translated by F. Hebart).
‘You shall have no other gods’ is the first commandment God gave Moses (Exodus 20). It comes first because it tells us that God is at the centre of life.
Human nature, however, resists God’s claim. It is constantly on the search for something or someone else it can trust and turn to for help. Before we know it, we have moved God aside and taken centre stage for ourselves. We replace God with other things, filling the space with options that we think will give purpose and meaning to life.
This God is the CENTRE OF LIFE, our all in all.
Politicians will make empty promises to win our votes. Financial advisors will guarantee wealth in our retirement. A new job will deliver satisfaction. A new house will provide comfort and security. An overseas holiday will fix everything. An illicit sexual relationship will bring true love.
A society with such high levels of drug and alcohol use, problem gambling, sexual infidelity, abuse, and consumption of products which promise to make us more appealing, is a society desperately hungry and thirsty to fill an inexplicable absence. The search for a god goes on.
There are so many delicious gods from which to choose! They are sweet at first, but their aftertaste is bitter. They continually fail and disappoint us, yet they remain popular. These ‘gods-for-a-day’ will never surprise us with grace, never truly set us free, never fill us with joy, and never keep their promises. They wither and end in the sorry mess of death.
You’d like to think that Christians are exempt from this mistake, since they believe in Jesus. But we aren’t.
The temptation to replace God and do it ourselves is strong. The Christian life is one of daily repentance and renewal.
Saint Augustine taught that if you think you can comprehend something you can be sure it’s not God. Christians can never comprehend the God who comes to us in Jesus Christ.
We can never wrap our heads around his birth, death and resurrection. That the infinite and almighty God comes to us as a baby, a human being, a crucified Saviour! That God loves us that much! That God saves lost humankind! That God turns the world on its head and makes the first last and the last first! That God freely welcomes the sinner, the outcast, the lonely and the destitute! That God always stays with us until the end of creation.
This God is the centre of life, our all in all. We are truly free from the burden of needing to be in charge, to create our own gods. We don’t need them.
God has taken care of everything, and so we can fear, love, and trust in our God above all things (Luther’s Small Catechism, First Commandment).