Most of us will go down the 10 Commandments like a check list marking off the ones we know that we haven’t committed or the ones we have committed trying to show ourselves how well we think we keep these commandments. The 10 Commandments are not a test of how good we are. If I keep to 90% (9 out of 10) of these commandments, then I’m a good Christian. If this were true, then all of us would be in a lot of trouble. This is so because we do not keep to a majority of these commandments.
Have you ever been jealous over someone? I know I have been jealous of other people’s possessions, relationships, and success.
Have you ever lied? I know I’ve lied about a lot of things, especially, about other people before.
Have you ever stolen? I know I’ve never stolen from the store, but I have stolen from friends and family. Though, they were just little things like toys as a kid, it was still stealing. I’m sure I have plagiarized (stealing ideas of others or using others’ ideas as your own) plenty through my college and graduate school careers.
Have you ever lusted after somebody? Jesus says, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28). I know I’ve lusted after women. The phrase, “Dang! She/he is hot/sexy!” is a dead giveaway that we’ve just lusted.
Have you ever hated someone? Again, Jesus equates our thoughts to despicable actions. He says that anyone who has been angry or hated somebody has committed murder in their heart (Matt. 5:21-22). I had a roommate in college once that I hated so much that I had move out. Otherwise, I would have hit him…and probably had my butt whooped.
Have you ever disrespected your parents? Oh boy, I couldn’t count all of the times I backed talked or said rude things to my parents.
See? I just listed six of them and how I and, let’s be honest, you have broken these commandments. We’ve already failed the test. “Wait! There’s definitely one I haven’t broken. I’ve never made or worshiped an idol.”, you might protest. Kyle Idleman, author of gods at War, would argue otherwise. He argues that idolatry is the root of all of our sins and breaking these commandments (gods at War, 22). Martin Luther once said that we can’t violate the other nine commandments without breaking the first commandment about idolatry. Idolatry was an issue for the Israelites, it’s a major issue discussed in the Bible, and it’s still an issue in our lives.
The Hebrew people were just delivered from slavery in Egypt. Egypt had plenty of gods for every little thing. Therefore, when God issues this commandment through Moses, they were familiar with idols and other gods. But God changes this for them and says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:3). The word “before” can also be translated “besides.” God wasn’t saying that there can’t be any gods ahead of Him, just after Him, or inferior to Him. He’s saying that there can be no other gods in His presence. Instead of a hierarchy like the Egyptian gods, there is only one God.
The reason we don’t realize we commit idolatry is because it’s not obvious. We don’t worship golden calves, or our idols may not necessarily be bad. The sin of idolatry hides in the subtleties. Is pleasure, sex, money, or power wrong? No, all of these are gifts from God and can be used for good and the glory of God. But what happens is that these things end up taking the place of God. This is how idolatry creeps into our lives.
The second commandment says that we can’t make other gods to worship (Ex. 20:4). While God was giving these commandments to Moses, the people decided to make for themselves a golden calf to worship (Ex. 32). As Idleman says, “They traded the Creator God for a god of their own creation.” (gods at War, 25). We do the same with so many things in our lives. We replace God with things of this world. We put our jobs, relationship, sports, house, car, video games, computer screen, etc…in the rightful place of God. Idleman says:
To describe the concept more clearly, anything that becomes the purpose or driving force of your life probably points back to idolatry of some kind. Think about what you have pursued and created, and ask yourself, Why? (gods at War, 26)
If you have an addiction to food, why?
If you get easily upset about certain things, why?
If you’re going into debt because of a shopping addiction, why?
If you spend countless hours playing Xbox, on the computer, fixing up your car, why?
We commit idolatry more than we realize. We replace God with money, pleasure, and power all of the time. We don’t realize it because it’s subtle until we examine our lives, until we ask ourselves “Why?”. Idolatry is the root of all of our sins, all of our issues. What are the idols in your life? How can you work on removing them from your life?
We need to examine our lives and figure out our idols. We must then repent of them and turn to God. Redirect our hearts and worship to Him instead of these other meaningless things. It’s a good thing we don’t have to keep every single one of these commandments. Otherwise, we would be doomed. Yes, we need to strive to not break them, but our redemption is not in keeping them, but in Jesus Christ. When we give our lives to Jesus, we are redeemed and made holy in the sight of God.
Idleman, Kyle. Gods at War: Defeating the Idols That Battle for Your Heart. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2013. $15