'I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods besides me.' Exodus 20: 2 – 3
The first commandment was always one of my favorites. No matter how long my list of sins was, I was pretty sure that I hadn't been sacrificing farm animals, making golden cows, or raising money to support made-up gods. That sort of thing was for people that lived thousands of years ago, not me. There's no way I would fall for this one, right?
We used to have a priest from Benin at our parish. Benin is a small country in West Africa that is known as the birthplace of voodoo. In my mind, voodoo was for those uncivilized people who thought that sticking pins in dolls, dancing around fires, and worshiping just about any object they could find (a rock, a tree, or great grandma's skull) would keep all of their gods happy.
I was pretty sure that these people were guilty of breaking the first commandment, and I couldn't imagine what it must be like to be in voodoo Sunday School or at a voodoo Youth Conference.
The priest shocked me when he told me that most of these people still consider themselves to be Christian; they just think of the voodoo as an addition to their Christian faith. They know that Christianity matters when you die, because everyone wants to be happy forever in Heaven. But while they're still down here on earth, they've got plenty of problems, stresses, and issues to worry about. Voodoo is where they turn for help; they think that their Christian faith is just something that matters when we die.
I couldn't believe it. First I thought it was crazy that these people still consider themselves Christian, especially since they're worshiping so many ridiculous 'gods' and trying to appease all these worthless objects.
Then I realized that I was not much better than those pagan voodoo worshipers.
Anything but God
In my head I know that God was the only one worth my worship, but I still found myself turning to so many other relationships, habits, and even sins to save me when I was overwhelmed and in need of help. I knew that Jesus was my Savior, but often I turned anywhere else but towards Him when I needed to be saved from loneliness, hurt, or boredom.
For way too long, I had been acting like God was just off in the distance, maybe He was able to hear my prayers but He was too far away and too important to get involved in the details of my life. But God isn't a far-off god and He isn't just concerned with saving us later.
Just before giving the Ten Commandments, He reminded His people, 'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.' (Exodus 20:1).
The same God that has saved His people time and time again wants to free us from whatever holds us down. Don't turn to anything or anyone else. He's the only one worth your worship, because He's the only one that can save.
How to obey the 1st Commandment
- Keep God first in your life
- Set aside time for prayer
- Be thankful to God and have faith in His goodness
- Trust in His plans for you and don’t turn to superstitions, horoscopes, fortune tellers, or ouija boards
- Relationships, body image, work, possessions, and a lot of other things can easily become a false god. Try to be aware of what you’re putting all your energy in to.
- Stand up for your faith when faced with ridicule