A sociologist speculated that when archaeologists of the future dig up our homes they’ll conclude that TV sets are an image of one of our gods. They’ll find our furniture circled around it, magazines praising what we can learn from its offerings. In most households they’ll find two or three of them. I would venture to guess he’s not far from the truth. It’s rare that a church service lasts longer than an hour. If it does, the preacher usually offers his apology for not watching the time. Yet most people don’t give a second thought to spending 4 or 5 hours in front of the television (or some other device), me included.
God’s first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before me.” The second is “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything …. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” Seeing gods in today’s culture isn’t easy. We won’t find golden calves, graven images, Asherah poles or wooden idols like we read about in the Old Testament. Instead we have to examine our attitude towards the things that occupy our time, what we spend our money on, the things we’ve decided we just can’t live without.
Matthew 19:21, 22 “Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when the young man heard that saying he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
The world tells us it’s OK to want things because, as one advertising campaign assures us, “we’re worth it.” The mantra of today is “if it feels good, do it;” “do what makes you happy.” God wants us to enjoy life. It gives Him great pleasure to bless us with nice things; He wants us to enjoy good health, to work and be able to provide for our families. But He also wants us to know that these things might be taken out of our lives. Perhaps God will never require us to get rid of them or allow us to lose them, but He knows our hearts and the importance we place on the things in our life. He wants us to keep trusting Him and be willing to give them up, should He require that of us. God promises that if we put Him first, our lives will be the best they can possibly be. God is a promise-maker, and, WITHOUT FAIL, a promise-keeper! We have to be mindful of how we are prioritizing God and worldly things. Anything we put before God in our life is a god in our life!
I John 2:15, 16: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you. These are the ways of the world: wanting to please our sinful selves, wanting the sinful things we see, and being too proud of what we have.”
To determine whether worldly things have become a god in my life, I first consider how much time I spend on them compared to the time I spend doing the things that God asks me to do; the things that strengthen my relationship with Him. At one point in my life, I began spending enormous amounts of time playing computer games. After a few months, I had to face the fact that the games were taking up the time I had been using to study the Bible. So I took the games off my computer. I play games from time to time but I don’t allow myself to spend more time playing them than I spend reading my Bible. I do the same with social media. If I spend an hour browsing around Facebook I spend at least an hour reading the Bible.
Psalm 119:11: “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.”
My greatest struggle has been getting rid of the “body image god.” I spent a lot of time and money on this god: exercise equipment, videos, clothes, gym memberships, diet programs and plans. It was THE most important thing in my life. This god was never satisfied: if I was a size 6, I wanted to be a size 4; if I was a size 4, all I could think about was how to maintain it; on and on it went! I still struggle with it but I am learning to accept myself as I am and that God values me just as I am. The size I wear is not the most important thing about me. I was able to put this god in perspective through Scripture. One year I followed a Bible reading plan that includes reading one or two chapters from Proverbs every day. There are 31 chapters so I ended up reading Proverbs more than 20 times that year. Each time I understood more and slowly adopted new self-talk. It changed the way I think about a lot of things. It highlighted how worldly my thoughts and reactions are and how foolish they are. A word of advice: Take time to read each verse. If you find something difficult to understand, use a commentary that explains the thought being conveyed. Too often I assumed I knew what the writer was saying but when I took the time to research it, I often found I was wrong. There are lots of free resources online – just check with trusted Christian friends and family to be sure the source is Biblically sound.
Ezekiel 34:31: “…you are men, and I am your God….”
“Do I cling to my way of handling something or do I yield to God’s direction?” I know I’m headed in the wrong direction when I preface my “explanation” for doing something I think might be wrong with “But I…..” or “I just wanted to….”. There’s some scary theology out there proclaiming we are all little gods. But wanting to be god in our own lives is the sin Adam and Eve committed. Satan “enlightened” them, assuring them that God’s direction was limiting their ability to enjoy life; that God set the limit to insure He would be in control of them. This deception ruled much of my life, believing that the things God didn’t want me to do made life more enjoyable for me. I wasn’t going to give them up and miss out on an exciting, fun life! Even now I am often convinced my solutions are best; at the very least they seem way easier than what I see God asking me to do. But His commands are unwavering and solid. My ideas and opinions are wishy-washy and I don’t have the ability to look into my future to see how everything will play out. God knows me better than I know myself and He knows my future. I don’t know what I am lacking in order to be a resident of eternity but God knows the areas I need to work on and He helps me improve those things when I obey His commands and direction. I am now beginning to see the results of committing to His way and I see the blessings and how I have grown. Fighting the “me god” is a minute-to-minute struggle but keeping an eternal perspective is the best way I’ve found to keep this god at bay.
Within the limits of my human reasoning, I often wonder if God’s original plan for my life was a certain degree of poverty so He could use me to serve Him in a certain way. When I wouldn’t yield to Him, He used my disobedience to teach me lessons and help me grow. As I look back at the times I tried to pay bills with money I didn’t have, I see how God provided for me. I somehow got what I needed. Some things I thought I needed were actually wants. I found new ways to handle things when a need couldn’t be met. Some things I found I didn’t really need at all. Because I never depended on money for security, I have no doubts about God’s longing and willingness to take care of me. My love for Him is indefinable as I see how He protected me through all the poor choices I made and how He’s blessed me in spite of them. Not only in material ways, but more importantly with a wonderful, forgiving family, an amazing church, and an understanding of Him that brings contentment, peace and joy to my life. Ultimately God gives or takes away according to His plan and I am blessed to have learned to trust Him in that.
“Is it more important to me than God?” Maybe I don’t answer with a flat out no, but if I attempt to answer the question with some kind of justification, that’s a red flag. Understanding who God is and what He is doing to give us the best life possible while preparing us for eternity is the key to loving Him more than anything or anyone. Putting Him first allows me to love others better and I enjoy life more than I ever dreamed I could.
Hebrews 12:1-2a: “We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back. Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect.”