“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.” (Deuteronomy 5:6-7)
Thus begin the Ten Commandments, the laws given by God to his people to teach them how to live good lives. This commandment is the first because without a strong foundation, without knowing who our God is who is the basis of our faith, everything else becomes relative, shaky, a house of cards ready to fall. After all, look at the story that follows the Ten Commandments: while Moses is up on Mount Sinai talking to God, the people of Israel get afraid and make an idol to worship to reassure themselves. This is quickly followed by the people of Israel breaking just about every single one of the Ten Commandments they’ve just been given.
It sounds so simple to follow. When we go to church on Sunday, it’s pretty clear who we worship: all the songs, scripture, preaching, etc., point to God, and it’s pretty easy to avoid going to the worship services of other religions which would involve the worship of other gods. So it’s easy to read the story and condemn the Israelites for a lack of faith. What we don’t realize is that idolatry is easy to spot when it’s wrapped up in a golden calf. It’s a lot subtler in its modern forms, and we are very guilty of it.
Martin Luther said that our god is whatever we put our trust in. Think about that: your god is whatever you put your trust in. It’s not just about what you worship in formal ceremonies, it’s about what you rely on in your day to day life. And watching what’s going on in America today, it’s pretty obvious that even in a nominally Christian nation, what we put our trust in is not the God who led our ancestors out of slavery and sent his only son to save us and make us whole and who has promised to be with us no matter what.
From the reactions to and panic about the banks and the stock market, it’s blatantly obvious that the thing in which many Americans put their trust is the nation’s economy. And I’ll bet most Western nations have similar attitudes. When the financial system falters and people start hearing the word “recession,” people feel nervous because the thing in which they put their trust–their god–is failing them.
From the reactions to and talk about the Presidential race, it’s blatantly obvious that the thing in which many Americans put their trust is their political party or specific political candidates. America has problems; so does every other nation on earth. People believe that a political ideal, or a political party, or a certain politician can fix those problems and make things right; that’s what they put their faith in.
Now, I’m certainly not saying that having a working economy is bad, or that participating in and caring about politics is bad. Both are necessary to a functioning society. But you always have to ask yourself: what do I put my trust in? What is my God?
If your ultimate trust is in any human institution, you are doomed to disappointment. All humans have flaws; all humans have problems; all humans have limitations. Every human society and institution since the beginning of history has eventually collapsed in one way or another, because of those human failings. If they are what you put your ultimate trust in, what will you do when things go wrong? When the economy fails or the politician turns out to be just like all the others that came before or the ideology that sounds so great in speeches turns out not to work in real life?
All humans eventually fail. But God, the one true God who created us and loves us and redeems us, will never fail. You can put your trust in God whether things are going well or badly, whether the economy is strong or fails, whether politicians keep their promises or not. God will never abandon you.
If you have any questions about the Christian faith, please comment and I will answer them next week.