Whatever Happened To 'No Other Gods'?
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“I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but me.”
- Exodus 20:2-3 (New Living Translation)
For a country supposedly dominated by Christians, the United States of America is a decidedly polytheistic culture that rarely seems to even casually think about the “One God” we allegedly serve. In fact, we resemble ancient Greece far more than the monotheistic people we claim to be.
The ancient Greeks lived their lives ruled by arrogant and bored gods who rested upon Mount Olympus and who occasionally came down among the people to stir up trouble and make mischief. These immortals controlled the day-to-day actions of their pawns in the world and would regularly withhold blessings if something in their temple wasn’t up to their exacting standards. Each had his own distinctive personality, specialized skills, and notable predilections; to the Greeks, these gods were real beings, not just abstractions or ideas.
The modern American probably doesn’t believe that these beings still sit upon Mount Olympus, but don’t for a second consider that it is because we’ve become more sophisticated or knowledgeable as a species. No, we stopped believing in those gods only because we found new and more curious ones to have faith in. Mount Olympus was replaced by the tall, steel crags of the towers of Wall Street; Hera, Ares, Aphrodite, Athena and all the other lesser gods were supplanted by Buffett, Trump, Oprah, and Gates, among others; and the almighty Zeus has transformed into his modern-day form known as Bernanke. And where ambrosia used to keep the gods alive, our modern gods now consume endless amounts of the nectar known by the names of Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton, Jackson, and the ever-popular Benjamin.
These gods and their day-to-day actions drive our lives through unseen transactions, uncaring corporations, uncontrolled spending, and unintended consequences. The gods and their little games have brought us the rollercoaster rides known as the “Enron accounting scandal,” the “tech bubble,” and the “sub-prime mortgage debacle.” And what’s surprising to note is that even though these gods we have chosen have brought us nothing but pain, suffering, shrinking retirement accounts, and debt up to our noses, we continue to worship these fickle lords in the hope that one day they will show us favor yet again. It makes about as much sense as begging to Zeus day after day to bring rain in the middle of a 5-year drought.
And not only have we replaced our gods with money and money movers; we also traded our heroes for the same. We, the little people, no longer need Heracles to fight for us since we have Capital One in our wallets protecting us from the Nordic raiders. When the bi-weekly salary harvest falls short, we can always call upon the gods of plastic to pay for our addictions of choice. We chase money and debt like they’re our best friends while ignoring what really matters.
America is owned, controlled, enslaved, abused, and confused by the ever-less-almighty dollar.
So what happened to “You must not have any other god but me.”? Why does he enter the picture only for one hour in one day each week or so? Why do we only show up just to pay a minor tribute to him in the currency of our other gods?
Is it that we only concerned in what we can see and touch and have lost our capacity to believe in what we cannot quantify? We willingly give away our money to hare-brained schemes in futile attempts to get rich quick, we spend our life savings on gas for our fuel-unconscious SUVs, and we toil for endless hours in the rat race only to come out behind. We waste our lives and our money on things that don’t matter, but when we’re faced with the one rule God thought was so important that he listed it first we fall flat on our faces.
Our priorities have been confused and shuffled behind our backs and we are none the wiser. We allowed the Wall Street Journal to take the place of our Bible and the annual reports of Berkshire Hathaway to be our guiding sermon series. Matthew 6:24 reminds us that we cannot serve both God and money and it’s clear we’ve made our choice. Our treasures are stored in our 401(k) where compounding interest means more than interest in God’s plan.
Maybe it’s time that we take a much-needed step back and examine ourselves closely. Can we honestly call ourselves Christian if we can’t handle having just one god and that one being the One God? We could be dangerously close to crossing the unseen threshold from which we may not be allowed to return; we could fall into permanent disfavor and yet we continue to test God’s patience. We need to take an inventory of our remaining redeeming qualities and let them be our focus. If we continue to allow Yen, Euros, and Dollars to guide our every action, we will eventually be held accountable for our failure to live up to God’s plan and our refusal to live by God’s rules.
We have invited that fateful golden calf to return and rule over us again. If we are to return to blessability, we will have to abandon our false gods and allow God to be our One again. We must leave our polytheistic tendencies at the base of our modern-day Mount Olympus and instead worship the One who inscribed his rules on stone tables at the summit of Mount Sinai.
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