In the first three posts in this series, I wrote that God has given us laws. He gives us laws so that we can obey them and live. Because God is not a tyrant, but a wise creator who wants to be our Father, we are at our best when we see his ways not just as laws, but as principles.
We considered the greatest commandment to love the Lord with all our heart…and to love our neighbor as ourselves. As a principle this works very well, and not only will lead to good relationships, but will impact our own being. When we follow this, we become like Jesus, more loving, more peaceful, and more gracious, and when we love God with our whole heart, we don’t have to think about all the little sins we don’t want to commit. The whole law is summed up in this. Live the great commandment on principle and your life will change.
Then we began thinking about the ten commandments as ten principles (not discarding the fact that they are commands to follow). “You shall have no other Gods before me” is the first one, and perhaps the most important. But I said in part three that this is hard to understand. Many Christians enjoy something and then feel guilty about it. They’ve been taught that to really love something makes it an idol. They have been taught that they should only love God.
This is false.
At times like this, I think about God as he has revealed himself to me, as my Father. I have five children. They all love me. I can tell. They also love other things and people. Three of my children love to draw and are amazing at it. One of them loves animals and spends every waking moment studying, training, and caring for animals. Another loves to do gymnastics. He doesn’t do it on a team. He watches YouTube videos and learns how to do various flips in the backyard on a mat. Of course, they also love video games, certain TV shows, and playing games with mom and dad. They have sports they love, friends they love, all kinds of things they love.
I have never gotten worried that they would love any of these things more than me. I have never seen them take some of their love from me to give it to their hobby or their mom, or gramma, who they also love a lot. Love doesn’t work that way. Have you ever seen a dad who would get made about their children loving someone or something with their whole heart? If you have, you have seen an insecure and sinful dad who is doing great harm to his kids. I know that this happens, but it is not right.
Do you think God is insecure? God is not insecure. When the Bible says he is a jealous God, it is not like when you and I get jealous. It does not mean that he doesn’t want us to enjoy any of the good gifts of creation that he has given us, or the skills and talents with which he has endowed us. It means that if we actually worship idols, he is jealous. If we do worship idols, it is because we believe a lie that the idol will do for us what our Father in heaven can do. And it cannot. Part of God’s displeasure is that we are making a first thing out of something that is not a first thing. God is the first thing, and if he is not put first in our hearts, things will fall apart. Idols don’t deliver.
Back to our fatherhood example: If one of my kids came home with another man and said, “This guy is going to be my dad now. Your services are no longer needed. I’m going to listen to him and let him raise me. You guys have different opinions, and I like his better. He lets me do whatever I want.” How I would feel is similar to how God feels about our idolatry. It is just not right. I would be “jealous” and do something about it.
But on the other hand, if my son brought a man in who had been a positive influence on his life, saying, “I really love this guy. He has taught me a lot, dad. I want you to meet him.” I’d be delighted. I’d thank God for another good and godly influence on my son. If he were not a godly influence, I would not be jealous, only concerned, and I would deal with it. I would seek to correct the situation.
But for my kids to love something, especially if it is something that I gave them, makes me extremely happy and does not diminish their love for me.
What do you enjoy? What activity causes you to thank God for it? Consider it a gift that leads your heart to the giver.
Now that we have considered what the first of the ten commandments is not saying, in part 5 will we consider it as a principle, and seek to discover what it is saying.