You shall have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:3)
The First Commandment is absolutely basic and fundamental to all else that follows. In effect, it tells us to put God first. It’s probably fair to say that few Christians nowadays consider that this law applies to them. Or, if it does, they’re certainly not guilty of breaking it. After all, by identifying ourselves as Christians we’re clearly not worshipping pagan gods or following any other religion.
Many Christians, correctly, eschew Astrology because it advocates faith in something other than God and it is a form of divination which is expressly forbidden in the Bible. (Deuteronomy 19:10-14) Others prefer not to practice Yoga because the postures are those that are offered to the almost innumerable number of Hindu gods. However, some Christians contend that Yoga is fine because they’re not actually worshipping these gods.
Even within the Church, it’s all too easy to make an idol of someone who’s been influential in our lives; a teacher, a Youth Leader, a Pastor or a mentor. Often these people are, in effect, gifts from God to help us grow spiritually but they are, of course, no substitute for God Himself.
Christ makes it very clear that we are to love God above all else. ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’ (Matthew 4:10)
He also makes it clear how we are to love God; ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30)
What does it mean to love with all our heart?
The heart has long been considered the seat of our affections, passions and emotions. Whenever we declare that we love someone with all our heart, the implication is that there’s no-one we love more.
It’s perfectly legitimate to love those special people that God has granted in our lives; a child, a sibling, a friend, a sweetheart, a spouse, a parent, a grandparent etc. And it’s perfectly legitimate to love dearly. However, the moment these relationships become more intense and more important than our relationship with God, that’s the moment when we break the first commandment.
In today’s self-obsessed world there’s also the risk of loving ourselves more than we love God. This is pride at its worst and it causes us to break this first commandment. The Bible warns us that, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ (James 4:6)
What does it mean to love with all our soul?
Our soul is eternal and it’s what makes us unique. Even identical twins who share identical DNA, still have separate souls. Our soul, then, defines our eternal identity. How do we define ourselves? It’s a good question.
For some people, we may define our identity in terms of our relationships with the people we love and so we might describe ourselves as a daughter, sister, wife or mother. For others, it may be based on what we do. For example, we might describe ourselves as a homemaker, a nurse, a teacher, a missionary. Or perhaps we define our identity based on our passions and hobbies; an artist, a musician, a writer, a gardener.
Once again defining our identity in these terms isn’t necessarily a bad thing but our primary identity should be that of a grateful, redeemed child of God. The moment we base our identity on any other thing is the moment we break the first commandment.
What does it mean to love with all our mind?
The mind refers to our intellect and is concerned with learning, knowledge and reasoning. The Psalmist refers constantly to the need to meditate on God’s Word and to commit it to our hearts and minds. ‘I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.’ (Psalm 119:15-16)
We need to dedicate our minds to learning about God so we can discern the meaning of things in the light of Scripture. ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ (Romans 12:2)
It also involves self-discipline and taking our thoughts captive to Christ. ‘We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… ‘(2 Corinthians 10:5)
‘Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’ (Philippians 4:8)
One area where we may stumble is in education and learning. Many people look to science for the answers to the great questions of life and, indeed, sometimes, it does offer some very plausible explanations. There’s no doubt that many scientific laws and explanations hold true. And that’s not really surprising – after all, God created it! We need to remember that, at present, our knowledge is patchy at best. Some scientific theories that were once regarded as absolute are now relegated to the dustbin of history in the light of new knowledge and information. It’s prideful, and therefore sinful, in the extreme to place science and knowledge before God.
What does it mean to love God with all our strength?
This speaks to our will, enthusiasm and effort. Where do we spend most of our time and resources? What activities attract our wholehearted input, commitment and participation?
To love God with all our strength is to love with our resources, our talents, abilities and our time. Our love is to be as practical as it emotional and intellectual. ‘Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’ (1 John 3:18)
Whenever we put other interests and activities before our commitment to God, we’re breaking the first commandment.
The first commandment : You shall have no other gods before Me.
The principle behind the first commandment is that we are to be consumed on every level by God. He is to be our magnificent obsession. If we fail just one time in just one area, heart, soul, mind or strength, we break this commandment.
Guilty as charged.