To love and admire anything outside yourself is to take one step away from utter spiritual ruin; though we shall not be well so long as we love and admire anything more than we love and admire God.
⎯ C.S. Lewis
Given the toxic combination of our divided loyalties and endless capacity for self-adulation, idolatry is almost always not so much a question of if as when. Shrugging our shoulders as we accept this inevitability is rather commonplace these days, just as it has been in most of humanity’s days.
But such a posture keeps us from truly understanding just how loathsome and offensive idolatry is to God.
It is no accident that the first two of the Ten Commandments deal with this issue. “You shall have no other gods before meÖ you shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anythingÖ” (Ex. 20:3,4). Why God makes these demands isn’t difficult to figure out; why should he share the highest place with a pretender to his throne, or suffer the indignity of being caricatured as one of the creatures he made? There is simply no one like God: “I am the first and the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me?” (Isa. 44:6,7).
I am the Lord your God [therefore] you shall have no other gods before me (Exod. 20:2-3). It is out of God’s love that he wants to save us from errors and trespasses through such prohibitions and to show us the boundaries within which we can live in his community. “You shall have no other gods before me.” This is something that is not at all obvious. Peoples of high culture in all ages have known a panoply of gods, and it was part of the greatness and dignity of one god to make room for the others in the pious hearts of people without jealous strife.
The human virtue of generosity and tolerance was also ascribed to the gods, but God tolerates no other god beside him; God wants to be God alone. He wants to do and be everything for his people; therefore he also wants to be the only one worshiped by them. There is room for nothing beside God; the whole creation is under God. God wants to be God alone because he alone is God. It is a question here not of our being able to worship other gods in place of God, but of our thinking that we can put anything at all beside God.
⎯ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Whenever we are tempted to put something anything beside God, we need to remember that nothing belongs beside the Lord of all Creation. Nothing. “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” (Ps. 100:3).
In your life at this moment is there anything beside God?