Sunday, August 24, 2008

Who's your god?

Sometimes being a worshiper of Christ makes me feel estranged from others. There seems to be this sort of cartoon dialog hanging over my head that says, "This guy is really off on his own estranged from the rest of humanity." It struck me recently that everybody is a worshiper. Everyone worships something or someone. Even those who don't seem very interested in religion are actually involved in worship. We are geared for it. It is in our DNA. Everyone of us is pouring our lives into something or someone in the pursuit of happiness. The one who doesn't worship Yahweh may be spending hours and hours amusing themselves. What would they do if the sources of their amusement were suddenly gone?

If you are interested in learning the objects of your worship try this little test. Ask yourself what is most important to you? If that thing were taken away, what would be your response? The answer to this question can be very revealing. These are the things we are worshiping.

Reading Matthew 19 today it struck me that Jesus was doing this very thing.

16Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" 17"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
18"Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,'[d] and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'[e]"

20"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"
21Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
26Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
27Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?"

28Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

His inquiry begins with his assertion that there is some "good" thing that God requires from us. Jesus moves right to the center of the issue by telling the man that only God is "good." There is nothing sacrificial that he can present to God that result in a sort of quid pro quo. Only God is good and nothing brought before him out of our own storehouses will suffice. Jesus rips away any sense of privilege and standing from him.

It is at this point that Jesus brings up his obedience to the Law. When asked about this he quickly points out that he has kept the points of Law that Jesus mentions and this from his youth. The interesting thing is that Jesus leaves out the first commandment about not having any other gods before him. Jesus could have mentioned this commandment with the others but, instead, chooses to penetrate the man's heart by asking him not to act on his profession. If he asked him if he had no other god's but God, perhaps he would have also said that he had kept this command. Jesus forces him to answer this question in such a way that he must be confronted with his idolatry. If he truly has no god but God, he must demonstrate it by walking away from something he treasures to follow Christ. In his case it is money. He must give up his earthly wealth to follow Jesus. Jesus knows this is a stumbling block for the man. He knows it is a god to him. Keeping the commandment means he must walk away but he can't. Instead, he sorrowfully walks away from Jesus unable to set his god aside.

My good reader, please serve as my confessor. My love of the sport of cycling has been a problem for me. I remember breaking my only bike and going for over a month with no replacement. I was miserable. If my bike and my status as a bike racer and coach are taken away, can I remain content? What if my job as a pilot is taken away? A job that I love and one has identified me for most of my life ripped away with no hope of restoration. Can I be content with this loss? As I keep tearing away things in my life with this test I have become more aware of those things that I have lifted up as my gods. I have worshiped these seemingly unaware of my failure.

God is a jealous God. He will not tolerate this. Make no mistake, whether you are a Christian or not, you are offering worship to something.

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