“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37)
To “have” a god is to ascribe to someone or something attributes that belong only to God or to relate to someone or something as the ultimate—to seek above all else, to trust above all else, to love above all else, to serve and obey above all else is to treat as God. To make something central in life, the pivot or ultimate reference point, is to “have a god.” To yield ultimate allegiance to or to consider someone or something as the ultimate happiness or most desirable object, even to fear above all else is to “have a god.” Notice that the first commandment does not say that we should have no other gods.
Actually, the rest of Scripture teaches that there are no other gods in reality; there is only one God. And yet this command prohibits having other gods before the true God. It is quite legitimate to have other loves, loyalties, and ambitions. But none of these loves and loyalties can come before God or we have broken the ultimate relationship and violated the supreme commandment. It is not the one who loves his father, mother, son, or daughter who is unworthy of the Lord Jesus, but the one who loves someone else more than him. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).
God is the ultimate reality, the fundamental fact, the integrating factor of the universe. Therefore, to be rightly aligned with him is the most important relationship in human existence. To be in alignment with reality and truth is life; to be out of alignment is destruction and death. To leave God out of the equation of life or to diminish his role is like seeking to build a skyscraper without mathematics or to bake a cake without flour.
When I arrived in Japan it grieved me deeply to see people call earnestly on gods who are not gods. But before long, I was among those who enjoyed photographing “quaint oriental customs.” On one occasion an earnest Japanese Christian was giving us a guided tour of a famous shrine. “What is your reaction to places like this?” I inquired. “The same as all Japanese. I’m just sightseeing.” “But,” I responded, “some of these people really worship these idols. How do you feel about that?” “Oh, I think it’s comical, an interesting custom.” Let us remind ourselves that God does not consider the worship of anything else an interesting custom.
One’s trust and obedience, allegiance or love may be quite legitimate and never demand a special, conscious evaluation until the loves or loyalties come into conflict. Then one’s god stands revealed. At the point of choice, which love or loyalty we put before the other will determine who or what our true god is. What is most valuable to me? What do I hold to be most irreplaceable? What would I be lost without? What do I think of with most intensity in the long stretches of my thoughts? What is my incentive for living? What gives my work meaning and purpose? This I worship. Money and things can be sought above all else. A friend, a mate, a child, or a parent can be loved above all else. One can seek pleasure or fame above all else. One’s love of country, a hero or leader, a philosophy or ideology can be an idol. Even something as abstract as art, education, or service can usurp the place of God. The most common idol of all is self. Today sift through your priorities and determine what threatens God’s place in your life.