The First Commandment: You shall put no other gods before me.
Out of all the commandments, I think this one falls by the wayside a bit to those who have never taken a confirmation class or a membership class at church.
“Of course I’m not going to put gods before God! What a stupid idea to think that I could go off and worship some golden statue instead of God.”
What is a god? The word “god” goes beyond the deities of theistic religions (religions that believe in a God or gods). A god refers to anything that you put before God in your life. It could be money, appearances, another person, or even works if you care about morals more than the faith behind them.
Your god could be money. The love of money is the root of all evil. Your desire for power and control could lead you to do things you wouldn’t normally do–cheat, lie, steal, end up hating the competition. We are in the world but not of it. If you focus on worldly wealth, then you can become blinded to the more important matters, such as salvation.
Your god could be appearances. The desire to be or stay beautiful could lead you to harm yourself from procedures or bad health practices. You may be driven to resentment against someone of whom you are jealous. Again, the desire for control over your appearance may push you past a line you formerly wouldn’t cross.
Your god could be another person. Infatuation can be problematic for this reason: not only are you breaking the first commandment by putting someone at the center of your thoughts, but you could also break the sixth commandment by thinking impure thoughts about this person, and you could break the ninth commandment if that person is someone’s spouse.
Works can be a problem if you do them for selfish reasons or without spiritual motivation. One of the trademarks of obsessive-compulsive disorder is the carrying out of good actions to “cancel out” any “bad” images you imagine, such as someone getting hurt or dying. Sometimes you’ll be so desperate to help someone that you might drive people against each other or someone against themselves. You could go to the ends of the earth to take care of someone’s immediate needs–but you’ll ignore the person’s emotions.
How then, can we overcome these gods?
One of the best ways to overcome your gods is to remove the temptation. If you get attached too easily to that mirror or scale, cover all but one mirror or throw out the scale. Do you constantly check your phone? Turn it off during work or school hours. Are you checking the amount of cash in your wallet like clockwork? Wrap that wallet in a few rubber bands. Going through the trouble will discourage you from the action.
Just as I tell my friends: with God as your centerpiece, your table will always be full.