Spiritual Reflections, Fr. Virginus Osuagwu
The First Commandment
“I am the Lord your God… you shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:2-3)
We live in an age when little consideration is given to rules. There seem to be a widespread disdain for authority and for rules. This disdain is rooted three forms of erroneous thinking. The first is that morality is relative and therefore people have the right to decide what is right and what is wrong according to their own standards and with no reference to any (external) authority. The second is that, the idea of rules/laws suggest that someone knows more than we do and not many of us like to admit that. The third is the idea that laws are restrictive and limit our freedom.
Think about this for a moment. Do laws really restrict us or protect us? At least in Judeo-Christian thinking, laws are meant to protect us rather than restrict us. The wiseman Ben Sirach, concludes that obedience to the law of God can save us (Sir. 15:15). Even in our everyday experience, imaging the chaos that would befall us if there were no traffic regulations, no traffic lights, no speed limits, no speed bumps, no stop signs and no police, and everyone was allowed to free-lance, choose their own speed options and stop at their own discretion. Our own need for order and safety in the society necessitate the promulgation of laws as means of protection rather than restriction.
In our Christian faith, the ten commandments are the gifts of Divine Wisdom to us, to help us maintain the highest ideals (best practices) in our relationship with God and with one another. The first commandment: “I am the Lord your God… you shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:2-3) raises the questions: who and what are at the center of your life? Who gets the most attention? Whose love controls every other aspect of your life? By raising these questions, this commandment strikes at the core of our “deepest identity and deepest dignity” (Fr. Brian Mullady, The Decalogue Decoded, p. 15) as the imago Dei (image of God) and the likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27).
In the first part of the commandment, I am the LORD your God, God asserts the authority by which He invites us into a personal, loving and intimate relationship with him. God is our Creator. He fashioned us. We have our being from him and without him, we are nothing. Therefore as our Creator, we have the singular privilege of being God’s children. This privilege bestows on us the indescribable dignity (a dignity that transcends us and everything the world has to offer) of sharing in the life of the Blessed Trinity.
The second part of the commandment, you shall have no other gods before me, shows what our part/responsibility is meant to be in this relationship. God alone is to be the object of our true affection, and love of God and relationship with him is to be the foundation, basis and defining factor in our relationship with others and all created things. Understanding the first commandment as the very foundation for realizing our eternal destinies is critical. Single-mindedness and fidelity to this very foundational commandment demands that our actions, thoughts and values are oriented toward him in a way that acknowledges him as the source of every good and the One to whom our worship is befittingly due.
What are the implications for us:
- God is our Creator and we are his creatures
- God bestows on us a dignity that transcends us by being our God
- God draws us into a personal, exclusive and intimate relationship with him
- We need to be mindful of the “idols” to which/whom we can easily direct our allegiance
- Whatever receives or begins to receive the kind of attention and or affection due to God becomes an idol
- While the making and use of images for proper worship do not fall into the category of idolatry, care must be to see them for what they are “representations” that aid worship
- The first commandment prohibits divinations, superstitions that emerge from disordered curiosity, crystals, talismans, charms, witchcraft, magic and any and everything to whom faith and trust in God is redirected.
It is important to note that our allegiance to the supremacy of God is to be both interior and exterior. With hearts filled with love of God and singleminded, we are to direct our worship