Government as God

government buildingIn discussing the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), the first commandment’s “no other gods” can be glossed over, as if we’re all thinking, Oh, no worries. We don’t do THAT! But that “no other gods” prohibition just hit me anew. That is, I realized a sub-category that I’d not deeply considered. To back up …

A. Literal pagan gods.

Of course, that was ancient Israel’s problem at the time these rules were given. For my whole life, though, sermons tended to say that, no, of course we’re not worshipping Baal or Buddha. Then the speaker would go on to caution us about category B (next). These days, it would be good for ministers/teachers to add that we ARE worshipping/revering literal pagan gods when we mingle certain religious practices with Christianity. (“Recognizing Sorcery” and “Redeem the Other Religions?” are samples of posts related to this topic.) All of us need to pay more attention to what constitutes literal “other gods.”

B. Money, success, etc.

Those are the “other gods” that tend to be the focus in lessons about the first commandment. And sadly, when money troubles happen, we do tend to look first, in fear, to the lack of money itself. As in, Oh no! The rent’s going up! What shall we do?… Or I really should quit this job, but I’m afraid I won’t have enough money. Guess I’m stuck. Those thoughts—rather than first considering what the Lord would want, knowing that he can provide, wondering what he might teach in this, etc. We can scoot God off the throne, as it were, when forgetting that God, not the job or the bank balance, is Provider. When my younger son was in college, he said, “Money can control you—whether you have any or not—because if you think money is the answer to all your problems, then money is your god.” Similar failure happens in the areas of health, true love, dream job … when we slip into thinking, I’d be happy/fine if only ___. Placing anything else as savior or cure-all makes God a sort of PS, doesn’t it?

C. Government.

This is the category that just hit me. Consider our reliance on the government to provide/care for us in assorted ways. Like expecting the government to: guarantee that no one gets hurt, decide what the kids should read, prescribe our medicines, pay our debts, find friends for us, watch for asteroids, pick up our trash, declare what employers must pay workers, make sure our flight attendant behaves well, decree that stores shelve toys a certain way, require (and pay for?) preschool, provide transportation to the fitness center … I’m not consciously thinking, Oh, I’ll be fine since the government has my back! But upon examination, it appears I’ve been content that the list keeps growing. And the government happily keeps taking more control. (Right now, there are about 40 agencies and departments—and that’s just the ones beginning with the letter A!) How can a government possibly have the perfect ideas in virtually every area of life? Or need such extensive involvement? (And remember, anything “the government” provides is actually funded by you and me.)

My other son, the world history nut, chimed in: “This is exactly why Communist countries MUST remove God from the picture. Because then government takes the place of God. It’s pretty much in their handbook. It is a necessary antecedent. There can be no true Communism (total government) if there is God.” Hmm. Can’t help recalling 1 Samuel 8. Believers in God were warned of the danger in thinking that a human king would be the answer to all their problems. Now consider us today. What is government’s actual purpose compared to what’s happening?

So to back up and look down on the world, big picture: what if we believers consciously zeroed in on the first commandment’s “no other gods”? If we REALLY got that commandment right (and didn’t first look to pagan/false religion, money/success, or the government), then doing the right thing as relates to the other nine commandments would fall into place more easily, wouldn’t it? And think how our lives/witness could positively affect three groups of people:

1. Other believers.

When believers stay strong and true, it provides examples (role modeling) and encouragement to others!

2. Nonbelieving good guys.

There are people who are stuck wandering and need to take steps toward the Lord. We want them to see, through our lives, that knowing the Lord is something special. Our confident-but-humble behavior should make people say, “That person has something. I want to be like him/her.”

3. Nonbelieving bad guys.

And then there are the dark-side agents who are looking to clobber Christianity, the Bible, and Christians. They label us as haters, prejudiced, criminals, intolerant, and divisive, as well as non-scientific and non-academic. Regardless, we’re to live on the Lord’s path, true and strong, so that our “good deeds” are obvious (Matthew 5:16). “Live such good lives among the pagans,” says 1 Peter 2:12, “that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good and glorify God.” (Read 1 Peter 2:11-21; 3:16.) At the time Peter wrote that, the notoriously evil Nero was in charge!

If a believer is aiming to do right, the bad guys can only falsely accuse of wrongdoing/lawbreaking. There won’t be any real evidence against us; though of course, the opposition will likely still bring false charges. No matter. If we do the right thing, some of these #3s might still rethink things. Meanwhile, the people in group #2 would likely recognize the truth and maybe be drawn toward it, despite the noisy “marketing.” And we’d be motivating other #1s to stay strong.


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