The First Commandment reads, “You shall have no other gods.” It is worth noting that the words immediately preceding are: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” They are words of ownership and pure grace. And that is how God deals with us. He makes a decision to be the God of his wayward children, and he delivers us from the bondage our own waywardness has brought upon us! Then he tells us what he expects of us.
In the giving of this first command the Lord includes a little commentary which makes it clear that we are not to fashion idols and bow down to worship them. But as Luther picks up in his explanation to this command, idols and false gods do not always need to be carved or molten images that we shape as objects of worship. There are more subtle forms of idolatry.
Luther’s explanation reads, “We are to fear, love, and trust God above anything else.” There are many inanimate objects that we fear, love, and trust. We break this command every time we fear, love, and trust something more than God! That is idolatry. And the list is endless on what we might worship in the place of our Creator God. For worship involves fear, love, and trust.
The list of such idols includes wealth, popularity, intelligence, strength, ideologies, government, celebrities, and other so-called deities that have not been revealed to us in God’s Word and through his Son.
So the first thing we know about God’s will for our lives is that we are to love God with our whole being, acknowledge him as the only true God, and trust his Word. If we do this, all his other commands fall easily in place. When we don’t, we are making an idol in his place. We are acting as God! For when you boil it all down, idols are fashioned in sinful, rebellious human hearts.
Since You Asked…
What does the Pastor’s Stole signify? (the stole is the colored strip of cloth that loops around the back of the neck and hangs from both shoulders)
The stole represents a yoke such as would be used to link and employ an ox with a plow or cart. When a work animal is yoked to a task, that animal comes under the rule and guidance of its master. As Christians we are to be yoked to Christ (cf. Mt. 11:28-30). We are to fear, love, serve, and obey the Lord Jesus Christ. The Pastor’s stole is therefore not only a sign of ordination in the Lutheran Church, but it visibly reminds the whole congregation of our servant hood to Christ.