No Other Gods

The First Commandment: Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me

“Thus you can easily understand what and how much this commandment requires, namely, that man’s entire heart and all his confidence be placed in God alone, and in no one else. For to have God, you can easily perceive, is not to lay hold of Him with our hands or to put Him in a bag [as money], or to lock Him in a chest [as silver vessels]. But to apprehend Him means when the heart lays hold of Him and clings to Him. But to cling to Him with the heart is nothing else than to trust in Him entirely. For this reason He wishes to turn us away from everything else that exists outside of Him, and to draw us to Himself, namely, because He is the only eternal good. As though He would say; Whatever you have heretofore sought of the saints, or for whatever [things] you have trusted in Mammon or anything else, expect it all of Me, and regard Me as the one who will help you and pour out upon you richly all good things.”
The words above from Martin Luther’s Large Catechism serve as a sobering reminder that idols are not made out of brick, wood, and stone alone – often, they are found in our heart. In Timothy Keller’s new book, Counterfeit Gods, he lays out a case for idolatry in our current time that should pierce every Christian to the core. As Keller says in the beginning of his book, perhaps there is no better time to be reminded of the idols in our own hearts then in a time of uncertainty. The current economic crisis has stripped away our masks of religiosity and exposed idols that we did not know existed.

In Keller’s second chapter, he focuses on love and sex. He specifically shows how our love for other human beings becomes an idol if we place our love for them above our love for God. Following that, Keller expands on the lust for money that is pervasive in our culture. Personally, I was especially convicted of the sin of greed when reading this part of the book. Greed is a subtle, deadly sin. It enters our lives unannounced and, if allowed to grow unchecked, is undetectable by those in its grasp.

After focusing on love and money as idols, Keller turns to politics. This book is worth the price for this chapter alone. It lays bare the misguided hopes and trust that Christians place in human government and brings one of the Enemy’s most potent secrets to light. The warring factions in politics, especially among Christians, can reveal who are trust is really placed in. Individual Freedoms? Our Nation’s Sovereignty? The Ability to Choose? Education for All? Healthcare for All? Or the Holy One, the Living God, Our Father in Heaven. Just as Nebuchadnezzar saw the statue built of human achievement crumble under God’s power, Keller smashes the political idols in our own lives swiftly, painfully, convincingly.

No other Christian writer of our generation is on par with Keller’s work right now. His ability to popularize Biblical truths without sacrificing any of their depth is unmatched. He has been called the C.S. Lewis of our time and it is an apt description. Though The Prodigal God is still his best work, Counterfeit Gods is a close second. You will not find a more enlightening, convicting book – it is must read for every Christian who desires to put to death the earthly idols that consume us.