By Jake Waltman
“The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:’I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.You shall have no other gods before me.'” Deuteronomy 5:4-7.
In an interview on 60 Minutes, Tom Brady, New England Patriots quarterback, described the feeling after winning his third Super Bowl. He asked “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me?…There’s got to be more than this?” (Habeeb). Brady didn’t know the answer to his question. In one scene from the 2006 film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, the NASCAR family sits around the dinner table discussing how they like to see Jesus, including Jesus “in a tuxedo t-shirt,” “as a ninja fighting off evil samurai,” or “with giant eagle wings singing lead vocals for Lynyrd Skynyrd” (Movieclips). What do Tom Brady and Ricky Bobby have in common? Well, I think they help us understand what the First of the Ten Commandments means when it says “You shall have no other gods before me” (English Standard Version, Exodus. 20.3), warning both the Christian and the non-religious of the broken promise of placing our hope and worship in things other than Jesus.
First, I believe the commandment speaks to anything that we can put our hope and trust in more than Jesus. This means more than literal gods of other religions. For Tom Brady, it’s NFL success. For many Cornellians, it’s academic success, wealth, or relationships. We all hope that this “god” promises fulfillment and satisfaction. However, when the object of our worship is based on its man-given value, we subject ourselves to a slippery slope of despair and broken promises. Our sinful and fallen nature prohibits us from creating a god that is in any way equivalent to the perfection of God himself. Society can give value to anything. Success, wealth, fame, or even sex are all placed on godly pedestals promising fulfillment, yet they always leave us unsatisfied.
Second, this commandment warns us of the case where man’s philosophy alone, which is influenced by our fallen and finite nature, can create a concept of god that looks nothing like that of the one true God. When we look at Isaiah 55:8-9 (English Standard Version), we see why this is so. In “Knowing God,” J.I. Packer writes, “To follow the imagination of one’s heart in the realm of theology is the way to remain ignorant of God, and to become an idol-worshiper—in this case being a false mental image of God, made by one’s own speculation and imagination” (48). Packer simply puts it “we cannot know him unless he speaks and tells us about himself” (48).
Unlike the characters in Talladega Nights, I’m sure many of you don’t see Jesus “in a tuxedo t-shirt,” but I do know many people struggle to submit their lives to Christ because they fail to reconcile their concept of an all-loving God and the fact that evil exists. By creating an understanding of God based on human reasoning and logic alone, there will always be the problem of evil. However, when we replace the created concept of God with the concept of God that was revealed to us by God himself, the problem is solved.
So friends, the fact of the matter is this; the First Commandment tells us to place our hope and trust in the one true God, the only one that will keep its promises, which we come to know by His revelation to us. Fortunately, God has revealed himself to us in scripture and by even becoming flesh in the form of Jesus. By placing our hope in Jesus, we can know for certain that because of his resurrection, his claims of truth, salvation, and divinity, are all confirmed. Though the First Commandment was written long before His birth, it points us to Jesus, the one true perfect God that will always keep His promise of a life full of love, hope, and fulfillment. By placing our faith in Him, we will never again ask “is there something greater out there for me?… There’s got to be more than this.”
Want to know more about Jake? Read his bio here.
English Standard Version Bible. Bible Gateway. Web. 30 March 2016.
Movieclips. ‘Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (1/8) Dear Baby Jesus – (2006) HD.” Online video clip. YouTube, 14 October 2012. Web. 30 March 2016.
Packer, J. I. Knowing God. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973. Print.
Scott Habeeb. “Tom Brady – There has to be more than this.” Online video clip. YouTube, 28 July 2009. Web. 30 March 2016.