The First Commandment: From the Pastor’s Desk (February 2022)

This article is part of a series from our monthly newsletter written by Pastor Steve. Read more from the series by clicking the button below:

The First Commandment

Throughout the year, I will be reflecting upon the Ten Commandments in the newsletter.  The first in this series of articles is on the First Commandment.  I plan to begin with Luther’s explanation and then move into what this might mean for us today.

The First Commandment

You shall have no other gods.

What does this mean?

We are to fear, love, and trust God above all things.

At times I think that we take this commandment for granted—after all it seems so basic.  Yet, this commandment may actually be the foundation for all the other commandments.  Luther articulate this understanding at the end of his reflection on the First Commandment in his Large Catechism.  He writes, ‘Let this be enough for the First Commandment.  We have had to explain it at great length, for it is the most important.  As I said before, if the heart is right with God and we keep this commandment, all the rest will follow on their own.’

So, what does this command mean?  At the core, it calls us to trust and believe in God above all else.  Luther defines a god in his Large Catechism as ‘therefore, to have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in that one with your whole heart.  As I have often said, it is the trust and faith of the heart alone that make both God and an idol.  If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true one.  Conversely, where your trust is false and wrong, there you do not have the true god.  For these two belong together, faith and God.  Anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that is really your God.’ 

Another way to get at this, is to ask yourself—what is most important to you?  It can be easy to say God.  But do our actions and thoughts confirm this?  We may say we trust God above all things, but do we really trust in the security of having enough money or things?  We may say God is the most important thing in our life, but where do we spend our time?  Do we prioritize our relationship with God or do we take it for granted?  I once heard someone say (do not know where it originated from): if you want to know what is most important look at your calendar and your checkbook.  For where we spend our time and how we spend our money are good indicators of our priorities and those thing that we trust above all else.

The idea that everything else will follow if we hold to the First Commandment can be seen in the following thoughts.  For if God is above all else:

· Then we will treat God’s name with respect and honor.

· This enables us to honor God’s holy day (the Sabbath).

· Then we understand the gift of parents and those in authority, leading to honoring them.

· Then we see all people as children of God and valuing their lives so we do not take it.

· Then we do not pursue pleasure above everything and remain faithful to our spouse.

· Then we are content with all that we have and thus not seek to steal our neighbor’s goods.

· Then we do not have a need to tear down others by bearing false witness against them.

· Then we are not consumed with the desire to have more and more of everything and thus we do not covet and become jealous of other people’s stuff.

This command seems so simple, yet it is easy to allow other things (power, wealth, family, sex, stuff, technology, anything) to become our god (that thing that we trust above all else).  Luther believed strongly that if we kept God first and foremost, then everything else will follow.  How do you live out keeping God above all else?