Am I a god?
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:2-3)
About a week ago this text came strongly to my mind in a whole new way. A few days later I was talking with a friend and he told me that the very same thing had happened with him.
I have always assumed and have been taught that this first of the Ten Commandments means that we should not have any others gods in our lives. In fact, in my mind it didn't make a lot of sense what the significant difference was between the first and the second commandment. The first talks about not having other gods and the second says not to worship images of other gods – a difference, but not all that much from my perspective.
But now I am seeing something radically different in this verse I had never picked up on before. As I pondered the actual way in which it is stated and allowed it to speak for itself instead of jumping to the popular conclusions most people have assumed, I realized that this verse is not at all saying that we should not have any other gods, but that we are not to allow any other gods to be a higher priority in our lives in place of the one true God. You shall have no other gods before me, God says.
If God had intended to deliver the message that we should not have any other gods at all, then it would have been much plainer to simply leave off the last part of the sentence. You shall have no other gods – period, end of discussion. But quite clearly that is not what this commandment says. Thus it must plainly infer something different than what most people have assumed and the implications emerging in my thinking are enormous and very fascinating, albeit also very threatening to what is comfortable to talk about in religious circles.
But as I allowed my mind to think about this more I was reminded of the words of Jesus Himself when He quoted the Old Testament on this very subject.
Jesus answered them, "Has it not been written in your Law, 'I SAID, YOU ARE GODS'? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?" (John 10:34-36)
As I looked in the Old Testament Scriptures to see where Jesus was quoting from it appears that He was referring to this verse from Psalms.
I said, "You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you will die like men and fall like any one of the princes." (Psalms 82:6-7)
I have had some very stimulating discussions with family and friends on this idea since it came to my attention. I now see that many of the things we toss around as truth is not necessarily founded on solid Scriptures but are from traditional ideas that have largely gone unchallenged. No surprise there. But now I am being forced to rethink many of the things I have taken for granted in relation to many areas of my life that might contain gods. It may also help explain much of the internal conflict I have felt for many years that has often undermined my ability to succeed in various areas of my life.
As always, I must start out first of all by looking into what the words involved really might mean before going further and drawing conclusions. I still want to get some input from someone experienced in Hebrew to tell me just what some of the implications of this verse may be in the original language. But as far as I can tell from my own research it seems to mean pretty much just as it reads in English.
But more importantly, I have been reviewing just what the word god means, trying to strip away many of the assumptions and implications that prevent me from perceiving what God Himself is trying to tell me here. As is often the case, what we assumed God has been saying may have much more to do with what has been handed down to us from religious tradition rather than from personal examination of the Word for ourselves. And that is always very shaky ground upon which to build belief and faith.
Without spending a great deal of time on this (I have written on this topic of the meaning of the word god previously), I will simply summarize by explaining what conclusions I have come to from my own study and discussions with others and what I believe are insights from the Spirit of God.
When I push this word to its most basic function and application, it appears to me that a god – any god whether good or not – is simply anything or anyone that we look to as a source from which we can receive a sense of value and identity at the deepest level of our heart and soul. This sounds a little trite at first glance, but when we come to realize that the deepest craving of our lives is the need to feel worth something, to be valued and wanted by someone else, to feel important and needed in some way, then it becomes much more clear what the role and function of a god may be in our lives.
If we go back and take a look at the many gods that have been invented by humans over the centuries, it starts to become apparent that the purpose every one of them was created for was to in some way fill this role of adding to the human sense of worth or identity. Many gods had to be appeased in order for humans to protect what they felt they already had and others were petitioned to do something to add more sense of value or pleasure to their current existence. Most gods became specialized in their functions and they still fill this role quite openly in many regions of the world yet today.
I am certainly not implying that all gods that humans have invented have a legitimate place in the world. But on the other hand, it is starting to become more apparent to me that there may indeed be a place in our experience for gods besides the one ultimate God in heaven who created all of us and is over all the universe. In other words, while there may be illegitimate gods or improper prioritization of possibly more legitimate ones, the issue that may have been missed in all of our religious assuming is that there may indeed be a place for other gods in our lives as long as they never take the place in our hearts and minds of the proper role and function of the highest God in heaven, our true Father.
Let me give just one example that may help to clarify this a little bit. Most people realize that when children are born and in their very early years, they look to their parents or caregivers in the same way that most of us are supposed to look at God. They depend totally on their parents to supply all their needs, to protect them, to nurture them and do everything for them just as we are supposed to rely on God to care for us. Children also receive the bulk of their identity and sense of self-worth from how they are treated during the first few years of their life more than any other time. This is an enormous responsibility for parents that is very often overlooked or marginalized which is why the world is filled with people who feel very empty and are desperately looking around for other sources or activities to make them feel more alive and valuable.
In this instance, it is very clear that parents are to literally be gods for their young children. I do not think it is a perversion of Scriptures to draw that conclusion even though it may make us somewhat uncomfortable to do so. In addition, some have suggested that the reason that God gives us pets may be for us to learn what it means to serve as a god in our relationships with them as well. Some animals literally worship their owners which in turn allows us to have a better sense of maybe how God wants us to relate to Him in some ways.
There are many, many other examples that could be mentioned, but I want to note the other Scriptural basis for this concept that comes from the very beginning of the human race.
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:26-27)
Since we are created in the image of God, then it only stands to reason that we should be strikingly similar to the One who brought us into this world just as children strongly resemble their earthly parents in many respects. From this perspective it really should not be such a struggle to view ourselves as being little gods since our heavenly Parent(s) is also a God.
The problem now starts to emerge that instead of fighting the idea that we very well may be gods, we now need to find out the real reason that God revealed this principle of proper priorities in the very first commandment. If we are all actually gods and have various roles and functions as such to be sources of value and identity for others around us, then what is the legitimate function of being a valid god and where does that begin to move into impropriety where we preempt the place of someone depending primarily on their Father in heaven?