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March 2009


A very sneaky sin


Most Christians know the Ten Commandments. You can read them in Exodus 20: 1-17, but here is a short, snappy summary which puts a positive spin on the "Thou shalt nots" of Exodus :


1. Put God first

2. Worship God only

3. Keep God's name holy

4. Keep Sundays properly

5. Be obedient

6. Be kind

7. Be pure

8. Be honest

9. Be truthful

10. Be content


[Note: I have copied this version of the commandments from a ceramic plaque created by Don McBride, "Cuchulain Ceramics". Don first heard these in a sermon by Brother Timothy Peter SSF (Papua New Guinea)]


Sometimes I think that if we really kept the first commandment, "Put God first", then all the others would simply fall into place. This is probably the commandment broken most frequently and is a consequence of the "me first" attitude that is so prevalent in humans. A "me first" person puts themselves at the centre of their own universe rather than God. The "creature" - the "created one" -  worships itself rather than the "creator" and this is self-idolatry. It manifests in selfishness. A recent report commissioned by the Children's Society, "A good childhood - searching for values in a competitive age" (Layard and Dunn) says, "English society has to turn away from selfishness and excessive individualism if it wants its children to be happy". And I feel we can extrapolate this to the rest of western society also.


It is not difficult to understand how so attractive the "me first" temptation is to humans when we realise that this is precisely the temptation that Jesus had when he was in the wilderness for forty days after his baptism. [See Matthew 4: 1-11.] He was tempted to use his miraculous powers to turn stones into bread, not only to satisfy his own hunger but also to use to bribe people to follow him. It was good that he was able to quote Deuteronomy 8: 3, reminding himself that the real hunger of people was for the Word of God, and that it was his calling to give them this.


Then he was tempted to start his ministry with a great spectacular stunt - to jump off the top of the temple in Jerusalem and to fly down to the ground. He would be "the man" of the moment and people would flock to follow him. Again this would be an inappropriate use of his miraculous powers - "me first"! Then Jesus was tempted to compromise with evil. Satan said to him, "Worship me and I will give you all the kingdoms of the earth". Turn a blind eye to wrongdoing, give the people what they want and they will be happy to have you as their ruler!


Thank God that Jesus did not succumb to this testing, otherwise we would all still be living in darkness, struggling to find our own way out of the mire of sin. Sometimes we still do this anyway. We work hard to overcome this or that addiction or this or that persistent sin, and when we succeed we are so proud that we have managed this all by ourselves..... And that sneaky sin of "I'm the man", "me first" - jumps up and bites us, because we forget that it is only by the Grace of God that we are saved.


Beware these sins of selfishness and pride - "Put God first" in your life.




9 March 2009


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