The first of the Ten Commandments spoken by God and given to Moses is the most important one:
20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:3)
God is absolute in His command for His people to seek only Him and not place other gods in front of Him. God is the Creator and it is Him who rescued mankind from sin. He is the one, through Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a sacrifice on the cross to redeem each of us from sin. We are to love Him and yield ourselves to Him; we are not to raise up anything else to worship and place our faith in except Him.
Unfortunately, we are like the Children of Israel who were waiting for Moses to return from the top of the mountain with the tablets of written commandments, but instead of waiting they formed a calf made for gold and began to worship it as a god. Many of our gods may not be made of gold, but some of them are. We have raised up many gods in America and there are millions who serve them.
To name just a few, there is the god of technology; god of discovery; god of progress; god of power; god of propinquity; and a god of knowledge.
Technology has a cycle it uses that has created a demand for it that keeps mankind bound up breathlessly waiting for the newest technological breakthrough. That cycle is development, usability, obsolescence.
With the newest development of an item like the iPod or the computer or the cell phone we wait at the stores, sometimes all night just to be the first to buy the newest advancement in technological gadgetry. We use it, become dependent on it, sometimes even flaunt it for others to see how important we are to have such a prize, and then discover a fatal flaw that is always present. It becomes obsolete almost the moment we buy it.
Planned obsolescence is as much a part of technology as the actual development itself. Our obedience to its use and our allegiance to its demands is almost a worship that creates a dependence that makes us believe, "We just can't do without it." If it is difficult to believe it has become like a god, just watch a couple of teenagers with their cell phones and the time they spend texting each other.
Discovery is the quest or search that motivates and becomes the driving force that pushes us beyond our personal zones of complacency. Discovery draws us as a force that becomes god-like as we seek further uniqueness and exploration.
No matter what the discovery is, we want it to be one-of-a-kind that is unique in all the world. A song, a play, a new type of vacuum cleaner, a better mousetrap; if it can be unique then it elevates the discoverer's standing with everyone else.
Exploration plays a large part in the discovery process. The hunt becomes an obsession to find the prize. It may be the gold in the stream or mountain, or the fountain of youth in the "new world" that draws the adventurer, but the opiate is powerful to find uniqueness through exploration.
A life consumed in pursuit of discovery becomes a god in the person's life. We all play that part, chasing after the golden ring, looking for the prize, discovering the next thrill; always the "next" thing that will bring satisfaction. Even though the next thing in discovery often becomes an illusion as well. It becomes a god of disappointment.
No one wants to stand still. We want to keep moving, progressing toward a goal; moving step-by-step toward a desire for something newer. We discard older models for newer ones...the newest cell phone, iPod or electronic reader.
In our society we honor the newest or youngest. We seek innovation with new appliances, better floor plans, faster and more economical cars, travel with more comfort or getting us there quicker. Constant change brings newer time-saving devices or helps us to live longer with better health. We revere progress and through the generations leave a trail of items that once held promise of innovation but now is relegated as "antique" to sit in a showcase or museum for people to remember.
Each of us has a sphere of power around which we surround ourselves. We seek power through political and military means, personal influence and even relationships. In America it now will take not just millions of dollars to run for President, but Billions of dollars. This for a job that pays only a salary.
Everyone searches for power through influence over others. Even if it is just for simple agreement with a position taken or an argument to win, we want to exert influence in such a way as to win. It builds our personal position and seemingly makes us strong.
Closely associated with power is the pursuit of knowledge. Especially knowledge that is personal and relatively unknown by others. We seek the "inside" story, the "behind the scenes" information. We want to know what others do not know so we can shine when the time is right and demonstrate our knowledge to help us assume influence over situations or others.
We equate knowledge with intelligence and seek a higher level of learning to reach goals and attain more personal power. This can come through better job positions, better career performance, promotions over others; in short a building up of personal influence and power.
This is a form of imitating and associating with others with whom we admire and want to be like. Within each culture or ethnic group the characteristics are similar to our own so we tend to associate with people who are like us. It is well established in people-groups around the globe; ethnic groups tend to remain together in association and residence. Although there are societal integration attempts, on an individualized basis, people tend to seek out those who are more like themselves than those who are significantly different.
We see this in church congregations with predominant ethnic groups with fairly consistent associations even when there are peripheral ethnic peoples who try to join in. Predominantly Black congregations tend to remain Black; White congregations tend to remain White. Cultural groups tend to live in the same neighborhoods and predominantly associate with each other.
Even when there are attempts through social engineering to integrate cultures and ethnic groups it is oftentimes met with resistance and sometimes violence. As Jesus prayed for unity in the first century, we too seek unity among the believers, but by-and-large we remain "denominational" in our practice.
Even though God has declared that we "shall" not have any other gods other than Him, we have established other things that lead us away from Him as we live our lives on a daily basis.