“next to of course god america I love you….” I remember this poem from my childhood. I thought of it today and wondered, what god is e.e. cummings speaking of? Perhaps I should extend my question some and ask all of us, who is your god, America? Or, who are your gods? We seem to worship power as many in the church fall into political camps and seek to be seen with the future powers of America. Wealth appears to be another one of our gods because, as has been said lately, when you’re wealthy you can get away with anything. Perhaps we could spend a long time listing all of our gods, but the point is made: we have many gods that are worshiped in our country and the church isn’t doing a very good job of showing the difference between these gods and the One, True, God of the Universe.
Paul walked into a situation in Athens and was quite disturbed. He saw all the statues and icons to all the various gods that were worshiped. I don’t imagine that allegiance to these gods was a life changing commitment, perhaps it was cultural, perhaps the Athenians were just hedging their bets. Whatever the case may have been, Paul used his discomfort as an opportunity to preach the good news of Jesus. “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.” (Acts 17:23)
It is far too easy to believe that when people use the word “God” that they mean the same thing I mean when I say it. Perhaps they think they mean it. But in practice we have placed many things ahead of God in our lifestyles. Money becomes so important that we hoard it instead of using it to help others. We “keep score” with our wealth and try to make sure we are ahead of the other guy. I think if God were to use our wealth to “keep score” anything that we had stored away would be negative; the only positives would be when we used our wealth to help others. We place power and prestige on a pedestal. How many of us fawn before celebrities and powerful people, hoping to catch a crumb that falls from their “table?” It’s not that power and prestige are bad, or that money is bad, it all comes down to what we do with it. If we accumulate any of those at the cost of helping other people we are making it a god in our lives because that accumulation has become more important than God’s call to help others.
Most of us would deny worshiping any other god. We are ignorant of our own actions and how they define our relationship with the one true God. Deep in our hearts, we want to worship the true God, not realizing that in our search for wealth, possessions, or power that He has become an unknown God to us. It is time to read Paul’s words and take them to heart. It is time to seek this unknown God. Even if you claim to be a follower of Christ, if you have joined in with society in seeking after these other things not realizing that you were giving them god-like status in your life, as I did, look at Jesus with new eyes. Call on the God of grace who grants you mercy and forgiveness. Recommit yourself to the God who created this universe and has given us proof through the resurrection of Jesus. He loves you and wants to spend time with you. He doesn’t care about your earthly wealth, power, or prestige. He cares about you.
Lord God, how easy it is to be carried away by other desires. We can even rationalize that these desires will make us better servants. Keep us focuses on You, Lord. If these other things that so many people desire come our way, help us to use them to help others and serve You.