Can you name the ten commandments? I always have to look them up in Exodus 20:3. Riddle me this: What’s the one commandment Christians break most without even realizing it? Just a clue—it’s not lie, steal, or adultery. It’s the one that we Christians break the most and suspect it the least. Another clue – Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment. He said in Matthew 22:37, To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. I think He knew this would be a trap so camouflaged, we’d all step into it.
The answer: the very first one! “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Yep. Now, I don’t have studies or research numbers to support my claim. It is only my opinion, based on a few known facts. As we go about living our Christian lives, sending our kids to Christian school, attending church, doing good, and appearing “holier than thou” on the outside, and perhaps believing it on the inside, there are several carrots Satan dangles before us to which we can so gullibly fall prey. Money, beauty, desires or lusts, ambitions, sports, prestige, academics, and placing value on the things of this world, just to name a few.
The love of money is the root of all evil. (1 Timothy 6:10) Life is driven by money. We work for a paycheck. That check pays our mortgage, buys groceries, nice clothes, cars, etc. We think of it as a necessity. We worry if we don’t have enough to do…whatever we desire at the time. But, be careful that gaining it or having it doesn’t become more important to us than God.
Beauty is vain, but a woman (or man) who fears the Lord shall be praised. (Proverbs 31:30) We all want to look our best. We can diet, have a workout routine, get tan, go to the beauty parlor, and take advantage of many other resources to attain a more perfect appearance. But we can get so caught up in trying to improve our looks, that it can easily become more important than putting God first.
When we think we don’t struggle with desire or lust, we are wrong. “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15) Pornography in many packages and sexual immorality attracts Christians like flies to fly paper, but it is not the only form of desire or lust. We can have strong desires for things that on the outside seem to be good but have the potential to become all-consuming. Things like attaining more education, landing that all coveted promotion at work, being your best at a sport, making sure you get that particular scholarship, etc., can become so important to us that we lose sight of God and His will for our lives. When we give in to that temptation, we love that desire or lust more than God and place it before Him in our lives.
Which leads me straight into my next point. Some might say ambition is good and indeed it can be when it is according to God’s will. We “ought to say, if the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:15) But when we become so driven by our ambitions that we no longer seek God’s direction, those ambitions can come between us and God.
I’ve saved the biggest for last. In all honesty, loving pleasures more than loving God may be the one Satan-dangling carrot I struggle with most. I have been examining my life, and there may be times when I place my love of pleasure (or fun) before God. Who doesn’t like to have fun, right? God wants us to have fun, relax, and laugh, but not more than we love Him. I do not want to be guilty of any of these things. “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (2 Timothy 3:1-4) God wants us to love Him before all things, and when we don’t, He is hurt and jealous because He loves us so much.
Thanks to the promise made in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” There is a reason why Jesus summed up the law with two commandments. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) Next, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) That’s a lot of loving and we know that our spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24