What is a god? A god is to that which we give great, or ultimate importance. For the Christian, the one true God, three persons in one being, fits this definition. The First Commandment says, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them".
Our God is a jealous god. It’s not that our having devotion to another god takes away anything from him; He’s perfect, after all. No. Our devotion to another god takes away from us, from what we can become because of Him. As our Lord said, “God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”.
That is the lens through which we should look at all that God has done and said. His ultimate purpose is we each have eternal life - the life of heaven. As Paul says, God “desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth”.
In our Gospel, we see a young man who lives externally the life of a Jew. He keeps the commandments: “‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Yet, he knew something was missing.
He knew, at a very deep level, that he didn’t have eternal life. He obviously wanted eternal life - at least until he found out what it would cost him. When Jesus told him to sell all he had and follow Him, he realized that he couldn’t - or wouldn’t - give his riches away to the poor.
Was his devotion to the riches? Was it to the relationships that the riches afforded him? Was it the social standing? We don’t know, but whatever it was, it was his own personal god, a god he could not forsake.
Let’s look at a few more examples from the Bible of people choosing who, or what, they would have as their god.
The prophet Isaiah tells us the following. “How you have fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’"
Lucifer, whom we know better by his title, Satan, or Adversary, fell because he believed he was greater than his Creator! He made himself his own god, and he took one third of all the angels with him.
At the same time, there was an archangel who chose to have his Creator as the God whom he would worship. He is called the Commander of the Heavenly Host, and his name means “who is like God?”. That name is Michael.
The third is the Theotokos. This past week, we celebrated the completion of her time on this earth, the Feast of the Dormition. But earlier, much earlier in her life, the Archangel Gabriel came to her, calling her κεχαριτομένη, full of grace. He explained to her that, while yet a virgin, she would give birth to Christ, God with us. Think about that. She was maybe 12 or 13 years old. Although she was betrothed to Joseph, she knew that it was likely that he would divorce her, and that she would be stoned as an adulteress. But how did she reply? “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you’ve said”. She knew who her God was, and she chose to follow Him without regard to the cost.
At the end of this Gospel, Matthew records the commission Jesus gave to the Apostles - go into all the world, making disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Church tells us that when we are baptized, we are baptized as priest, prophet, and king - sharing with Christ in those offices. So, we can say that we each share in that commission He gave to the apostles.
We are ambassadors for Christ.
Luke relates to us the story of Jesus sending out 72 disciples - not the apostles, just laymen, to visit towns, spreading the Gospel. He told them this.
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you. . . . When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
- Bid them peace
- Fellowship with them
- Minister to them. Then, and only after those three things
Now, not all are called to preach. But all of us can bring peace, have fellowship, and minister in love.
We’re not required to give all our goods to the poor. We ARE required to bring peace, fellowship, and blessing.