THE REV. DUKE TUFTY, Unity Temple on the Plaza: There are many definitions of God. Some see God as an old man with white hair and beard sitting on a throne somewhere off in the far reaches of the sky. Some see God as an ever-present spirit or energy that is the very essence of existence. Still others see God as love and believe that to know God is to experience love.
Perhaps the easiest way to recognize God from a false god is by the presence of good. That which is not good is not of God.
A false God then would be something or somebody that one worships, idolizes, and willingly succumbs to that is not good. A false god may seem full of promise, but in the end it only devastates.
When a person gives up his power to make decisions based on what’s best for him, others and the world, in effect he is worshipping a false god. An addictive drug is a false god, offering promises of escape from one’s problems when in actuality it takes over and ruins one’s life. Not good.
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Many people worship the false god of alcohol. They dedicate themselves so fully to the substance that they are powerless under its temptation and influence. Not good.
If there is something in your life that takes you down, yet you persist in experiencing it in your life, you are in bed with a false god. Not good.
The truth of the matter is, you have complete control over your life. The spirit of God is within you providing for you everything you need to live the life you desire to live. That’s good.
THE REV. BOB HILL, pastor emeritus, Community Christian Church: A “false god” is any lie, any deception, any idol which we allow to occupy the place, position, and status of God in our lives.
Whenever we offer our utmost trust or allegiance to something other than our Creator — possessions, money, guns, a movement, a group, an idea — we commit idolatry and worship a false god.
Whenever insecurities, anxiousness, and fears prevail in our thoughts and deeds, false gods are near.
Whenever we make comprises with difficult truths, settle for deceptions, engage with life’s predicaments with willful ignorance, we succumb to false gods.
Whenever we render the mystery of the Divine completely comprehensible, we even make God into a false god. God’s majesty and glory always exceed our grasp.
The testimony of the Hebrew prophets, the proclamations of Jesus, and the witness of the early Church ring with alarm about such idolatry.
And the human saga is soaked with the blood of untold millions who suffered from leaders whose maniacal persuasiveness toward false gods resulted in history’s greatest tragedies, including Auschwitz, Cambodia’s killing fields, Soviet gulags, the Middle Passage, the Trail of Tears, and Boko Haram’s butchery, to mention just a few.
The key to answering the question lies in the word “something.” Anything can become a false god. Humble, fierce, honest, persistent wrestling with life’s situations can definitely help us resist false gods.