The Big One

Michael Wittmer

READ : Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. (v. 4)

Asia is littered with an assortment of Buddhist statues. Not only do these statues strike different poses (there are standing, sitting, and reclining Buddhas), but they also meet a variety of needs. Some Buddhas are asked to deliver babies, others a good harvest, and still others safety at sea. And so they betray the true nature of popular Buddhism.

H. Richard Neibuhr wrote that all polytheists, whether they are Buddhists in China or Baal worshipers in Canaan, really care only for themselves. They protect their own interests by diversifying their portfolio of deities, hedging their bets with a variety of gods in case one or another fails to come through. In this manner the self is the real god. The worshiper uses each deity the way we use our medicine cabinet, matching the right power to the specific problem.

God answers this self-absorbed polytheism with the most central command in the entire covenant: we must commit undivided loyalty to Yahweh, the one true God. Rather than use God as our cosmic bellhop, speaking to him only when we need a favor, we will remember that God does not exist for our benefit, but we exist for his.


Father, may my allegiance to you be as undivided as you are.