I have noticed that it is impossible to enjoy some of God’s loveliest gifts when they are given the wrong position of allegiance. Food, sex, relationship, exercise, beauty, family, perhaps even alcohol can bring happiness. By themselves, they are neither good nor bad, but once we give them more allegiance than God, they slowly stop being sources of joy and become cruel masters. The food addict craves rich food, remembering how sweet it tasted in the past, then continues to eat even when he would like to stop and no longer enjoys it. It’s not the object itself but its position relative to God that determines whether it will be a blessing or an evil.
In fact, the more lovely and noble something could be, such as romantic love or motherly love, the greater potential it has to be idolized. The wonderful and overly quoted C.S. Lewis says, “We may give our human loves the unconditional allegiance which we owe only to God. Then they become gods: then they become demons. Then they will destroy us, and also destroy themselves. For natural loves that are allowed to become gods do not remain loves. They are still called so, but can become in fact complicated forms of hatred” (The Four Loves).
Probably the strongest master is self. We wish our selves to be happy and feed them constantly, yet they become more and more difficult to satisfy. I try not to laugh when I hear people quote the line from Hamlet “To thine own self be true.” They never seem to remember that it was spoken by one of literature’s greatest fools (Polonius) in a speech filled with ridiculous advice. It was meant to be comical. Self and everything else in life must be submitted to God or it will destroy us. Obeying the first commandment “You shall have no other Gods before me” is not a burden. It does not strip our lives of fun or fulfillment. In acknowledging the truth, that God really is first in the universe, we restore everything else to its rightful place and are once again free to enjoy it.
“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12).
The truth is that you will be mastered by something. “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).