All the Little Gods
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac . . . Hebrews 11:17-18
When I lost my job as an Emergency Room physician due to my addiction, I realized that I’d lost a large part of my identity. I enjoyed the respect and prestige that came with that job. When someone came up to me at the store and reminded me of how I’d helped them, I got something out of that. When I lost the job, all that was gone, possibly for good. I had a lot of other things going on at the time, so I didn’t have a lot of energy to dwell on it, but over the years, I’ve had more time to think about it.
I didn’t get my ER job back, but I did get my career back as a physician. If I’m honest though, my identity is still defined – perhaps more than it should be – by my job. If it were taken away again, I’d be more than a little lost. Being a physician is a good thing and I should find pride in it. It is not however, my primary identity. As a Christian, it must be my faith that defines my life above all.
Today’s passage illustrates this. In it, the author of Hebrews recounted the Old Testament story where God commanded Abraham to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice. It’s a gruesome test that I have a hard time comprehending, but in it, God asked Abraham to choose between God and Isaac, his only son. Abraham consented, but God stopped him before any harm came to Isaac. God needed to push Abraham to force him to remove Isaac from the throne of his life. Isaac wasn’t a god and though he was a blessing, if Abraham tried to make a god of him, he would become self-destructive to Abraham.
If I’m honest, I have a lot of similar little gods. They aren’t bad things. In fact, they’re all good things – my marriage, my kids, my job – that can become bad things, if I put them in the place of God. if I truly believe in God, then my primary identity is to be defined by my faith in him. When I put anything, even good things, in that place, they crumble under the weight. My wife and kids can’t replace God and I shouldn’t ask them to try. My job cannot provide me with the true joy, purpose, and meaning I seek in life. The only way I can properly enjoy the blessings God has allowed me is to place him above all else. Only in God can I find that answers to all of my life’s greatest needs.