From Jim O'Brien
June 22, 2018

Hi Friend,

An End in Itself

When other avenues to bring man to God had failed, God chose to work with one nation. He promised Israel that they would be a special nation to Him above all nations on earth.

He wasn't racist. Simply stated, other strategies had not worked, so God chose to limit His focus to one group of people. The stated goal was for Israel to become a family of leaders and teachers to bring the world to God. (Exodus 19:6)

One rule was essential: "You shall have no other gods before me." (Deut. 5:7) Everything else would fall into place if they obeyed this rule. Just don't create a false god. Seems fair enough.

How do you define a false god? A false god is anything that is an end in itself. In other words, anything that doesn't bring a person closer to the Creator God is, by default, a false god.

The concept may best be explained by an experience at a local restaurant.

It was one of those special afternoons when Chris was still in high school that he and I could get away for a father-son lunch. I have a fondness for Steak & Shake-maybe because it's a throwback to the '50's style hamburger joint or it could be my penchant for the pepper sauce-or maybe I'm just cheap. Chris is easy to please so we found our table among the familiar black and white tiles and perused the menu.

The waitress was a polite blonde with a noticeably strong accent so after we exchanged pleasantries I asked where she was from. She told me Russia and the conversation commenced.

I wondered how she had come to live the in U.S. "My father is the concertmaster of the Columbus Philharmonic Orchestra," she replied. Her family moved here for his work and she naturally followed.

While friendly, she didn't sound happy to be living here. "Do you miss your homeland?" I asked.

For the first time there was a spark of excitement. "Oh, Yes!" she said with obvious feeling.

Maybe I expected her to be in awe of America or maybe just excited about the chance to travel but I sensed she was disappointed with the country that I love so I continued.

"What is the biggest difference you have found between the cultures of Russia and the United States?" I asked.

I was not prepared for her answer. Without missing a beat she replied, "In Russia we are much more spiritual!" Of all the answers I might have expected, this was at the bottom of the list.

"But Russia had many years of atheism," I protested.

"Oh," she replied, "but we have the arts, music and dance. In America, people like 'things,'" she said with a voice that seemed to be trying not to offend.

She was right that Americans love things yet her response left an obvious void. Can the arts replace God? Is it an end in itself to listen to music, watch a ballet or gaze at colors on a canvas?

Listening to the Hallelujah Chorus brings me closer to God. As a teenager I walked through the Chicago Art Museum and saw American Gothic for the first time and was brought to tears. But neither of those events were an end-they took me to a place of appreciation of God.

That cannot be said of ALL music or ALL art. Music that is demeaning of women is bad music. Putting a crucifix in urine is bad art.

It is an undeniable truth of life. Removing God from anything in life eliminates the intrinsic value it might otherwise have. To make anything an end in itself is to break the great commandment that gives meaning to everything in life.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien