Out of all the commandments, the most important for our globalizing age is the one almost no one understands, or expects to be relevant — the very second one:

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” – Exodus 20:4, KJV

If you’re in the habit of taking these stories literally, this verse is mostly irrelevant. Short of the crucifix, no one worships physical idols anymore, or believes they could capture God in such forms. Still, we claim to follow the first commandment; we claim to worship our God first.

It is presumptuous — a most dangerous hubris — to believe we can fully understand and represent the shape of God. Yet we adore our false idols, each of us, and prefer them.

Today, our idols are not built of gold and stone, but something worse: words and beliefs.

Not even Moses could see the whole of God on Sinai, face to face; not even the commandments he received that day could represent that authority in finality (or else, the Scripture would have simply ended there).

Set in stone, carved by lightning — not even this could capture the whole will of God. Yet we read these stories, see these words, and form our unshakable beliefs. We cling to them, righteously. We pretend that they are not built on a broken and relative human language (which has been so since the events at the Tower of Babel, where God shattered the possibility of an absolute language forever).

Still, we cling to these beliefs — these meager representations — as if we understood the fundamental nature of the divine. We hold our perfectly formed ideas on God and love, and politics and power, and the evil or good of others. We forget, or willfully ignore, that no human mind could conceive of such absolute perfection.

Instead, we use our beliefs like swords against our enemies (and we are always the righteous ones). We protect our egos in fear, and call it a leap of faith. We have pledged our allegiance to false idols, and nothing more.

To accept the second commandment is to accept, in perpetuity, your limitations on truly understanding the divine. In a world of selfishness and fear of others, that is perhaps the hardest Biblical lesson to learn.

We mostly claim to understand this, but do not actually live that way: we preach against, and vote to undermine, and attack our perceived enemies — all under the command of a false representation. We treat our beliefs as impenetrable, fundamental foundations. We each hold our golden calf, and worship it. We serve every other god, before the one.

Do not go to war for a false idol. Do not believe without question in a concept that could never, ever contain the whole of the divine. Know that God is always greater — greater even then your ideas of God, even when read directly from the Word (which, again, is carved out in our broken and idolic human language).

Instead, let yourself remain broken and incomplete, else you believe fully in a representation of a deity you claim to serve and foolishly understand. The Lord your God commands it.

Remember your idols, and allow yourself to be undermined.