Serving God and Mammon
Sermon On The Mount - Matthew 6:19-24
Matthew 6:19-24 MKJV Do not lay up treasures on earth for yourselves, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. (20) But lay up treasures in Heaven for yourselves, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. (21) For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (22) The light of the body is the eye. Therefore if your eye is sound, your whole body shall be full of light. (23) But if your eye is evil, your whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (24) No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Jesus actually has our best interests in mind when tell us to get our priorities right in the area of money. He is not asking us to live in penury, rather He is asking us to live a life that maximizes our eternal rewards.
Jesus knows that money is round and rolls away. He knows that moths can eat the curtains and thieves can break in and steal the silverware. Money is a temporary good whereas grace is a permanent good. Money may be useful but grace is essential. Money is a means and not an end, we do not seek money for its own sake but for what it can do to provide for our families and help others. Once money becomes and end, becomes something we want for its own sake then it becomes an idol and can ruin the spiritual life of the Christian.
Most of what God does in our lives happens without money:
We are saved by faith and redeemed without silver or gold but by the precious blood of Jesus.1 Peter 1:18-19 MKJV knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, silver or gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers, (19) but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot;
We receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands and it is a gift that cannot be bought with money.Acts 8:18-21 MKJV And when Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given through laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, (19) saying, Give me this power also, that on whomever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Spirit. (20) But Peter said to him, May your silver perish with you, because you have thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. (21) You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.
We are healed without the need for cash: Acts 3:6 MKJV But Peter said, Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!
The world of money and the world of spirituality are entirely separate. God created the heavens and the earth without money, parted the Red Sea without money, sent fire down on Mt Carmel in answer to Elijah's prayer -without money and Jesus fed five thousand people, healed hundreds of people and raised the dead without needing cash for any of those activities.
In the end the separation between cash and the Kingdom will be total:
Revelation 13:16-18 MKJV (16) And it causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark on their right hand, or in their foreheads, (17) even that not any might buy or sell except those having the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of its name. (18) Here is the wisdom. Let him having reason count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. And its number is six hundred and sixty-six.
In the end you will be either in the economy or in the Kingdom, you will either be able to buy and sell in the market, or you will be able to go to Heaven. Those who still buy and sell will be those go to Hell, and those who are renounce money will be those who go to Heaven.
There are two worlds here:
The temporary commercial world called Babylon or the “kingdoms of this world”. It is run by “the god of this world” - Satan. During the temptation in the wilderness Satan offered this whole system to Jesus and Jesus refused. Babylon is alluring and powerful but is passing away and is perishing. This commercial world operates by human and demonic effort and involves earning, buying and selling. It is arranged according to wealth and power. It is a jungle and the ruthless do very well. It is proud, fierce, destructive and sometimes even deadly. It consumes people and uses them up.1 John 2:15-17 MKJVDo not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, (16) because all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (17) And the world passes away, and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever.
The eternal world of faith and grace and glory known as Heaven, the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom operates by grace and by giving and receiving, it is gentle and healing and lowly and humble and alive. It restores and redeems people and blesses them. Matthew 10:7-16 MKJV And as you go, proclaim, saying, The kingdom of Heaven is at hand. (8) Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. You have received freely, freely give. (9) Do not provide gold nor silver, nor copper in your purses, (10) nor a bag for the journey, nor two coats, nor sandals, nor staves. For the workman is worthy of his food.
These two worlds are spiritually separate and under totally different Masters. One is run by the Devil and the other is run by God. But God is ultimately in charge! The Devil does not own all the money - rather God does and God will shake it out of the Devil's pockets:
Haggai 2:6-9 MKJV For so says Jehovah of Hosts: Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land. (7) And I will shake all the nations; and the desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory, says Jehovah of Hosts. (8) The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, says Jehovah of Hosts. (9) The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former, says Jehovah of Hosts. And in this place I will give peace, says Jehovah of Hosts.
The silver and gold are God's but Satan has usurped them into an evil trading system. The bible says Satan fell because his abundance of trade corrupted him. (Ezekiel 28:5,15). Mammon is the bible's term for this demonic use of money. It is money used and as an idol or as an evil and oppressive power which takes hold of people and dominates their lives.
If we serve God, then He will provide what we need, when we need it -including the silver and gold needed to build His temple. But if we chase after money we can be spiritually destroyed:1 Timothy 6:6-10 MKJV But godliness with contentment is great gain. (7) For we brought nothing into the world, and it is clear that we can carry nothing out. (8) But having food and clothing, we will be content. (9) But they who will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts which plunge men into destruction and perdition. (10) For the love of money is a root of all evils, of which some having lusted after, they were seduced from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Simplicity - Do Not Lay Up Treasures For Yourselves On Earth
Jesus tells us not to lay up treasures for ourselves on earth. In other words do not be materialistic (lay up treasures) or selfish (for yourself) or spiritually short-sighted (on earth). In chapter 12 of Luke's gospel Jesus tells a well known parable to illustrate this point:
Luke 12:15-21 MKJV And He said to them, Watch and keep yourselves from covetousness. For a man's life is not in the abundance of the things which he possesses. (16) And He spoke a parable to them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully. (17) And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room in which to store my fruits? (18) And he said, I will do this. I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and I will store all my fruits and my goods there. (19) And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years. Take your ease, eat drink and be merry. (20) But God said to him, Fool! This night your soul shall be required of you, then whose shall be those things which you have prepared? (21) So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.
proper Christian attitude is illustrated in chapter 8 of Mark's gospel:
Mark 8:34-38 MKJV And calling near the crowd with His disciples, He said to them, Whoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. (35) For whoever will save his life shall lose it; but whoever shall lose his life for My sake and the gospel's, he shall save it. (36) For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? (37) Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (38) Therefore whoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My Words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man shall also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
In other words Christians are to take up their cross and live lightly and simply for the sake of the gospel. Living lightly and simply is not the same as living for ten years in a brown paper bag on a barbed wire fence. You do not have to be extreme, you can keep your job and praise the Lord if you earn a good salary. But it is how you use that salary that matters. If your salary is simply a means to purchase ever more and more possessions and to fill up your barns to overflowing so you can selfishly sit back and take your ease - then you are like the fool in Luke's parable. But if your salary is being used to help the poor and support your relatives and bless God's servants wherever they are and is an active instrument for good, and you live simply so that other may simply live - then your salary is being used well.
Now I am not going to dictate what sort of car you can drive or what sort of house you can own. An extremely wealthy person may be able to drive a Rolls-Royce without being unduly materialistic. A simple question that might help is:
Are the good things you own in circulation for God?
Do you lend your time, talent and treasure to good causes?
Are your possessions seen as God's possessions to be used for His glory?
Are you giving and receiving, sowing and reaping?
Now I am not saying this out of concern for Minda and I or out of concern for the church finances. Minda and I are doing fine and are happy with what God has provided. The Church will manage. My concern is with the state of your own soul. I want you to be free of materialism and able to earn a lasting eternal reward.
Which bring us to the next point of “laying up treasure in Heaven”.
Savings - But
Lay Up Treasures In Heaven For Yourselves
Now at first the idea of “treasure in Heaven” sounds like a confidence trick made up by a televangelist. It seems shady to promise people a reward they cannot see and a time they cannot determine with no human method of verifying that such a reward exists. That is why I spent so much time marking out the difference between the commercial world and the eternal world. The eternal world is on a whole other plane of reality to that which we commonly experience and is much deeper, more lasting and more significant.
Lets look at two completely contrasting people - Moses and the Rich Young Ruler
Hebrews 11:24-26 MKJV Having become great, Moses by faith refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, (25) choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a time, (26) esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
Mark 10:17-31 MKJV And when He had gone out into the way, one came running up and kneeled to Him, and asked Him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? (18) And Jesus said to him, Why do you call Me good? No one is good except one, God. (19) You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and your mother. (20) And he answered and said to Him, Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth. (21) Then Jesus, beholding him, loved him and said to him, One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in Heaven. And come, take up the cross and follow Me. (22) And he was sad at that saying and went away grieved, for he had great possessions. (23) And Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, How hardly those having riches will enter into the kingdom of God! (24) And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answering again said to them, Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! (25) It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich one to enter into the kingdom of God. (26) And they were astonished beyond measure, saying to themselves, And who can be saved? (27) And Jesus looking on them said, With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible. (28) Then Peter began to say to Him, Lo, we have left all and have followed You. (29) And Jesus answered and said, Truly I say to you, There is no man that has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for my sake and the gospel's sake, (30) but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands with persecutions, and in the world to come, eternal life. (31) But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
Moses and the Rich Young Ruler were both people of power and privilege. But Moses walked away from it all and chose the Kingdom instead. Moses remains in history as a spiritual giant while the Rich Young Ruler is forgotten.
Jesus tells us that people who trust in riches find it very difficult to enter the Kingdom of God. They just cannot take up their cross and follow Jesus. They cannot walk away from it all. They think they can, but when it comes down to the actual moment, they cannot. At the final moment when their soul is at stake they chose to dwell in Babylon.
But some people do escape the gravitational pull of riches and this world and break through into the Kingdom of God. One of them was the rather spoiled son of an Italian cloth merchant.
Bernadone was born in Assisi in 1182 to Pietro and Picca Bernadone. Pietro
was a cloth merchant and probably the richest man in Assisi. He anticipated
even more wealth as the young Francis had demonstrated keen business skills.
Francis, however, was unlike his greedy father. Rich in natural virtue, he was
always quick to share his good fortune with his friends and even with the poor.
Known as the king of youth, for his joyful nature and popularity, his primary
aspiration was to be a knight.
In 1205, an opportunity arose to fight for Pope Innocent III. Francis jumped at the opportunity, but thirty miles into the excursion he fell ill. As he recuperated, he heard the voice of God asking him: Francis who can do more for you the lord or the servant? Francis answered, the lord. God replied: Then why do you leave the lord for the servant, a rich lord for a poor man?And Francis asked, Lord, what would you have me do? God said, Return home and you will be told what to do. From then on, Francis began to desire to serve the King of kings and to be a holy knight in His court.
Francis was a changed man, but the interior battle every soul must face had just begun. His love grew for the poor, and Francis himself began to embrace a life of poverty. In 1206, while on a journey, Francis met a leper and was immediately repulsed; but overcoming his lower nature, he reached out and embraced the man. Afterwards, he exclaimed, what had formerly been bitter, had become sweet; and what was formerly sweet, had become bitter. As he came to recognize Jesus in the poor and His beauty and Providence in nature, his conversion deepened.
One day while Francis was praying before the now famous San Damiano crucifix, especially pondering Our Lord's will, Jesus spoke to him from the cross: Francis, repair My house which, as you can see, has fallen into ruin. Immediately, Francis began to rebuild the church of San Damiano, which was in ill-repair, and other churches as well. He begged supplies for the love of God. At first people mocked Francis thinking he was crazy, but his Gospel witness soon inspired a band of followers which included his former party friends, nobility, and clergy. He even won the support of Bishop Guido of Assisi who recognized grace working in the Poverello. His father, however, remained indignant.
In 1209, a formal way of life was adopted by Francis. After Mass, he was inspired to open the Scriptures three times. The three verses were as follows: 1) If you would be perfect, go and sell all you have and give to the poor, and follow me; 2) Take nothing with you for the journey; and 3) If any man will follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. Francis determined that he and his followers would observe these words of Our Lord without interpretation, and that they would be known as the Penitents of Assisi.
In 1210, Francis and his early followers journeyed to Rome to seek the approval of Pope Innocent III. The Holy Father, moved profoundly by Francis' apparent sanctity, blessed him and his companions and verbally approved the early rule. (The formal rule of the Friars Minor, still observed by Franciscans today, was written much later and approved in 1223.) Having labored joyfully to rebuild three churches, and ever sensitive to the Holy Spirit, Francis came to realize that God was using the order not merely to restore dilapidated buildings, but to rebuild the Church weakened by the secularism that threatens her in every age. His charity, humility, penance and preaching, and devotions, inspired many to return to the Gospel. His imitation of Jesus Crucified and countless miracles sparked a great renewal.
I do not know if you have seen the movie “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” about the life of St. Francis of Assisi but it gives a very moving account of his life and his Kingdom lifestyle.
There is treasure in heaven and people such as Moses, Jesus, Paul and St. Francis see this clearly. Once you get a glimpse of the glory of eternity and the temporary nature of human wealth and status then logic alone will make you change to a free and non-materialistic lifestyle. Consider living for a million years, what use is a 2005 Lexus then? It has rusted away long before! All this stuff will be dust and rust. Only who we are in Christ will matter then. If you are going to live forever there is no value in anything that is temporary.
Simplicity vs. Poverty
Because this is a confusing topic for some people I want to clarify the main fear-that Jesus is asking us to be impractical and poor. In fact I will show that Jesus is asking us to live lightly and generously in confident God-blessed Christian simplicity. The difference between simplicity and poverty is that with Christian simplicity we are in control, it is our choice and we live obediently and reverently and generously under the blessing of God. With poverty the circumstances are in control and people are pushed down in life. Poverty is always a bad thing. Simplicity is liberating and joyful. Poverty is oppressive and miserable. Simplicity says, “I am not going to let “things” or “fashions” be in control of my life.” It is taking control of how you live and not letting Madison Avenue and Hollywood run the show for you. Simplicity frees us from being controlled by “the world”. The first step in Christian simplicity is knowing where your finances are going so you can decide how to use money in a godly manner. You first have to take control of your money-and then direct it to where the Lord wants it to go. There are seven main priorities for Christian finances:
Supporting yourself, your family members and your aged parents. (1 Timothy 5:4,8)
Supporting those who teach you the Word. (Galatians 6:6, 1 Timothy 5:17,18)
Paying taxes to the government. (Romans 13:6,7)
Blessing itinerant apostles, prophets and evangelists. ( 3 John 1:5-8)
Giving to the poor and needy. (Matthew 19:21)
International relief especially for suffering Christians so there may be equality in the body of Christ. (2 Corinthians 8;10-15)
Giving to worthy Christian projects such as building the Tabernacle. (Exodus 35:22-29)
Now it is up to each Christian to decide how to implement these Scriptural guidelines -under the gracious guidance of the Holy Spirit. Giving should be free and willing and “not under compulsion” (2 Corinthians 8;12, 9:7, Exodus 35:22-29). Christian simplicity is living free from “the world” so that we may serve Christ in His Kingdom. So we have a choice between a temporary economy that satisfies the flesh or an eternal economy that satisfies the spirit. We can look at our bank account and say 'all is well' or at Christ and say 'all is well'. We can trust in the greenback or in God. We can run ourselves into exhaustion on the materialistic treadmill of the world or we can join Jesus in the refreshing life of the Kingdom.
Seeing - The Heart And The Eye (Desire)
Jesus then goes on to talk about the way we see life:
Matthew 6:21-23 (21) For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (22) The light of the body is the eye. Therefore if your eye is sound, your whole body shall be full of light. (23) But if your eye is evil, your whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
In Bible language the eye is the source of desire:
Ecclesiastes 2:10 MKJV And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them; I did not withhold my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labor, and this was my part of all my labor.
And when this desire is out of control it is called the “lust of the eyes”:
1 John 2:16 MKJV because all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
Our heart tends to follow after what we treasure and admire and value. As Jesus says; For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
So what we desire and aim for has a huge bearing on our inner life. If people desire pornography and images of lust fill their inner world - how great the darkness! If people desire power and ego and images of dominance fill them so they become dark and ruthless - how great the darkness! And if people crave wealth and money and possessions so they become cold and selfish and materialistic - how great the darkness! By contrast if people visualize compassion and grace and revival and healing and desire the things of the Kingdom and the glory of God. If people desire a community of love and peace - then they are full of light and glory and are children of God.
Service - God Not Mammon
In the end Jesus leaves us with no room to wiggle out of His sayings. We cannot have it both ways:
Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Money is a useful slave but a terrible Master. It is the commandments of Jesus not the dictates of Wall St that should decide the directions of our lives. It is not a case of “he who dies with the most toys wins”. When push comes to shove we must always obey Christ. If it is a choice of obeying the budget or the Bible, we must obey the Bible.
Some Christians manage vats amounts of money, but they rule that money and manage it and it serves Kingdom interests. You must own the money, the money must not own you!
How do we know we are free from the love of money? Here are four tests:
If we can give our money away freely without having regrets.
If we see finances simply as a tool and a servant of a higher agenda.
If the ups and downs of our finances do not produce any greater anxiety in us than the natural ups and downs in the weather.
If we find it easy to be honest, to pay our taxes and show financial responsibility.
If you can do these four things then you are free from the love of money. We need to live as citizens of heaven and participants in the Kingdom of God participating in the economy of Heaven of giving and receiving, of living by the commands of Christ, with our eyes and hearts set things above.
Philippians 4:8 MKJV Finally, my brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think on these things.
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