Monday, September 29, 2014

God and Mammon

Life of Christ 128

          Jesus and His Apostles are traveling and preaching through Perea in the months immediately prior to His crucifixion. In our story today (Luke 16) we find Jesus primarily instructing the Apostles (Luke 16.1). He had been focused on them like a laser since the previous summer. He knew His time was almost gone, and He had to prepare them to be the human foundation of the Church (Ephesians 2.20). One of the great temptations that come to church leaders is money, and He gives this chapter primarily to prevent these problems, and to help the Apostles view and use money correctly in the Church.
          To me, the centerpiece of the entire chapter is this: 'No servant 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. Ye cannot serve God and mammon' (Luke 16.13).
          Money is one of those demanding things that occupies more and more of your attention, priority, emphasis, and life if you allow it. Like the infamous kudzu of the South, it easily gets out of control and swallows up everything. In this sense, it reminds me of God. I say this carefully – neither God nor money is ever content with the amount of attention you pay it. God always wants more of you, and so does money.
          Money, like fire, is very useful if it is carefully controlled and used, but an uncontrolled appetite for it destroys everything in its path. 'For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows' (I Timothy 6.10).
          Because of this, if a person's life is out of control in the area of money they will automatically have a bad relationship with the Lord. 'You cannot serve God and mammon' at the same time and with the same passion. I want to be careful to say here that money is not wrong, nor is getting money wrong. The Bible is clear about these things. But if we let it take control, or rather, get out of control in our life, it will ruin many things, including first of all our relationship with the Lord.
          Let us look, now, briefly at the specific lessons about money which Christ lays before the leadership of the Church in this chapter. First, money used wisely brings rewards in the next world (Luke 16.8-9). Jesus commended the unjust steward, not for being unjust, but for preparing a place to receive him later by acting carefully now. As I understand this chapter it is not allegorical, in the sense that it is actually about money and how I am to approach it and handle it. Thus, if I handle the stewardship of my money, in this life, carefully I will find it has helped to prepare my everlasting habitation (Luke 16.9). I do not mean by this that you and I can purchase Heaven, but when we invest our earthly money in the Lord's work it will reap us eternal dividends.
          I learned this at the age of 14 or so, when I first began working in ministries in my local church. I discovered that they cost me money. But what I was purchasing with that money was not the treats for a Sunday School class or the necessary equipment for a youth activity, no, I was purchasing investments in the kingdom of God. I am now the exact reverse of the age at which I first learned this and I cannot think of a single better thing to do with my money then to invest it in the Lord's work. This is a wise use of money.
          Next, we learn in this chapter that we should not expect God to trust us with a lot unless we have learned to handle the little we do have wisely (Luke 16.10). We often think our financial problems would be solved if we just had as much money as so-and-so. The truth is that we would almost certainly soon find ourselves in the same bad financial situation. The problem is not how much money we have; the problem is how we steward the money that we do have. Another way of saying this is that we do not have a money problem. We have a stewardship problem.
          Third, there is a direct connection between how we handle our money and what God trusts us with in more spiritual areas (Luke 16.11). This, alone, does not supersede other biblical principles about money. However, all other things being equal, if we handle money wisely God looks at us and says, 'There is a person I can trust with true spiritual riches.'
          What are those riches? That would make for an interesting study, but here are several examples:  learning more of 'the unsearchable riches of Christ' (Ephesians 3.8), being 'rich in faith' (James 2.5), and experiencing fiery trials and the blessings they bring 'that thou mayest be rich' (Revelation 3.18).
          Lastly, all the money in the world will not help the wicked man when he dies. The entire last half of Luke 16 is the story of the rich man who died without faith as contrasted with poor Lazarus who wound up in Heaven. Money will not keep you out of hell. Money will not buy you one drink of water in hell. Money will not comfort you one whit in hell. Money will not buy you a hearing from those you love once you are in hell. It will not do a blooming thing for you after you die.
        Long before a love of money is evidenced in our lives, and we fall away from God, it grows unchecked in the unseen corners of our heart. 'No servant 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. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts' (Luke 16.13-15).
          Guard your heart. Do not let money get out of control in your life. Use it scripturally and wisely. Keep it in its proper place so that you may continue to serve God. It must be done if you are to serve Him for the long term.

          'Ye cannot serve God and mammon.'

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