Excerpted from: Rock-Solid Living In A Quicksand World
Get your copy at:
Everybody Serves Somebody Sometimes
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
As we continue, let’s Briefly view the two stepping-stones we mentioned in the previous two chapters before going on to this one: First, we can step into the future by sending our treasures on ahead via serving others in a way that Jesus takes very personally. Second, it is important to have the right prescription for our spiritual eyes in order that we may see. Now we are ready for stepping-stone number three.
It is difficult for those of us living in the United States to think of ourselves as having masters. The roots of our country originally expressed just how free we are. Our ancestors reminded us that our Creator endowed us with “inalienable rights…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And though we may be flawed, until the quicksand started encroaching on our liberties, it was difficult to think in any other way. I think Americans tend to believe that we are “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
However, I am fairly certain that we can take a look around, and we will see how we humans can be mastered rather easily. Some are mastered by food. Check out the number of people who have chest-in-the-drawers disease or Dunlap’s disease because their abdomens have “done lapped” over their belts. Obesity can be seen everywhere in our culture, and billions of dollars are being spent each year to help people lose weight. Still more is spent on gym memberships and other programs to acquire those six-pack abs that overeating prevents us from acquiring.
Drugs can master a person as well. I spent years helping people who were mastered by marijuana, or “Mary Jane,” as we used to call it during the Vietnam era. Many people finding their way out of war zones bow to cocaine and heroin as their two-fisted taskmasters. Other people follow their family’s historical servitude to drugs. In fact, mere human beings can be mastered by just about every single human desire imaginable: from drinking to competing and from gambling to the very sacred passion of human sexuality. When these things master us, they are desires gone amuck. These activities may begin with conscious experimentation; however, the desires simply begin to own the one who once thought that he or she was in control. Then when these things take over, they become gods or idols that run our lives…making individuals and their families simply miserable.
The Little “God” That Competes With The True God.
One little god worthy of special note is mammon…the god of money. Now money is not, in and of itself, evil. We need it to buy the things we need to live. Our currency of exchange is vital to our well-being, but when we let money be our god, we are no longer on a rock-solid footing. When God is second place to the coinage in our lives, we are setting ourselves up for a whole lot of pain. Even when mammon is a close second, it can still rattle our contentment meter and cause it to move anxiously off the scale. Paul explains it this way in 1 Timothy 6:6–10:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have
wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Paul starts out talking about the solid concept of using our finances. He tells us that if we have godliness, and we couple that with contentment, we can have great gain. He sounds a whole lot like Jesus. He continues to assert that money has its place, and he points out that we did not bring anything into this world, so when we leave this world, we will not take it with us. (Don’t forget how we said that you can, however, send it on ahead by laying up your treasures in heaven.) His view of things is that contentment in life is the goal and the rock-solid plan. I believe Jesus would agree with him.
When does money become the god who robs us of contentment? Paul’s answer is straightforward and easy to understand: If you make it your goal to serve mammon or get rich rather than serve God, you are setting yourself up for some serious temptation…maybe even a trap. All kinds of foolish and harmful desires can consume you or “plunge” you into “ruin and destruction.”Why is this so? Paul explains further by saying that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” It’s not the only root of the tree of avarice (extreme greed for wealth or material gain), but it is indeed a part of the root system. In Paul’s generation—and I also think in ours—people had so much avarice that they had “wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” They really got themselves trapped in sinking sand. Their god was mammon, and its payoff was not a good thing at all.
Now I can almost imagine someone saying that I sound just like a preacher. I can also hear a demanding voice telling me that I should prove such a claim. Well let me say that I am proud to be put in the “preacher” category. And I ever so sadly can prove my point by giving the reader some case history. As I write, regret seeps in as I think of such names as Howard Hughes, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and others. These were people who started out with little, became insanely wealthy, and then could not handle the wealth—the wealth dealt them all a deathblow. Add to this list the millionaire sports figures whose wealth and fame overtook them, and you can see how devastating mammon can be in the life of a person who seeks first the kingdom of mammon and its accompanying “unrightwayness.”
Please remember, I am not saying that having money or wealth is a root of all evil. Many people have gained wealth, godliness, and contentment. They have learned how to be content with what they have, and they have given their wealth philanthropically and for the good of the kingdom of God. Some even give thanks to God and attribute their ability to get wealth as a gift from God. They have wealth; wealth does not have them. They have perspective because they see themselves as people who are here for the purpose of being contributors to the world around us.
A Vision of The Christ-Follower and Wealth
Remember the LORD your God, for it is He that gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenants, which He swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
A rock-solid financial spirituality begins with remembering God, and—as Paul says—God will “supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.” (See Philippians 4:19.) It is God who gives us the Good Shepherd who causes us to not be in want. (See Psalm 23:1.) It is in God “that we live and move and have our being.” (See Acts 17:28.) We even have our first and last breath in Him. (See Genesis 2:7.) All of life—all we have and are and ever hope to be—comes through God’s gifting grace to us as His children; therefore, as Christ followers who are in pursuit of rock-solid living, we need to improve our memory of God regarding His motivation for giving us wealth. That primary motivation is for us to get the money and use it for the purpose of establishing His covenant.
In the Old Testament, as well as in the New Testament— because Jesus came to fulfill the law and not to abolish it—God gave us a way of financially participating in God’s covenant making. He did this through the spiritual practice of giving the first 10 percent of the best of what we have to God for the purpose of establishing His covenant. (See Malachi 3:10–11 as well as Paul’s commentary on this concept in 1 Corinthians 16:2.) Jesus taught about this principle elsewhere in Luke 6:38, where He said, “Give and it shall be given you, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” This spiritual practice of giving in order to bring people into the covenant family of God helps us to reach out beyond ourselves, overcome selfishness, and to receive as well. (For information regarding God’s eternal covenant, read the book of Hebrews—especially Hebrews 9:12 and 10:10–24.)
A Way To See If Mammon Is Producing Sand Traps
There is a surefire way to determine if God is on the throne of your life or if mammon is sitting high and lifted up: Locate a worthy place (or places) to give for the good of the kingdom of God. Then take on a challenge to donate that first 10 percent of what you earn or of what your investments bring. Your response will speak volumes about what you truly believe.
When I served as a pastor, I realized that only a small percentage of people took on this 10-percent challenge as a part of life. Most believers put themselves on shaky sand. And this is a shame, because it really is true that we reap what we sow. If we sow very little, very little will come of it; however, if we intentionally sow in a God-directed way, in the eternal long run, we will find ourselves on solid ground. The power to acquire eternal wealth comes from the willingness, as followers of Jesus who is the Christ, to trust God first. Give to God first, and then wait and see what God will do.
Reader, what happens to you when you are asked to tithe (give the 10 percent)? Do you willingly step up to the plate in obedience to your Creator? Do you trust that He will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory? Do you step out on faith and take Him at His Word? Or do you shrink away from the blessing and let fear dominate your thinking rather than faith? Do you run from being a giver to the establishment of God’s covenant? Is your offering a random dollar or five dollars when they pass the plate? If this is your case, it’s time to reboot your stinking thinking. Please know God will take care of you.
Never forget Jesus’s admonition. You cannot serve two masters. You simply can’t. One of them will govern your life. One of them will bring you peace, and the other has a whole bunch of potential to cause you a whole lot of anxiety and strife. Jesus is not admonishing for the sake of making you feel worthless or bad. He is trying to put you on a solid foundation of living. He is stormproofing your journey. He is attempting to get you to send your treasures on ahead toward heaven. As you give unselfishly, you become blessed. He is trying to give you rock-solid living in this quicksand world. Indeed, He wants you to have a life now and throughout eternity.