God or Mammon - Whom Do You Serve?
December 31, 2006
Matthew 6:19-21, 24
*/Focus:/*/ Mammon seeks to control our lives, but with God’s strength we can oppose this false god./
*Introduction: Even Disciples Need to Think about Money*
A missionary traveling in Africa said, “While traveling in Ghana, I learned that in the dominant language of Ghana the only way to ask the question, “What is your religion?” is to ask, “Whom do you serve?” “ I like that!
It does answer the question doesn’t it?
Regardless of denominational loyalties and official creeds, your true god is the one you serve.
Whom do you serve?
That’s the question Jesus puts before us in three of the four gospels.
He wants us to understand that we must make a choice.
We can serve God, or we can serve money.
We cannot serve both.
In Matthew chapter 6 you will find your key passage for this morning.
Turn there now – Matthew chapter 6.
After exhorting us to privately give to the needy, pray, and fast, Jesus intertwines His teaching with the strong reminder that “your Father in heaven sees everything and will reward you”.
Then while we are still mulling over what “reward” means, Jesus says some strong words about how we should handle our money.
Follow along as I read verses 19 through 21: /“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Skip verses 22 and 23 for the time being and look at verse 24 for the ultimate warning about money: /"No one can serve two masters.
For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and money.”
/ Luke 16:13 says the same thing.
Money, now more than ever, is a problem.
We live in a materialistic society where many people serve money.
They spend their lives collecting and storing it and spending it.
Their desire for money far outweighs their desire to serve God.
That’s why Jesus slipped in verses 22 and 23.
Look at them with me now: /“The eye is the lamp of the body.
So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, \\ but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.
If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
“ /Spiritual vision is our ability to see things from God’s point of view.
But when it comes to money our “spiritual eyes” are often clouded and dark.
Jesus doesn’t tell us it’s unwise to serve both.
He doesn’t tell us it’s difficult to serve both.
He doesn’t tell us it’s spiritually immature to serve both.
He tells us it’s impossible to serve both.
He tells us we must make a choice.
He knew that whatever you store up, you will spend much of your time and energy thinking about: where your treasure is, there your heart is.
I would guess that if I put it to a vote this morning—all those in favor of serving God raise your hands, and all those in favor of serving Mammon raise your hands—God would win a decisive victory.
I think it would probably be unanimous because, after all, we’re sitting in a sanctuary devoted to the worship of God, not the worship of money.
But before we get too comfortable thinking we’ve already settled this issue in our lives, we would do well to remember that these words of Jesus were addressed to disciples, to those who had already decided to follow Jesus and trust his God.
Jesus thought that it’s precisely people like us who need reminding of this choice between God and money.
And if we need reminding of this choice, it’s because we constantly underestimate the power of money.
Jesus did not.
Neither did Paul.
Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 to: : /“Tell those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone.
But their trust should be in the living God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.
Tell them to use their money to do good.
They should be rich in good works and should give generously to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them.
By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of real life.
“ /Prior to this passage, in the tenth verse, Paul uttered the now well-known warning, /“for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil….”
/ In 1 Timothy 6:11 Paul told Timothy to /“run from all evil things for people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.”/
Mammon Is a Personal Force*
It’s very interesting that Jesus gave money a Semitic name: /Mammon/.
This was not a part of the culture.
We find no parallels in the historical texts of money being called /Mammon/.
The word /“Mammon”/ is used only four times in Scripture.
All by Jesus.
All in a derogatory sense.
The Pharisees understood though.
Unrighteous mammon was a Pharisaical term for wealth acquired legally, but tainted in the sight of God.
Jesus, however, used the term to refer to all material resources not used to the glory of God.
Mammon, uniquely used by Jesus alone in Scripture, is Aramaic for “that in which one trusts”, hence “money”.
Jesus saw things in a unique way.
Jesus saw things with the eyes of God.
Jesus saw things the rest of us often choose not to see.
Jesus understood that money is not simply an object.
Money is a personal force.
In the Old Testament, Solomon recognized the pervasive force of money.
Look with me now at Ecclesiastes 5:10: /“Those who love money will never have enough.
How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness!”/
By naming money /Mammon/, he personalized money.
He understood that money is a living power, a driving force.
He knew fallen man has a tendency to relate money and happiness.
He knew money and God are in opposition.
By stating it in just this way, by putting Mammon in a position to oppose God almost on equal terms, Jesus was indicating clearly that he understood money to be a spiritual entity.
He left no doubt that money could threaten our relationship with God.
In this sense, we would have to say that money is demonic.
Money seeks an autonomy from God.
It seeks to control.
It insinuates itself into the center of our lives and tries to organize our lives according to its will rather than God’s will.
Jesus recognized this power.
If you think this spiritualizing of money overstates the case (“After all, isn’t money just an object?”), then consider how we treat money.
Next time you’re at a party and the conversation begins to lag a little bit, just say, “Let’s all share how much money we made last year.”
You’d never be invited back to that house again.
That would be considered the greatest kind of social mistake you could make.
Most people in our society would far rather tell you about the details of their sex lives than to let you read the register of their check books.
That’s a very personal issue, isn’t it?
It’s a very private matter; money is almost sacred with us.
We might define the sacred as that which has the mysterious power to elicit our loyalty, to confer worth to us personally, and to organize our lives around itself.
Does money do this?
Just consider how much of your life is spent, in one way or another, in relationship to money: thinking about money, working to accumulate money, worrying about money, planning what you will do with your money.
I remember an elderly Christian client who came into my accounting office often to ask about financial matters.
A great prayer warrior hew was, yet obsessed with concern over his estate.
Even in his final days on this earth he was plotting how to disperse his minimal fortune – to keep it out of the hands of his grasping children.
He wielded his mammon like a clout.
How much “head space” are you giving money?
What does the Bible say we should be thinking about?