Tuesday, August 28, 2012
God and Mammon
As we have seen Jesus warned about a form of religion that was mainly external and self-serving ("Religious Hypocrisy" – 6/8/12), and we noted that in God's sight it is the underlying motive that counts. Jesus now goes on to explore our motives further. In particular He warned His audience about the danger of materialism.
Jesus first notes the sheer folly of materialism. Treasures upon earth, He notes, are subject to destruction and decay. A much sounder investment would be to "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven," (Matt. 6:20; NKJV), where real wealth is lasting and permanent. And then Jesus makes an interesting observation: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (v. 21).
Our "treasure" is what we value most, and hence our affections will always lie where that "treasure" is located. If we have worked hard to accumulate earthly goods, if we have acquired what we think are the finer things of this life, that is what is going to occupy our attention and interest. We frankly will care about little else.
The effect on our spiritual life will be devastating. Jesus uses the illustration of the eye and the body. The eye is the organ through which we receive light. But if the eye is blind, we are in abject darkness. And so it is with the spiritual life. If our minds are preoccupied with material things we have little relish for that which is spiritual.. The spiritual realm is virtually non-existent for us. If we become so preoccupied with the temporal that we are oblivious to the eternal, "how great is that darkness!" (v. 23).
Jesus then draws the inevitable conclusion: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will be hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (v. 24 – "mammon" is the Aramaic word for "riches," and the Aramaic word has been transliterated into the Greek). It is impossible to maintain a divided loyalty: one interest will inevitably outweigh the other and reign supreme. The lesser interest will eventually be sacrificed for the greater. When material considerations predominate, spiritual concerns atrophy. "You cannot serve God and mammon"!
With the skill of an accomplished physician Jesus has diagnosed the problem with the modern American church. We live in a prosperous society, and unfortunately we have gotten caught up with the things of this world. We spend endless hours in front of the TV or computer, and our dreams rarely extend beyond next summer's vacation. Do we seriously pray? Read the Bible? An honest answer to these questions tells us the state of our relationship with God. For all practical purposes it is non-existent. We have sold our inheritance in heaven for a handful of pebbles, and brought reproach on the gospel as a result. What will we say when Jesus returns?