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Life of Christ (1996-1998)

It's Not the Money, It's the Worry

Matthew 6:19-34

Of all subjects at which most preachers shy, and with reason, money comes first. It is the occupational disease of preachers that they worry about the church budget while preaching reliance on God. The more practical aspect is this: they fear to be put in the position of begging for money. Our Lord took a different perspective. He preached frequently on the subject of money. Here’s one example:

Treasure and Heart

(Mat 6:19-21 NIV) "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. {20} But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. {21} For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once revealed a great secret of the Gospel. Everyone knows that only those who believe, obey. What almost no one knows is that only those who obey, can believe. This passage is an example of that secret. If we store up treasure on earth, our worries over it will prevent us from faith. The last verse in particular is of importance, for two reasons:

·         Where is your treasure? It is a test of your heart. If you have put your faith in the world’s wealth, you have a clear indication that your heart is not right with God. So this verse is a diagnostic verse!

·         But it is also an action verse. Remember the first time you went off the high dive board in a pool? You saw others do it; you wanted to do it too, but…. So eventually you gathered your courage, told yourself you could do it, and then did it. So it is with wealth. Gather your courage, put your treasure with God -- and dive. It is the test and the method. After the first time, did the board seem so high?

To many of us, this seems somewhat irrational. After all, you need the things money can buy, why shouldn’t you chase money? If you were designed only as an animal in this life, this view would be correct. But (as I keep telling you) you were designed for eternity. As such, there are two things I would remind you of:

·         Your actions in this life count for all eternity. In this life you choose between God and sin; in this life you lay up treasures for eternity. This life counts -- and you only get one shot at it.

·         After this life comes the judgment. How, where, when, I do not know, but it is appointed to us. When that day comes, will you arrive with earthly or heavenly treasure?

The principle of the matter is this: worldly wealth will, if you let it, become the master of your life. As a servant, it can produce gain for you. As a master, it is futile. Solomon put it this way:

·         (Eccl 5:13 NIV) I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner,[1]

·         The issue is one of hope, one of trust. In what do you place your hope? (1 Tim 6:17 NIV) Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Note that the choice is between God and riches; you cannot have both.

(Heb 13:5 NIV) Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

The issue: desire

(Mat 6:22-23 NIV) "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. {23} But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

The “eye” is a common Biblical metaphor for human desire. This makes sense; we see something, we want it. We forget that desire, like all human drives, can (and should) be controlled.

·         You can, if you choose, desire the things of God. Try it -- will to see the things of God come about. The results in your life will absolutely stagger you.

·         You can also will the things of this world. With that desire comes the disappointment of things, the constant chase after the new sensation -- and no real satisfaction.

I know a woman who has sought true love and passion in everything from EST to country western dancing. She remains puzzled why the latest thing pleases her for a while, then fades from view. She seeks the temporary, and temporary it is.

Most of us don’t really want to control desire; we’re afraid of taking the plunge. But we know, intellectually, that we should. So we adopt one of two strategies:

·         We flip-flop. One week we’re pious little saints, trying to do God’s will; next week (when it seems more profitable, of course) we go back to being men of the world.

·         We play the hypocrite. We’re pious; our heads nod north and south when the subject comes up. But Monday means business.

The reason these don’t work? The second is fraud, and abominable to God. The first he will not support until you learn repentance, and keep returning to Him. Nothing but all of us, all the time will avail. There are no half measures with God. Why? God knows -- we cannot serve two masters at the same time, and the love of money is a harsh master indeed.

Two Masters

(Mat 6:24-34 NIV) "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. {25} "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? {26} Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? {27} Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ? {28} "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. {29} Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. {30} If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? {31} So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' {32} For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. {33} But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. {34} Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

“No one can serve two masters” -- it is stated here as fact, without dispute. Those acquainted with the modern method entitled “matrix management” will understand the difficulty immediately. A more homely illustration can be found with children. If they discover that they can play off one parent against another, chaos ensues until one parent or the other establishes the upper hand. (One of many reasons God places the father in charge of marriage.)

Therefore” -- always a dangerous word. The logic of the statement needs careful examination, for in it is the secret of contentment. Christ makes two kinds of statements:

·         do not worry-- about eating, drinking, clothing. This argument is simple: you cannot serve two masters; you have to pick one. Pick God -- and therefore you must stop worrying about these things (because He will provide them, of course).

·         look -- at the grass, at the birds. You need evidence? it is all around you.

Anxiety, by its very nature, looks to the future. It worries about tomorrow, and what might happen. (It’s always interesting to hear of the old Scot who “had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened). We look to the future to seek security.

·         Wealth gathering, by its very nature, is future oriented. We are not talking here about people who borrow to spend today; rather those who hoard today to secure tomorrow.

·         The issue is still one of trust. Do you trust your bank account, or do you trust God.

·         For the Christian, then, life is worry free. Note that I didn’t say trouble free. Trouble is here and now. Worry hasn’t arrived yet.

Christ now ties things together by citing for us two examples. Both come from nature; the use of these examples reminds us that God is the Almighty One. The birds, the grass -- they are in his care. And how He cares for them!

·         He feeds the birds. Note that the birds must gather such. This is not an injunction to sit down and be lazy. Rather, it is the command to imitate the birds in what they don’t do: worry. They gather today for those things that God commands them to gather today. I consider that buying insurance is a perfectly acceptable thing to do -- today. The issue is still one of mastery.

·         He clothes, in the exquisite King James, “the lilies of the field.” Indeed, He does so extravagantly. There too is a lesson. If we will trust Him, He will provide for us most richly. Indeed, His provision is often in proportion to our trust.

There are two errors: one is seeking wealth; another is ignoring it. Christ puts the matter in perfect perspective: seek first the kingdom -- then God will take care of the rest.

·         Did you really think He is so ignorant that He does not know you need these things? Indeed, He knows better than you do. Trust Him therefore to provide your needs (and often to prevent your wants).

·         Note that “these things” are added. It is as if they are trivial, an afterthought. Indeed, in eternity they are.

·         If you chase the trivial, you will find it as hard to catch as the wind.

·         If you chase the important, God will hand it to you -- and the trivial beside!

All Scripture teaches us not to worry about tomorrow. The Israelites received manna good for one day only -- except on the Sabbath.[2] Jeremiah tells us that God’s mercies are “new every morning”.[3] We are commanded to pray for our daily bread. There will be no lack of trouble; but you will have victory over trouble:

(John 16:33 NIV) "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

The issue is not one of trouble, the present, but worry, the future. You will have trouble, and trouble enough for this world. Take care that you do not borrow more from tomorrow!

Thomas à Kempis pictured it this way:

 

MY CHILD, I have said: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you.” (John 14:27.)

All men desire peace but all do not care for the things that go to make true peace. My peace is with the humble and meek of heart: your peace will be in much patience. If you hear Me and follow My voice, you will be able to enjoy much peace.

The Disciple

What, then, shall I do, Lord?

The Voice of Christ

Watch yourself in all things, in what you do and what you say. Direct your every intention toward pleasing Me alone, and desire nothing outside of Me. Do not be rash in judging the deeds and words of others, and do not entangle yourself in affairs that are not your own. Thus, it will come about that you will be disturbed little and seldom.

Yet, never to experience any disturbance or to suffer any hurt in heart or body does not belong to this present life, but rather to the state of eternal rest. Do not think, therefore, that you have found true peace if you feel no depression, or that all is well because you suffer no opposition. Do not think that all is perfect if everything happens just as you wish. And do not imagine yourself great or consider yourself especially beloved if you are filled with great devotion and sweetness. For the true lover of virtue is not known by these things, nor do the progress and perfection of a man consist in them.

The Disciple

In what do they consist, Lord?

The Voice of Christ

They consist in offering yourself with all your heart to the divine will, not seeking what is yours either in small matters or great ones, either in temporal or eternal things, so that you will preserve equanimity and give thanks in both prosperity and adversity, seeing all things in their proper light.

If you become so brave and long-suffering in hope that you can prepare your heart to suffer still more even when all inward consolation is withdrawn, and if you do not justify yourself as though you ought not be made to suffer such great things, but acknowledge Me to be just in all My works and praise My holy name—then you will walk in the true and right path of peace, then you may have sure hope of seeing My face again in joy. If you attain to complete contempt of self, then know that you will enjoy an abundance of peace, as much as is possible in this earthly life.


[1] See the entire passage, Ecclesiastes 5:10-15, for a more revealing commentary

[2] Exodus 16:18-20

[3] Lamentations 3:22-23

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