"But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."
Job 32:8

Monday, June 3, 2013

Forgetting mammon

It's always been a little bit funny when it comes to receiving certain gifts in life, especially during birthdays and Christmas time. I can get myself all riled up about a gift that I'm pretty confident I'll get or something I've been waiting for for what feels like ages... and I open the gift.

And it's not as awesome as I imagined it would be.

Is anyone with me on this? Where the anticipation before receiving the gift feels somehow more exciting than actually getting it? And somehow, we manage to do this to ourselves again and again... well some of us. And instead of being a part from the world as we should be, we get sucked into the materialistic worldview that is always begging for more and no matter how much one has, it never seems to be enough.

And this idolatry, this worship of always having more; of always needing to have more, thankfully, is one issue in particular that Jesus directly addressed.

In the book of Mark, we have the story of the rich man and Jesus, which I am sure many of you are familiar with. The rich man approaches Christ asking Him what must be done in order to receive eternal life. Jesus then recites the commandments and the man affirms he has followed them throughout his life.

Then Jesus responds:

Mark 10:21-22, "Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'One thing you lack,' he said. 'Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth." (NIV)  

I'll be honest, this passage makes me a little uncomfortable because I look around and I see all that I have and I ask myself "Would I be willing to sell all of this for Christ in an instant?" and often the answer isn't godly. 

All throughout the Old Testament, God was clear on idols and here again, He has emphasised its issue, and here's the thing: the rich man's problem was not that he had the wealth in the first place. The issue was that he idolised it over God. 

He would have rather worshipped what he could hold rather than the One who created him. 

And this topic wasn't a one-time thing that Jesus brought up. No, He made it quite clear:

Matthew 6:24"No man 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." (KJV)

And hence, the name of the blog post with mammon being the idol of money. Christ was clear in Scripture that, whatever it may be, whether it be our car, our clothes, music or any other material possession, if any of these replaced God in our lives, then we are, as Scripture puts it, displaying our hate for Him, our distrust, our belief that we would rather trust in our own possessions for security than God Himself.

And just as this was an issue 2,000 years ago, it is just as evident today. But as usually is the case, rather than simply believing what we are told, we have to go and test the limits.

Ecclesiastes 5:10-11, "Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?" (NIV)

Some people like to think that Christianity is all about 'don't do this or that' and that it takes all of the so-called fun out of life. But when Jesus spoke out against worship of mammon and that it was such a serious issue as to keep oneself from eternal life, He commanded us not out of any malicious intention of ruining our lives, but out of love.

Notice in the passage in Mark 10, it says Jesus loved him. He saw the obedience of this one man, His earnestness. Jesus' intention of exposing the man's worship of mammon wasn't to humiliate the man, but to rebuke and teach out of love, just as any loving father would do for his son.

Because God knows better than any of us that the wells we often try to drink from are full of tainted water with a shallow bottom and it is only God alone who provides eternal living water.

In Matthew 6:21 He says, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be." (NIV).

And again, it seems clear, Jesus was far from concerned about how much the rich man had. For all Jesus was concerned, He could have had a hundred piece of gold or a million... or one. 

Jesus was concerned with the heart, as He is concerned with all of ours. The very fact that the man was unwilling to place Jesus at the centre of his life; now, that was something Jesus was far more concerned about.

And why shouldn't we place Him at the centre of our lives? 

1 Timothy 6:17, "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." (NIV)

So then once we have that full trust in God, what does He call us to do in His Word with respect to our possessions? 

We each have our own struggles in our lives when it comes to placing God at the centre, so with that one, I will leave it to God to minister to each one of us as He transforms us from one degree of glory to another in His likeness.

God bless you all.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13 NIV

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