Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Serving Stuff or Serving the Lord

Today we are picking up right where we left off last week.  Today we will only be covering one verse.
No one can serve two masters; for either he will 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.  Matthew 6:24 NKJV
Plain and simple, Jesus is telling us that we can not serve God and earthly treasures.  We can not serve our Lord in heaven and anything else down here on earth.  They are mutually exclusive. 

I think first we need to define just what earthly treasure is.  I gave a general definition last week, but I want to be spend a little more time on just what it is today.  Earthly treasure can be anything.  It can mean gold and jewelry that we envision when we think of "treasure", but it is certainly not limited to that.  This treasure can me money and wealth, but again it is not necessarily so.  Treasure is basically anything we own.  It can even include the necessities of life such as food, clothing, and shelter (and we will especially see this tomorrow).  It can be cars, collections, video games, or any other physical thing we can have or own.  More than that, earthly treasures can also include families and church families, friendships, and other kinds of relationships.  Finally, it can even include ideologies and prejudices.  A treasure is anything we hold onto here on earth.  Please do not think Jesus is saying that these things are wrong in and of themselves.  He is also not saying that we can not have them.  What He is saying is that we can not serve them.  They can not be our master and the overriding theme for all of them is that we must be willing to let any or all of them go is so called by God. 

Starting with the most obvious, how do we come to serve our stuff.  By stuff I mean anything from gold and jewels to a collection of bottle caps.  I mean everything from the latest greatest video game system with all the latest versions of the best games to a few board games that you play with your family.  The answer is simple. The answer is when any of these things get in between us and serving God we are serving them rather than God.  We also serve them if we are unwilling to give any of them up if called to do so by God.  For example, if you spend your money on stuff you collect and hoard instead of giving unto the Lord and giving to those in need, are you serving God or your stuff?  If you neglect your godly duties to your spouse and children while you incessantly clean your car or play your video games, are you serving your stuff or God?  If you collect more stuff than you can ever use or need while others around you starve, are you serving your stuff or your God?  The answer for all of those is that you are serving your stuff.  If any of your things get in the way of your service to God, then God is no longer your Lord, your stuff is. 

Another treasure we have are our relationships.  One relationship not included in this part is that between a husband or a wife or a parent to a child.  A husband and wife have become one under God and the Bible is clear that we are not to separate that relationship except for some very limited and very specific reasons. I also include children, but only in that a parent has a responsibility to bring a child up in the Lord and so I do not believe one would ever be called away from that relationship where that God-given responsibility could not be fulfilled.  That said, our responsibility to them must be in light of our service to God and in that they still can not interfere with what God is calling you to do.  So with that in mind, how we serve our friends as treasure?  In this case, it is the relationship that is the treasure not so much the person.  Sometimes we remain at a church long after God has called us to move on only because we do not want to lose those friendships we have there.  In that case, we are serving our friendships over serving God. Another example is when put family obligations above a calling from God.  Maybe a relative is a leader in the church and despite God calling you out, you remain out of some sense of family obligation.  Our obligation to family can never come before our obligation to God.  In that example, we are serving our family (and not in the ways directed by God) over serving God.  Sometimes we remain with one foot in the world so that we can maintain worldly friendships that may even go back many years.  In that case, you are again serving a friendship over serving God.  In all those cases, those relationships have become treasures that your serve as you forsake you service to God. 

Finally, we have such things as ideologies and prejudices that can become our treasures.  This may be a bit abstract, but I do not think it is a very hard stretch.  People hold onto some beliefs as through they were treasures.  Sadly, some people never learn to let go and so it gets in the way of our service to God.  I think the greatest example of this is Jonah.  Jonah wanted to serve God, but he did not want to go to Nineveh.  He hated those people and his hatred became his treasure.  How it became his treasure is that he served his hatred in trying not to preach to them, thereby assuring their destruction.  Note how that made him unable to serve God.  God put Jonah through a lot to put away that hurdle, but it was eventually overcome.  For us today, we may be racist and therefore will not reach out to some certain race despite God's calling.  We may hold onto heretical or errant views despite the clear meaning in Scripture being shown to us time and again because those ideas make us "feel" good.  If there be any ideology, belief, prejudice, or preference that gets in our way of serving God, we are living to serve that instead of serving God.  Those ideas have become our treasure. 

I hope that what we see today that our mammon is anything in our lives that gets between us and our service to God.  No matter what it may be, even if something perfectly righteous, it becomes unrighteous the moment it affects our service.  It becomes an idol.  It becomes our lord.  You can not serve God and mammon.  Even if you only serve mammon "sometimes", it is still just as wicked. In those cases you still only serve God when it is convenient for you or your treasure gives you some time off.  Just like the apostles, we need to be able to walk away from anything at anytime for the call of the Lord.  We must not be like the man who wanted to bury his parents first before serving the Lord.  Anytime there is anything in your life, whether a thing, a relationship, or a belief, that you refuse to let go of when called to do so by God has become your lord and your idol.  That is because what you are telling God is that thing, whatever it is, is more important to you than serving God.  May we never put our stuff before our God.  It all comes down to a choice we make, do we serve our earthly stuff or do we serve our God.
And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15 NKJV

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