The world is full of Christians who are trying precisely to serve both God and money. So many of us think we can have it both ways. We have deceived ourselves in this area.

If you are going to stop serving money, you have to stop worrying about it, and instead, start trusting God to give you and your family what you need.


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Matthew #20 . Chapter 6:21-34

Jesus has just finished instructing his disciples – that includes us, today – to avoid acting religious in order to win praise and admiration from other people. We should, give, pray and fast in order to grow closer to God. He concludes this section, and transitions to the next one with these words:

“Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

If we seek after the praise of other people, we are seeking an earthly “treasure.” Praise and admiration from others does not last. It’s almost like a drug. You are never satisfied – you keep needing more. People can forget about you. They can change their opinions about you. People who admire you can even die, without being replaced by new admirers. The praise of others is a quickly decaying treasure.

Now, let’s talk about the word “treasure.” The Greek word for treasure, or treasury is “thesauros” which instantly brings a smile and a nod to any writer; we know that words are a treasure. But actually, this word does not mean anything like “dictionary of words with similar meanings.” It refers to storing things up by keeping them someplace that is supposed to be safe. You put what you most want to preserve and protect and own in a thesauros. Jesus says, your treasury, your fire-proof safe, should be in heaven. If you are working to acquire, save and protect things here on earth, then your focus will be here, not heaven. Not only that, but your efforts will be ultimately completely useless, since what is on earth does not last.

Jesus adds to this metaphor with this thought:

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness — how deep is that darkness!

I’ve often felt that this comment seems out of place right here. But I think what Jesus was saying is something like this:

“Your eyes show your body where to go and what to do. If they are no good, your whole body is in trouble. In the same way, your hopes, goals and ambitions, what you value, where you place your treasure – these things show your soul where to go and what to do. They are like your ‘spiritual eyes.’ And if your ‘spiritual eyes’ are dark or blinded, your whole soul, your very being, is in deep trouble!”

Jesus then applies these two thoughts to money, which, according to Him, is another worthless, quickly-decaying treasure. Pursuing it reveals that we have problems in our “spiritual eyes.”

“No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.

The word “slave” here (repeated twice) is the Greek word “douleuein.” It can mean “be in devoted service” or “yield to.”

Let me be blunt. The world is full of Christians who are trying precisely to serve both God and money. So many of us think we can have it both ways. So many of us deceive ourselves in this area. We convince ourselves that we aren’t really serving money – we certainly aren’t slaves to it (we think, indignantly). And we think, why can’t we have both? Sure, we’re here to serve God. Sure, we trust Jesus to give us eternal life. But what is wrong with the goal of having a little extra money to spare while we wait for heaven? I mean, it isn’t really even to spare, when you think about it. What if I have an emergency? I’m just being responsible.

But it’s funny how “responsibility” grows and grows. Particularly in America, we tend to get involved in all sorts of financial things like swimming pools, boats, unnecessarily large and fancy houses, expensive vacations, vacation homes, beautiful cars, fancy phones and computers. Then, we justify our service to money by saying we are only being responsible.

I don’t think it is wrong in all circumstances for a Christian to own any such thing. But I think we often deceive ourselves about how much we truly are serving money, and about how much of that service is entirely unnecessary.

Here are some helpful questions for determining where you are storing up treasure: Will spending this money make it harder to walk away from what you have invested in? For example, suppose you decide to buy a big beautiful house. Will spending that money, investing in the house, tend to keep you more tied to earthly things? Will it tend to be storing up treasure on earth? Will it strengthen your connection to heaven, or emphasize your connection to this life?

And let’s be honest. If you really don’t care if you have a beautiful house or not, then you probably won’t be particularly motivated to try and acquire it. It may happen that you get one. It may not. You can be grateful and enjoy it, and you can walk away from, knowing that your true treasure never needs a new roof.

We spend a lot of time working for money. Now, the bible is overwhelmingly positive about work, and it clearly teaches that if at all possible, we should take care of the material needs of our families, and to try to help the material needs of those who can’t make it on their own. Here are a few such verses:

But we encourage you, brothers, to do so even more, to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone. (1Thess 4:10-12, HCSB)

Support widows who are genuinely widows. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must learn to practice godliness toward their own family first and to repay their parents, for this pleases God. (1Tim 5:3-4, HCSB) [MY NOTE:In this circumstance, widows and orphans without family were the most vulnerable people in society, with no means to provide for themselves.]

But if anyone does not provide for his own, that is his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1Tim 5:8, HCSB)

Jesus expects families will work to take care of themselves, along with donating money to support ministers (1 Corinthians 9:14), and also helping to take care of the most needy in society. So obviously, most of us will be involved in earning money for much of our lives. Even so, he does not want us to pursue money, or desire it for anything other than the above mentioned purposes. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write to Timothy:

But godliness with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. But you, man of God, run from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. (1Tim 6:5-11, HCSB)

So let’s reiterate this: you cannot pursue both God and money. Those who want to get rich fall into temptations and traps and often wander from the faith. You cannot make it your ambition to truly follow Jesus, and at the same time, maintain an ambition to be wealthy.

You may get wealthy as you follow Jesus. If you happen to become wealthy while you live your life as Jesus’ disciple, committing yourself fully to Him and His purposes, it’s probably not a problem. If your goal is never money, but always Jesus, then you might be able to handle wealth in a spiritually appropriate way.

But I have to be honest with you. Most people don’t get wealthy by following Jesus. It could happen, but following Jesus is not a reliable means to financial prosperity. Jesus himself was never wealthy. It didn’t work out for wealth for Peter, Andrew, James, John, Nathaniel, Simon, Philip, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, or Thaddaeus – the eleven faithful apostles. The other close disciples of Jesus who failed to become wealthy include: Paul, Barnabas, Timothy, Silas, James (the half-brother of Jesus). In fact, we know for sure that there were very few wealthy Christians during the time of the New Testament.

If what you really want is wealth, or even really good financial security, I think you need to make a choice between that and Jesus. That is, after all, what Jesus Himself is saying here: you can’t serve both God and money. So decide which one it is, and if it is money, you might as well stop pretending it is God. It’s not like He doesn’t know. Now, I’m not saying that this can never be a struggle. Of course it is a struggle. But you will wear yourself out, and never win any part of the struggle if you going on deceiving yourself by thinking that you can have both the ambition to follow Jesus, and also the ambition to be wealthy. He isn’t saying that it is easy. But I think he is saying that it is easier if you give up one or other.

Read Jesus’ words yourself, and see if there’s any other way to interpret them without twisting them around.

Now, we get to the good stuff. I like the way the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) puts it:

“No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money. This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? (Matt 6:24-25, HCSB)

No one can serve both God and money. This is why Jesus says, “don’t worry about material things.” If you are going to stop serving money, you have to stop worrying about it, and instead, start trusting God to give you and your family what you need. On the flip side, if you want to stop worrying about money, you have stop making it your ambition to be wealthy. You have to stop serving money.

If you want to get wealthy, you will worry about money. If your spiritual eye is focused on something other than Jesus, then you are letting yourself in for worry. There is no way to stop worrying about money as long as money is one of your goals. Even if money is only part of your ambition, simply a means to an end, you will end up worrying about it. [By the way, if there is anyone out there who has a real goal that can be achieved with money, and yet is not anxious about money, I want to hear from you. I mean it. I really want to know.]

I know a lot of people who are much wealthier than me (which isn’t hard to be). I even know some folks who make several hundred thousand dollars each year. I know others who could liquidate their assets and have a million dollars cash within a few weeks. One thing that surprised me the first few times I met such people, is that they are very concerned about money. I tend to think that if I had that much, I wouldn’t be worried. But as a matter of fact, these people appear to worry about money even more than I do. Can I say it this way? Money will not bring you peace.

So Jesus says (I repeat) “this is why I tell you not to worry about money.” He wants us to make the Kingdom of God the goal. He wants us to value and treasure things that cannot be destroyed, to rely on eternal plans that cannot fall apart. The way to peace is to give up money as a goal, and even as a means to a goal. Instead, make it our only goal to be his true disciples.

He spends the rest of chapter six painting this in a positive light, encouraging us to trust. He is like a parent, standing in the water, calling to his little child: “Come on jump! It will be fun and refreshing, and I’m right here to catch you. You’ll be safe, and you’ll even have fun!”

He points the birds and the grass, how they are fed and clothed, and says that God cares for us much more than he does for them.  The birds don’t have banks, or investments. God simply feeds them day by day. Jesus closes with this statement:

So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat? ’ or ‘What will we drink? ’ or ‘What will we wear? ’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matt 6:18-34, HCSB)

Notice the attitude toward the future. He says “don’t worry, saying, what shall we eat…?” That “shall” indicates a concern for the future. Up until now, I have been provided for every day. What I worry about is the future. And Jesus expressly tells us not to do that, right here.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus is calling you today to believe this. Give up your other goals, and make Jesus and His plan for you your only ambition. As you do that, trust Him. Your heavenly Father knows what you need. He cares for you and loves you. Give up worry, and embrace trust.

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…Christianity is above all, a faith rooted in hope for the future. This life offers only partial fulfillment. Nothing makes sense until we allow eternity into our calculations…

…You won’t earn any favors with God by hating or hurting people whom you think are God’s enemies. People do turn away from God and do evil, and God does not want them to do that. But he doesn’t hate them — He grieves over them, as he grieved over Saul…

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Download 2 Samuel Part 1
2 Samuel # 1. Chapters 1 & 2.

We just finished the book of 1 Samuel. However, that book leaves off in the middle of the action, so to speak. It doesn’t tell us what happened to David after Saul died. The reason for this is that originally, First and Second Samuel were one book. The Jews who translated the Old Testament into Greek divided this history into two books. Probably the division arose because Greek uses vowels, where Hebrew does not. This means that the Greek translation is much longer than the original Hebrew. As a result, it had to be put into two separate scrolls – the “first,” and “second.”

For now, we will continue on with the historical record, at least until we get to a reasonable stopping point – so that means we’re jumping into what we call the book of 2 Samuel. Bear in mind as we study it, however that it all part of one work.

Last time I read the lament that David wrote about Saul. But there were a few things which preceded that. David and his men had fought a battle of their own with the Amalekites, who had attacked when everyone else in the region was off to the Israelite-Philistine war. David returned to his burned home. Two days after he got back, a man came from the north, bringing news of the great battle in the valley of Jezreel.

This man got the main news correct – Israel lost the battle, and Saul and Jonathan were killed. But then his story diverges from the one recorded in 1 Samuel 31. The writer does not make editorial comments, but it is clear that whoever wrote it regarded 1 Samuel 31 as the accurate record of events, and the story of this stranger as embellishments and lies.

Jewish tradition holds that the man who came to David with this story was actually the son of Doeg the Edomite, whom they also suppose was Saul’s armor bearer. They think his claim to be an Amalekite was to hide from David the fact that his father was the infamously evil Doeg. There is nothing in the text one way or another to tell us if this is so or not, but it is possible that Doeg was elevated to the status of Saul’s personal armor bearer and guard, after he did him the favor of killing the priests when no one else would. If this man is Doeg’s son (and Doeg was Saul’s armor bearer), it would explain his presence close to Saul, and how was able to take Saul’s crown and escape.

He claims that the Philistine chariots were coming close to Saul. This shows us, the readers, that he is not being completely truthful. He probably said it to try and justify to David why he (allegedly) ended Saul’s life. Chariots were formidable weapons that the Philistines had, and the Israelites did not (at this time). It would be the modern equivalent of tanks closing in on an infantry position. If the chariots were close, then indeed all was certainly lost. However, we know that Saul was on Mount Gilboa, and the messenger even affirms this. There were no roads (the way we think of roads) in those days. Chariots simply did not work well, if at all, on road-less, forested mountainsides. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that they used chariots on the mountain where Saul died.

David, experienced warrior that he is, probably sensed right then there was something wrong with the story. Even how the messenger begins is quite suspicious: “I happened to be on Mount Gilboa…” He “just happened” to be near king Saul in the middle of a battle? Not likely.

It was clear however, that this man thought claiming to have killed Saul would make him a favorite with David. Whoever he was, he completely misunderstood David. This was because he assumed that deep down, David was not really serious about being the Lord’s man; or perhaps since he was part of Saul’s retinue, he had never heard anyone talk about David’s strong faith. He condemns himself with his lie.

16 And David said to him, “Your blood be on your head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the LORD’s anointed.’”

David had him executed immediately for the crime of killing Saul. Once again, as harsh as this seems, it is a reflection of David’s humble heart and in a way, a reflection of how the Lord felt about Saul. God is not happy that Saul is dead. Neither is God’s servant. David, by executing this man shows everyone that there is nothing to be gained by lies or treachery or unnecessary bloodshed. If anyone they thought they could ingratiate themselves to David with that kind of behavior, their illusions would be shattered. God didn’t want Saul dead, and neither did David. You won’t earn any favors with God by hating or hurting people whom you think are God’s enemies. People do turn away from God and do evil, and God does not want them to do that. But he doesn’t hate them — He grieves over them, as he grieved over Saul. Saul was destroyed by himself and his own choices, not by God. You can destroy your own life, as Saul did, but the Lord is never out to destroy you.

Now that Saul is dead. David’s reason for staying out of Israel is gone. His main obstacle to becoming king and fulfilling the Lord’s calling has been removed. David knows he was anointed to be the next king of Israel. A large portion of the population knows this also. I think a lot of people at this point would move ahead and “just go for it.”

Not David. The first thing he does is ask God what he should do. He does not assume anything. I think the reason for this is that David wasn’t trying to establish his own kingdom – instead, he was trying to be God’s servant. His attitude is not, “how can I behave so that God can help me?” That’s was Saul’s basic approach to life. But David’s heart is this: “Lord, what do you want to do next?” He did not view God as his assistant in achieving his goals. Instead, he felt that his whole life was God’s own project. His role was to try and assist God, not the other way around. David’s anointing and his destiny were not about David – they were about the Lord. So become king is not David’s idea nor his goal – his goal is to serve the Lord.

As I have pointed out before, David is one of the people in the Old Testament who sheds light on what Jesus is like (that is, David is a “type” of Christ). Jesus expressed this same attitude of being here for the Father’s purposes in John 8:28 and 12:49 (among other places)

28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. (John 8:28, ESV)

49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment-what to say and what to speak. (John 12:49, ESV)

This is not complicated, but it is HUGE when it comes to living out our faith practically. It is so easy to fall into the idea that the life of faith is about God helping us each achieve our own destiny. We make this seem good and spiritual, because we assume that our destiny was created by God. And of course, it is. But it isn’t about us. It is about God. However, when we think that it is about us, we inevitably get angry or disappointed with God when he fails to do things for us that we think would bring about our destiny.

Our true destiny is to bring glory and honor and praise to God – not to meet our own personal goals. Achieving that destiny is God’s business from beginning to end. Some people, like David, brought glory to God in very public ways, like becoming a well-known leader. Others do it quietly, like being a loving wife and mother, or praying regularly for others.

Now, I think it would be wrong to assume that David didn’t care either way if he became king. First, he wanted what God wanted, and God did want that. Second, because God wanted to work in this way through him, David was drawn to it. He wanted to lead because he was created for it. So I am sure that David really wanted to become king. Even so, he subordinated his own desires to God, because he understood that it wasn’t really about him. Like Samuel’s mother, he had real desires that he acknowledged, but at the same time, he also surrendered them to God.

This is important, because right after he asked God what to do, David received a partial fulfillment of God’s calling on him. The Lord told David to return to Israel, to the town of Hebron in the territory of Judah. When he did that, the tribe of Judah received him as their king. Judah was one of the largest, most powerful and prestigious tribes. In future generations from David, Judah became its own independent country and most of the Jews living today come from that tribe (that’s why they are called Jews). Even so, being king over just one tribe and about one third of the territory of Israel isn’t exactly what David thought the Lord had planned for him. It is sort of a fulfillment of God’s promise and calling. He is a king. But he isn’t the king of the whole nation.

There is potential here for David to become frustrated. After all, you could not make any argument that Saul was more worthy than David, but even so, Saul’s kingdom was much larger than David’s (during this period of time). Samuel anointed David when David was perhaps fourteen years old. At first it seemed like everything was falling into place. He grew a little, killed the giant and became a famous warrior and trusted member of the king’s court, all while he was very young. But since then, it has been a lot harder. Now, David is thirty years old. Probably fifteen years have gone by since he was anointed to be king. That’s a long time – half of his entire life so far. And now finally he is – one of two kings of Israel. It will be seven more years before he becomes king of all Israel.

This partial fulfillment is also a type of Christ. The kingdom of Jesus Christ has only come in part so far. Jesus reigns over the hearts of those who will let him, but not everything is under his rule, as it will be when this world ends. Speaking of Jesus, Paul writes:

9 For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow — of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth — 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:9-11, HCSB)

But currently, at the name of Jesus, not every knee does bow, not every does worship. There is a part of Jesus’ exaltation and kingship that is still in the future. It is not fully here yet. The writer of Hebrews says:

7 You made him lower than the angels for a short time; You crowned him with glory and honor 8 and subjected everything under his feet. For in subjecting everything to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. As it is, we do not yet see everything subjected to him. 9 But we do see Jesus — made lower than the angels for a short time so that by God’s grace He might taste death for everyone — crowned with glory and honor because of His suffering in death. (Heb 2:7-9, HCSB) (added italicization)

We do not yet see everything subjected to Jesus.

In the same way, we too wait, having only partially what has been promised us. Paul writes to the Ephesians:

11 We have also received an inheritance in Him, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will, 12 so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory. 13 When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. 14 He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory. (Eph 1:11-14, HCSB)

We haven’t received the whole inheritance yet. We have the Holy Spirit as a down payment­ – we have only part of what has been promised us. This means that Christianity is above all, a faith that is all about hope. We know this world doesn’t fully satisfy. True justice isn’t available here and now. True, unblemished joy is scarce and temporary. True satisfaction, contentment and fulfillment are always elusive. Those who don’t surrender their hearts to Jesus get angry at God because of this. But they aren’t listening. The true fulfillment of God’s love for us and his promises to us comes after this world ends. We don’t have to make the credits outweigh the debits in this life. We don’t have to have everything we have dreamed of before we die. It is still coming. It was still coming for David. It is even now, still coming for Jesus, who is not yet king over everything. And it is still coming for us.