Sunday, March 19, 2017

Christ's greatest challenger.

From a line-up of potential challengers to the Lord Jesus who would you choose as #1? Lucifer, Fame, Power, Sex and Money all are strong claimants. However, Jesus named just one of them as His greatest threat for the allegiance of individuals.

In Matthew 6:24 it is revealed as ‘Wealth’ (NRSV)! ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’

Christ’s words leave no wriggle room. History, Scripture and today’s media highlight the power, attraction and destructive power Mammon has over individuals, religious groups and corporations. When Mammon is life’s focal point it turns into a spiritual python whose embrace squeezes a person’s moral and life to death. As the Lord put it, Mammon will cause its devotee to despise God which takes him or her into hating God and His word.  Jesus also rankled the Pharisees with straight talking and parables about money Luke 12:13-21. 16:1-14. The first conflict in the fledgling church was due to Mammon’s embrace. Ananias and Sapphira tried to prove Christ’s words an empty threat and they became a tombstone testimony that what Jesus said is true (Acts5)!

Paul’s advice to Timothy which was to be passed onto those financially well off contained a warning and a challenge. 1 Timothy 6:10 is an unchanging truth ‘The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.’ The word for ‘eagerness’ is a picture of a person grasping after more and more of Mammon even though it is destroying health, family, friendships and faith. Prosperity preachers are breeding ‘pythons’ in their own lives and those who accept their teaching. The result is a wandering away and pierced with many pains!

There is a control mechanism presented in Scripture by which the Spirit of God uses to protect the life of a devoted disciple. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 uses such words as ‘set your hopes on God’, ‘Do good, [be] generous and ready to share’. The end result is ‘the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of life that really is life.’ I wonder if Paul was motivated to expand on what he had said in Acts 20:35 to the Ephesian elders, ‘The Lord Jesus…said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”’

The sorrow seen Mammon power dictating life’s priorities, relationships and friendships is deep and lasting. Friends cut asunder when a lottery is won but not shared. Testimonies shatters and churches wrecked because the collection was siphoned. How many relationships destroyed in bitter battles over dispersal of money from a deceased estate! The list can go on and on. Those countries whose leaders amass large amounts of money whilst their people starve and beg for help. Such leaders and others need to think on Matthew 16:26: ‘What will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?’ An eternity of regret awaits. What is the good of having the largest bank balance when you are under a tombstone?

Jesus summed up His teaching on this matter with “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness…” It is this personal priority and accepting the cross of discipleship and stewardship will ‘Wealth’ be a servant not a god. The cross slays the ‘python’! A heart set on God’s kingdom keeps the heart focused.  It is better to be the widow of the two mites (Luke 21:2) unsung, unknown by any but Jesus than rich, religious and ruled by Mammon. To the rich whose focus in God’s rule and bear their cross, their wealth becomes a good work to meet the needy, suffering and afflicted. It is these acts of grace which honour to Christ, receive His commendation and become part of their treasure in Heaven!
Ray Hawkins March 19 2017.

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