by Mike Ratliff
“Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:3-5 KJV)
The god of the natural man is self. Worship of self revolves around self-gratification. This idolatry is enhanced in a consumer driven economy such as in the United States. Today is Thanksgiving Day and tomorrow is called Black Friday because it is supposed to be the heaviest shopping day of the year as people hit the stores to buy Christmas gifts at supposedly lower prices. The day is called Black Friday because it is traditional that most retailer’s ledgers and balance sheets get into the black for the first time in the year. As a result we are inundated with sale papers and ads on TV about sales that begin before the Sun comes up.
This consumerism is the fruit of an economic system that is designed to manipulate people into buying things that they would not ordinarily buy. Christmas has become a commercial holiday that is all about buying gifts and spending money. The holiday was supposed to celebrate the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, however, that meaning has been relegated to the back burner or lost in the shuffle. Now, it is all about buying gifts and receiving gifts. To the retailer, it is a time for making money. No matter from what angle we approach Christmas, it seems that it is all about greed. God’s people are called to be different. Their focus should not be on self at all, but on serving their Lord in obedience and love.
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-22 KJV)
When we look to what we possess as our “treasure” then that will be where our hearts are directed. Jesus tells us in this passage to not do this. As we saw in the passage from Proverbs at the top of this post, riches or possessions do not last. They are temporal and cannot be depended upon. However, the admonition from our Lord is to not place our hope in them or our trust. Instead, He tells us to lay up treasure in Heaven. This treasure is eternal, not temporal. Jesus tells us that if we place our hope in Him as our treasure then our hearts will be there instead of here. When that is the case, we will not be enslaved to self-gratification. Who does this? How can we do this? We must become Spirit-filled so that we will be guided and controlled by the Holy Spirit. When we do this, we will not be focused on how much wealth we have on earth, but we will be looking to follow our Lord as we carry our crosses in self-denial.
“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! 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.” (Matthew 6:22-24 KJV)
This statement by our Lord is an argument from the lesser to the greater. His analogy is very simple. If one’s eye is bad, no light can come in. This leaves him or her in darkness. This is speaking of external perception. However, it is much worse if there is internal corruption within one’s nature. From this corruption, darkness actually emanates from within. This affects that person’s whole being. If a person is in love with money and/or possessions then he or she is driven by self-gratification and is in darkness. Only the Spirit-filled believer is in the light. Only the Spirit-filled believer is genuinely humble. Only the Spirit-filled believer denies and dies to self as he or she follows their Lord in obedience. The self-oriented person is in darkness and serves mammon while the Spirit-filled believer serves God. Mammon refers to earthly, material treasures.
There is nothing wrong with having a job that pays a salary. There is nothing wrong with owning a business. Money is not evil. It is the love of money and things that is the root of all sorts of evil. Why? If our motive is to accumulate or get for self-gratification then we will also do things in an attempt to get more and not lose any in a way that is not ethical or what Christians should be doing. If God blesses us with earnings or gifts or things then we must hold them lightly and focus on Him and His will in how we manage those things.
Let us lay up our treasure in Heaven, not here on earth. If we do that, then our heart will be there. Our motives will be God’s glory, not mammon. This life is short and we have only one time through it to get it right. We must repent of our greed and self-focus and ask that God give us a heart that is filled with His Spirit as we obey Him as He leads and guides. All for His glory!