by Mike Ratliff
1 When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, 2 and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. 3 Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food. 4 Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. 5 When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:1-5 ESV)
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. The “visible church” is not immune. From pastors like Steven Furtick becoming so wealthy that he can build a huge 16,000 square foot mansion to Mark Driscoll and his elders forcing all of the leaders in his church to sign non-compete agreements that if they leave that church for whatever reason they cannot start a new church or even become part of an existing church within a certain square mile radius of any of the Mars Hills campuses. These things are the fruit of “ministries” that are focused primarily on the “bottom line.” If you keep these things in mind then you must understand that how these ministers and those like them “minister” to their “flocks” is all designed to keep the money flowing in.
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matthew 6:19-23 ESV)
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 live our lives focused on Christ and His will instead of ourselves. We seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. When we live God-focused lives instead of self-focused lives we will soon find that we have become what the Bible refers to as Spirit-filled. We are actually living and walking through our pilgrimage 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.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:22-24 ESV)
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 as I shared in the introduction. 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!
Soli Deo Gloria!