by Mike Ratliff
3 Do not desire his delicacies,
For it is deceptive food.
4 Do not weary yourself to gain wealth,
Cease from your consideration of it.
5 When you set your eyes on it, it is gone.
For wealth certainly makes itself wings
Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens. Proverbs 23:3-5 (NASB)
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. This consumerism is the fruit of an economic system that is designed to manipulate people into buying things that they would not ordinarily buy. For instance, 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.
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 (NASB)
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.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, 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 that is 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 one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Matthew 6:22-24 (NASB)
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 or wealth.
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!
Soli Deo Gloria!