“No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and money.” ~Matthew 6:24
Senator Phil Gramm once famously said, “I’ve got more guns than I need, but not more than I want.” Most of us might be able to say the same thing about our TVs, our cars, our computers, our books, our bank accounts, or the square feet in our house. More than we need; not more than we want.
Our Lord teaches that we are not to store up treasures for ourselves on earth but, instead, to store up treasures in heaven. He says not to worry about food and drink or clothes and cars, that our faithful Father will provide everything we need. He says to focus on the Kingdom, to seek first and foremost the Kingdom, and then all the stuff we really need will be given to us.
To chase after the things of this world, to spend our time and money and resources securing material things, working at a job we hate to pursue things that won’t last, isn’t a matter of not trusting that God will give us what we need. But it may be a matter of not trusting that God will give us what we want. And what we want seems to be very, very important.
There’s a group of young men in Abilene who are taking the Sermon on the Mount seriously. They have decided to give up the pursuit of material things in order to live together in one of the poorest neighborhoods in town and serve the community with God’s love and grace. Our Bible classes here at Central recently watched a video interview with three young men who are living in this Allelon Community. And I was immediately struck by how my first thoughts about these guys were negative. Why was I feeling negatively about these men who are living out in such concrete ways the teachings of our Lord? They’re sharing everything — the rent, the bills, the food, the clothes, everything — so they can work less and spend more time in Gospel relationship blessing their neighbors. Yet, I found myself judging the blankets hanging over their windows in place of curtains. I caught myself judging the holes in their T-shirts, the unmowed grass in the yard, the unkempt hair, and the terribly messy living room.
Ha. It’s easy to judge others. It’s much more difficult to evaluate my own life as it stands in contrast to Jesus’ teachings.
How might these guys judge me if they were to see the inside of my house? “Why does he have four TVs?” “Why are there four cars in his driveway?” “How many of these shirts in his closet does this dude actually wear?”
The exhortations in the Sermon on the Mount are not intended to bring us down. They’re not unrealistic expectations for a disciple of Jesus. And they’re not commands as much as they are encouragements. Reminders. To paraphrase Bonhoeffer on this particular passage, we have here either a crushing burden, which holds out no hope, or else it is the quintessence of the Gospel, which brings the promise of freedom and perfect joy. Jesus does not tell us what we ought to do but cannot; he tells us what God has given us and promises to continue giving us, so we can live lavishly in him.
It’s not “Stop chasing material things! Stop worrying about your food! Stop hoarding money and buying more stuff!” It’s more like, “Look at everything you have in Christ Jesus! Why are you chasing material things? Look at all the blessings and promises that belong to you in Jesus!Why are you worrying about food? Look at the boundless love of your God! Why are you hoarding money and buying more stuff?”
Come on, I love God. I serve God. I like to buy things, but I’m not serving money.
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ~Matthew 6:21
What would the Allelon boys say about you if they toured your house? I’m just asking…