“You cannot serve two masters.”
You cannot serve both God and wealth, and you cannot serve both God and self.
You’ve heard the saying, from old Westerns, “This town ain’t big enough for the both of us.” Well, your life ain’t big enough for 2 opposing masters.
So who’s your master? Who are you really serving?
There are, basically, 3 choices. Behind door #1 you get Pride: serving self and putting faith in self. Behind door #2 you get Idolatry: serving wealth and putting trust in your possessions. But don’t answer yet! Behind door #3 lies faith: serving God and putting your trust in Him.
Pride is serving and trusting in self. The real start point for reality and our lives is not ourselves or the world but God, who is the Giver of every good gift. God has created, sustained, and redeemed every part of your life. What do you have that you have you have not received as a gift? The invisible reality is that you own nothing outright, not even your own body: it is God’s Temple. Any thought or action that denies God (or that everything good is His gift) is a sin. For this reason, pride is the center of sin and the mother of sins, and all other sins are relatives of it.
Idolatry, with which Jesus is concerned this morning, begins with pride. Without meaning to, we often end up in idolatry, serving another god instead of the true God: but it starts with Pride – with trusting in one’s self.
The following pattern is what happens so often:
- you receive God’s good gifts
- you are blessed by God and His gifts
- you relax and get comfortable and come to believe that the good things you receive in this life are things you have gotten for yourself, apart from God
- you believe that everything you have is not a gift but a reward, that God owes it to you because of your own merits, apart from Him
- you begin to trust in yourself, instead of God
- Congratulations! You are now serving yourself instead of serving God! You have officially become proud (and idolatrous, too!)
As bad as trusting in ourselves is, it never stops there. It’s all too natural to transfer the goodness and providence of God to His creation, to say, not that “God has given me this or will give me this” but that some material thing will give me this. At some point we find ourselves believing that the source of our strength and security and life is something other than God: money, a house, a job, another person, our selves.
Here are some frank questions we all need to ask ourselves regularly, as a diagnostic for the sickness of our souls:
- Do I trust in money or my house or any possession to provide for my physical needs?
- Do I believe that my bank account or house or any possession will give me security?
- Do I trust in money or movies or cars or books or any physical possession to make me happy?
- Have I begun to believe that I am blessed because I have certain things that are good, rather than believing I am blessed because God has given me good things?
- Do I value myself or my sense of worth based on the things I have?
- Are possessions my goal? Have they become my treasure?
If you have answered “Yes” to any of these questions, then you have begun to make an idol out of our possessions. If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, then there’s a good chance you have begun to serve Mammon, instead of God
What may be just as challenging is that worry is also related to pride. Why? Because worry puts yourself back in charge. Worry is not the same as concern or godly action. Both of these and worry begin with a problem that provokes a reaction, often emotional. But worry departs from godly concern or action because it doesn’t trust that God, working through you or others, will be able to accomplish His will. It may very well be that you are not able to do what needs to get done. But either God will provide a way for it to get done, or else God didn’t demand that it gets done (even if you do). It may be that you are not strong enough or smart enough to accomplish your will in a situation. But this is only a source of worry when you forget about God.
Worry is therefore ultimately about who is in control, and it puts you, and not God, in charge.
This is why Jesus says, “Do not worry,” or similar words, five times in this passage. It’s not just that Jesus wants us to be peaceful and calm (He does): He also wants us to come to Him and trust Him, and not ourselves.
Worry is also related to idolatry and should make you ask the question, “Do my possessions possess me?” Like any disease, there are symptoms and warning signs of the idolatry of trusting in Mammon, and some of them have to do with worry. A good diagnostic is to ask yourself, “Do I trust in my possessions for my physical needs?” “Do I act as if my money or possessions are what gives me security?” Do I trust in money or movies or cars or books or sports to make me happy?”
Jesus says that the most important symptom of serving Mammon and not God is worry – not just being anxious about having, but being overly concerned to have more and to keep what I have, more than what is necessary.
Why do we worry? We fear that something bad will happen, because we’re uncertain, because we’re afraid that we won’t get what we feel we are owed, and because we’re afraid that the good things we have will be taken away from us. Worry means trusting in a false god that cannot help you. You have reason to worry if you make your sense of worth, your happiness, or your well-being based on material things. Worry means not trusting in the only one who can help you – God.
To all who are anxious or trust too much in money or possessions, Jesus says: “Do not worry about how much I have or have not given you. I am your treasure, and I your security.
The birds are beautiful and elegant and do not have bank accounts to trust in. Yet I give them all that they need.
Do not worry or be anxious, for I am your true possession, and I am where true riches are to be found.”
This morning, to all who are anxious and worried about anything; to all who are tempted to turn to self instead of God for what you need: Jesus says to you, “Do not worry about your life. You cannot add a day to your life, and you can’t provide for yourself without Me. But come to Me with humility, and I will provide for you everything you truly need. Let me worry about what you need to wear, what you need to eat, and where you need to live. If I know how to take care of the grass and the lilies, and the birds, don’t you think I know how to give you all you truly need? Stop playing God, and I will be your God and provide all you need.”
Pride, Idolatry, Mammon, Covetousness, and Worry are deadly diseases. But thank God, there is a cure! Here it is: seek Jesus Christ.
If you seek Jesus Christ, you will not seek yourself. If you serve Him, you will not serve Mammon. If you are satisfied with Him, you won’t covet. And if you trust Him, you won’t worry.
The point isn’t to dwell on sin and think of ourselves as worms (though a little of that
goes a long way!) The point is to be motivated to seek Him!
Whatever your worries this morning on the one hand; however secure you may seem to be on the other hand; wherever you are this morning: seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Whatever gets in the way of you seeking and seeing Him – pride, idolatry, possessions, covetousness, ingratitude, or worry: get rid of it, for He is what you really want!
Prayer: Father, I pray that You would make Yourself to be my treasure and where my heart is today. Give me a heart that desires You above all else so that I serve You only. Cast down all pretenders to Your throne in my life: pride, possessions, and worry, that I might be free to be your slave and find all that I most truly desire in You. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
- Examine yourself. Have you put possessions before God? Do you worry? Is there any way in which you have allowed Pride to reign in your life?
- In what ways could you seek Jesus more faithfully, so that He would reign in your life?
Resolution: I resolve to practice putting my trust in the Lord today, that He might dethrone pride, idolatry, Mammon, and worry in my life.
© 2016 Fr. Charles Erlandson