During a visit to a place that recreated the life of ordinary people in America’s colonial era, I realized how much more ‘stuff’ we have today compared to then. I am no romantic, longing for that time! Give me central air, running water, hot showers, and the internet. What is an issue for me as a Christian is whether I define the meaning of life by the things I own, the car I drive, or the house I live in. Do I think I am a better person if I wear famous label clothes or drive a shiny, new car? Is my happiness wrapped up in getting something new, going somewhere exciting, or finding culinary delight?
Jesus said “No one can serve two masters!” The word for master is not ‘boss.’ He is not talking about having two jobs. His language is about being a servant, a slave without rights. We tend to avoid that imagery because it is ugly to us, but He said it. No matter how hard we try to convince ourselves that we are free to choose our own way, that we can master life and make things work in our favor; ultimately it is an an illusion. We all serve something or someone. Many of us have chosen, unconsciously perhaps, to make Stuff our god! We worship our money, work with an intensity akin to fanaticism, and cling to our things with a religious fervor. Even if we can repeat an orthodox creed and sing the right kind of song on Sunday, our true master is known in what we treasure, where we focus our vision. Jesus confronts us and declares the impossibility of being God’s servant and a slave to stuff! “Either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (money)” (Matthew 6:24, NKJV)
Deep inside we know that our stuff is an insufficient god. We see things decay, experience loss, and see storms sweep everything away from desperate souls in a moment. But, too many of us make the wrong choice when that fact settles on us. We redouble our efforts to control and own, instead of giving ourselves away to our Father with a radical trust in His Providence. Anxiety rises in direct proportion to our attempts to find security in stuff, in larger bank account balances, in ‘ownership.’ Who can rest if his ‘god’ can be destroyed by a hurricane, a fire, or be stolen by a thief?
Jesus invites us to learn to rest in the all-sufficiency of the Father’s care. Most of you will know this passage familiarly and will be tempted to rush through it. Don’t! Soak in the truth. This wisdom is as transforming as it is counter-cultural. “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.” (Matthew 6:26-29, NLT) “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33, NLT)
If you read that and are thinking that practicing wise management of resources is unnecessary, you still do not understand. If you read that God has written you a blank check to fulfill your every whim, you are wrong. Jesus invites us to find God as our center, our hope, our meaning. When we are living a Kingdom-centered life, we can enjoy what we have without worshipping it. And, the corollary is that we will also be freed from the devaluing, destructive emotion of worry. We will pray and mean these words- “Give us today, our daily bread!”
The word from the Word repeats a passage quoted a moment ago. Lord, speak to us. Draw us to love You and to understand the best use of the ‘stuff’ You allow to pass through our hands. Amen
“You can’t worship two gods at once.
Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other.
Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other.
You can’t worship God and Money both.”
(Matthew 6:24, The Message)