December 1, 2018

We Can’t Serve Two Masters

We’ve seen that God created and owns everything and that he has entrusted us as stewards of what he owns.  This leaves us with a choice:  Will we serve God as faithful stewards, or will we serve ourselves and serve money as our masters?  Bob Dylan famously sang in the late 70’s that “You’re gonna have to serve somebody”.  The choice isn’t whether we will serve, it’s whom or what we will serve.

Jesus warned, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)

What does it look like to serve God rather than money?

  • It looks like Abraham, who gave a tenth of the plunder of war to Melchizedek, priest and king of Salem, and gave the rest back to the king of Sodom.  Abraham celebrated God’s goodness through his tithe and showed concern for God’s glory by refusing to get rich from the spoils of war. (Genesis 14)
  • It looks like the widow in Zarephath, who baked a loaf of bread for Elijah with her only remaining flour rather than feeding herself and her son. (1 Kings 17)
  • It looks like the people of Israel, who in gratitude for all God had done for them brought so many gifts for the tabernacle that Moses had to tell them to stop. (Exodus 35-36) (Have you ever heard of a church building program that had a problem like that?)
  • It looks like the poor widow who gave two small copper coins to the temple treasury – all she had to live on (Mark 12:41-44)
  • It looks like Zacchaeus, who in response to Jesus’ forgiveness and transformation of his life gave half of all he owned to the poor and vowed to make right any wrong he had done in his life of tax collecting (Luke 19:1-8)
  • It looks like the early Church, where members shared their possessions and gladly sold land in order to provide for the needy among them (Acts 4:32-37)
  • It looks like the churches in Macedonia, who gave generously even in the midst of poverty to meet the needs of the church in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:1-5)

On the other hand, what does it look like to serve money over God?

  • It looks like Achan, who coveted some of the forbidden plunder from Jericho and took it, resulting in a dramatic defeat in the next battle, costing the lives of 36 of Israel’s army and ultimately his own life as well. (Joshua 7)
  • It looks like Solomon, whose heart was ultimately turned from God by his accumulation of chariots and horses in direct disobedience to God’s word to Moses and by his foreign wives. (1 Kings 10:23-11:6; see Deuteronomy 17:16)
  • It looks like the rich young man, who in contrast to Zacchaeus could not give up his wealth to follow Jesus, and “went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Matthew 19:16-22)
  • It looks like the rich fool in the parable we looked at last time, who stored up wealth for himself but was not rich toward God and who left it all behind when his life was demanded from him. (Luke 12:13-21)
  • It looks like Ananias and Sapphira, who coveted the praise of men but who weren’t willing to give all the money from the sale of their land to the church, so that they lied about what they had given and paid the ultimate price (Acts 5:1-11).

Most of us would likely place ourselves somewhere between these two “extremes”.  But does God really allow for that alternative?  Or does that put us in the position of the lukewarm Laodicean church, whom Jesus wanted to spit out of his mouth? (Revelation 3:14-22)

If we start from the position that God created and owns everything, and that the finances and possessions that are in our care are not ours but his, then serving God with our finances doesn’t seem that extreme after all.

As a stewardship leader, what pace of stewardship are you setting in your church?