Two Rival Pursuits
Whether someone dies with a billion dollars worth of assets or dies with just the clothes they are wearing, each was fully guaranteed to die eventually. And ultimately, since we also all surely brought nothing into this world, neither the billionaire nor the exceedingly poor man lost any more than the other by their death except in terms of things which they had acquired on a temporary basis.
We know that Jesus had a lot to say about mammon (money and possessions). We know that He gave warnings that having treasure laid up on earth and being rich toward God are not equivalent. A person can easily have one without the other.
Luke 12:15-21: “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Jesus even warned that it is impossible to faithfully serve God and mammon at the same time (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13). His Word also warns about how the double minded are unstable in all their ways and cannot be in fellowship with God in their double minded state (James 1:5-8). This makes it clear that the pursuit of mammon and the pursuit of the true God are rival pursuits. Though there are some who do not pursue either with due diligence, there will surely be enmity in pursuing both. And despite that, we need to live in a world where we need to use money and material possessions. Jesus didn’t teach against obtaining money nor rebuke any and all financial success. He rather taught a value system- a value system at odds with the heathen values of the world.
As the Apostle Paul warned of the danger of setting one’s heart upon becoming rich, he emphasizes how that pursuit is incompatible with the pursuit of genuine godliness. And he proceeds these things with a rebuke and a very harsh description of those who equate Christianity with the gain of mammon.
We read in 1 Timothy 6:3-10: “If any man teach otherwise (referring to the godly Christian instruction he had been speaking of), and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment (i.e. clothing) let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
And Psalm 49 says: “Hear this, all ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world: Both low and high, rich and poor, together. My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding. I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp. Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about? (my comment: this is a reference to the rich and powerful sinners, whom the Psalmist is speaking of, persecuting him) They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:) That he should still live for ever, and not see corruption. For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others. Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names. Nevertheless man being in honor abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish. This their way is their folly: yet their posterity approve their sayings. Selah. Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling. But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah. Be not thou afraid when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased; For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him. Though while he lived he blessed his soul: and men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself. He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light. Man that is in honor, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.”
Obviously the way of the world in general is to live totally contrary to these admonitions and to value mammon in an inordinate way. Some people express that by getting as rich as they can. Often it is the uber-rich (very richest) who are the least content and who are the most obsessed with getting more. That is virtually always how the uber-rich have got uber-rich got to be that way to begin with. Yet for many this inordinate value, and the pursuit of mammon which they are a slave to, takes the form of seeking an above average lifestyle and/or a relatively high social status. For some, it is the obsession with obtaining or maintaining a certain lifestyle that involves a little or a lot of luxury and self-indulgence. Perhaps closely related, but not necessarily, for some it is the determination to do everything possible so that they (and perhaps their children too) will never be in poverty. For many, it is holding onto the measure of financial security they’ve already attained in having their job to the point where they would allow things like an experimental poison to be injected into their body in order to keep their job in bowing to the demands of the gods of big pharma and corporatocracy and/or praise abominable behavior before God, and perhaps speak evil of people who did nothing wrong, in bowing to the gods of Marxism, woke ideology, cancel culture, etc to keep their job (by the way: such things are really about gaining power and controlling society by instilling an ungodly fear of man into people- and if you want to know who will be the rulers of the police state if these get their way, just look at the people behind the defund the police movements and their minions or lackeys). Whatever the reason, it is covetous and idolatry to be bound to mammon. And that binding gets exposed and proven to be such by the choices we make when we’re confronted with choices which will possibly or surely affect our wallet, our lifestyle, and/or our financial security.
Jesus, and those whom He used to write the Bible through, knew well man’s need to work to provide for himself, knew well the potential benefits of saving money, knew well that some might have success in prospering in material ways which are not necessarily sinful, and Jesus surely knows of any legitimate “but, what if?” situation which someone might bring up at this point. And yet He still spoke in the extreme ways that He did in many places to warn mankind of the great peril of serving mammon and of laying up treasure on earth. He said what He said expecting us to use common sense and receive His point without coming to the wacky conclusions which some people come to over such statements, while still letting His point sink deep into our hearts to mold our value system and free us from being slaves to mammon so that the truth of God can reign in us and shine forth through us.
John 6:27: “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”
Matthew 6:25-34: “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
Knowing God as He is, a great King who seeks to save us from our sins and transform us according to His image, should be our supreme aim. Properly worshiping Him means aiming from the heart to be obedient to Him and do what is right in His eyes. There is no place for anxiety about tomorrow if we are sufficiently taken up with that. Heathens generally are taken up with care and fear related to tomorrow to the extent that they are not taken up with the pleasures of today. Jesus though warns us not to be like them; and to thus never neglect seeking God diligently and doing what is right before Him today. And He promises that those who so seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness are in God’s particular care. We are told in that context not to be anxious about tomorrow. And by the way: Coming to experience lack in the future (if God allowed that in His wisdom), especially for someone who comes to that point because they had loss which came in relation to truly seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, such lack is a miniscule problem in relation to the consequences of failure to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness.
And then we get a glimpse of the great wisdom of God’s Word, and how it does indeed balance perfectly, in considering 1 Timothy 5:8. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (i.e. worse than a heathen- meaning such is an especially bad heathen).” Yet thinking and living like a heathen is bad enough, even if you are not among the very worst heathen.
Consider these instructions from God’s Word as it talks about preparation for the future.
Proverbs 21:13: “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”
Proverbs 22:9: “He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.”
Proverbs 22:22-23: “Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.”
Proverbs 28:9: “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.”
1 Corinthians 7:29-31: “ But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.”
1 Timothy 6:17-19: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
Proverbs 11:4: “”Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.”
James 4:13-17: “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
Having a covetous heart will prevent one from doing good in God’s eyes. Those who don’t do the good which they know they ought to do resist God’s grace and live in sin, even if they are acceptable to society and they are generally praised for their values. Yet God sees all and knows the whole story.
A great quote related to these things: “I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” -Stephen Grellet, 19th century evangelist
No one can be an honor to God and pleasing to Him if they are not living demonstrations of the proper attitude towards mammon, using money and material wealth faithfully in the service of God’s kingdom and righteousness, while discerning and honoring the boundaries of their limits- the righteous limits in obtaining them and in storing them. A living faith before God which He deems acceptable is diligent to obey His instructions, active to side with His verdicts, ready to sacrifice to proclaim Christ to all nations to advance His kingdom, and heartily ready to do good for God’s people and any in genuine need. The Christian life is more than giving up your most destructive sins in the eyes of men. It is a wholehearted turning from sin, striving against sin, and living commitment to learn and follow through with doing well before God in a diligent, consistent, and persistent way looking unto Jesus.
Covetousness and the idolatry related to mammon are among the most prevalent, as well as among the most deceitful sins. And there are many aspects to its deceit, but a key one is how it can masquerade as things like proper diligence, being a responsible person, and sometimes doing the very things which a faithful Christian would do. And even making covetous choices before God is often socially acceptable before men anyways.
The rich man in Luke chapter 16 was well regarded and highly respected among the Jews, yet he went to hell. Lazarus, who was laid at the rich man’s gate full of sores, was not well regarded nor respected at all, though he died in God’s favor (see Luke 16:19-31).
Many people would call the Good Samaritan a fool for stopping to help the wounded and robbed man; and would call the priests who passed by him wise (see Luke 10:25-37 for the whole story). After all, they have their own life to attend to, their own goals to pursue, their own business to take care of. You get the impression that the lawyer who was tempting Jesus in this passage was in this category- at least regarding those who were not of his own ilk. And that was the socially acceptable view of Jewish society too. Jesus rebukes this respect of persons though by the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10.
I guess many now would say about the wounded man “Just call 911.” But there was no 911 then. And even if there had been, the man still needed someone to stop, make the call, and wait until the help arrived. In every generation, many situations demand much more anyways- especially if you really are in fellowship with those who love the Lord and you are seeking to establish a faithful testimony for Him where you are in the earth. The real problems and real needs, both among the fellowship and in relation to the light the fellowship is shining before the world, get exposed on a mass scale in such a scenario, a scenario which following the real Jesus inevitably leads people into. Being faithful will cost you. It will disrupt your lifestyle, your earthly goals, and interfere with your earthly business.
No one can enter into the way of righteousness in Christ which leads to eternal life, and walk therein faithfully, who does not dig deep, set their priorities straight in God’s eyes, and actually make sacrifices and suffer loss in keeping with those straight priorities. You may not be called to make great sacrifice and suffer great loss immediately like the Rich Young Ruler was, but we all need to make sure that our value system is rearranged in compatibility with following the real Jesus like Jesus’ demands of the Rich Young Ruler implied for him- or else eternal life will be beyond our grasp in this world and in the next.
Luke 18:17-23: “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein. And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.”
Reach brother Aaron at: [email protected]