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February 22, 2014

You Can Not Serve God and Mammon

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Written by: Duane Covrig
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Jesus is the greatest physician. He knows our weaknesses. Jesus is the great Truth that can’t lie. “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” Matt 6:24. You can’t. If you try, you will die gasping for money.  Jesus is the only one who can give you air. Do you believe that? Yes, I believe it is impossible to serve God and wealth. Often times, I slip in and out of conscientiousness of that truth.  You have to choose who will be your master. This calls for choice, you need to choose who you want to serve.

The “deceitfulness of riches” can set in so fast that you are drunk with lust, pride, and greed before you know what hit you. The other day I feel I should offer to help someone. I didn’t know what that meant or what that would mean financially. I approached them and asked them what they needed. I was thinking a pair of pants or some music. They had those. They needed something more. I knew the cost in my mind.

As I wrestled with the cost, a couple days of work for me, I realized it was a couple of months of work for them. I was reminded of Andy Stanley’s book Be Rich and that if you make more than $37,000 a year, you are in the top 4% of the world’s wealth. I was one of the rich. I didn’t feel like it. I felt like I was barely surviving the middle class challenges: college costs, housing issues, saving for the next vehicle. But he was right, and I knew it. “Financially speaking, the difference between you and Bill Gates is smaller than the difference between you and the average person living outside the U.S.” (p. 43). We have “problems that the majority of folks on this planet would love to have. For example, bad cell phone coverage, which is a rich-people problem. I can’t decide where to go on vacation, or a computer crashed and slow internet facilities. Other examples include – car trouble and flight delays and Amazon doesn’t have your size? All these are rich-people problems.” (p. 30).

The thing about wealth, as a master showed that it can never be satisfied. It can never say “well-done thou good and faithful servant.” It whips you with its torment and tells you, you need more, and that you can do it if you just give less. This is one of many areas of wealth’s deceitfulness.

. I was one of the rich. I didn’t feel like it.

. I always want more… Stanley points out research that suggests everyone wants 150% more than what they have. My examination of the research showed it used to be consistently 10-20% more would be enough. It seems seeing all the billionaires around has pushed our appetites higher.

 

And the whole world is going after this beast of wealth. Even the socialistic mindset has fallen prey to the differentiated work of capitalism on social relationships. which i call it greed. Switzerland had a chance to vote on a cap for executives. Called the 1:12 cap, it would have prevented executives from getting 12x the salary in a month than the lowest paid full-time employee has. It was soundly defeated. Even socialists don’t like socialism any more.

Wealth is a strong, god.Once you get the capitalistic greed bug you get diseased and you don’t even know it. Back to my offer to help someone. It was only a couple of days of work for me, so I figured it should be easy for me to say yes. It wasn’t. I was not a cheerful giver. So my first thought was, just don’t do it until you are a cheerful giver.

Even socialists don’t like socialism any more.

I figured that because I was being thrown into torment and had no peace that God may not be in that work. I found a great passage prepared to soothe my torment: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:17-18). If God wanted me to do this it would be as simple as singing one of those praise songs at church… the ones that soothe and go down like butter on a hot roll.

Then I remembered an author somewhere commented that living a Christian life isn’t like reading a beautiful sonnet or poem. It was more like killing the flesh. Expect some stretching. It won’t be pleasant to watch your wealth die. It won’t. It will be warfare against a false god. Then I remembered Judges 5:8 “They chose new gods; then was war in the gates.”

Jesus is counter cultural. Culture says be a leader by being famous, decisive, powerful. He says, be a servant or better yet, a slave. Culture says get more. Jesus says give more. Culture says get your rights met, Jesus says turn the cheek and move on. My friends—the few who read this pathetic blog, but one written not with polished prose but passion—we are in a first-rate battle. We have to get our master straight.. If Jesus says to do something, wealth can shut up. Paul Piff in his articles and his Ted Lecture talks about how money, at least acquiring it, might be melting our compassion for one another. Those who get more and more give less and less percentage wise. It is the deceitfulness of wealth.

We are in a first-rate battle. We have to get our master straight.

. Seems like the Christian church has been drunk for too long with this other master.Andy Stanley does an excellent job of helping us see the hope that only Christ can give and that money tempts us with a security and hope that is as fickle as warmth in Michigan in February.

One of my non-Adventist doctoral students studied giving in his denomination. He showed the pastors that speak more about tithe, giving, and fiscal management have been trained into a better pattern of thinking about what Christianity is. It entails stewardship in response to grace.

That won’t always be a pleasant journey of discipleship. A small section of his literature review uncovered a sad reality about Adventists. SDA percentage of giving over the last several decades in the U.S. has gone down even while we have more millionaire Adventists than ever before.

The disease has spread. We need a trip to Jesus, M.D. We are so intoxicated that we can’t even stop believing we need more.Andy Stanley likens it to the work of physicians for several hundred years working with anorexia nervosa. “Anorexia was an irrational delusion of the mind—a by-product of the social pressures of the day” (p. 24). “The irony of anorexics is that they’ve already mastered the thing they’re working so hard to achieve. They’re good at losing weight. But they’re really bad at knowing when to stop. For them, the destination has taken a backseat to the journey. They’re so absorbed in the effort to get thin, they no longer recognize when they are thin” (p. 27, 28).

We are so intoxicated that we can’t even stop believing we need more.

. You can not serve wealth. It never lets you go to serve God or others.I wonder if Tom Perkins has read about this phenomenon. He recently suggested we move the democratic republic back to more of an oligarchy, where the wealthy have more votes.What, give the very people who don’t know when to stop hoarding wealth, more votes?Not a good idea. Now, I admit, there is something that having jobs, making money, and making better voters might exist. But ultimately, I am for a different equation. It is those who think about others that seem to be the less likely to mess up the country.

I want a four-part tiered authority in my life. These include –

Master Jesus: you need a relationship with Jesus to give you the reference point for decisions that follow in a day. Just remember he is above morality, meaning, and money. He is the Master who sees it all and knows it all and you can learn to trust Him with it all.

Morality is my second check. I want a moral life more than I want a meaningful life.

Meaning even trumps money for me.

Money.

There are  lots of other gods vying for the top spot: sex and food (which I group with meaning), and security and safety (which I group with money)  and then there is fame (which is the very heart of Satan and only comes as Jesus affirms and celebrates who we are).

Jesus, I need you to be my master. Anything else beats me up too much.

 



About the Author

Duane Covrig
I teach leadership and ethics at Andrews University. I am a Seventh-day Adventist eager for the Second Coming of Christ and positive about His judgment hour work (Rev 14:6-12). I use that reality to understand morality and ethics.




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