“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
1) The Sermon on the Mount: Materialism (David Flatt)
2) News & Notes
The Sermon on the Mount: Materialism
Synopsis: Focusing upon Jesus’ teaching concerning materialism, David encourages us to examine how the desire for wealth and possessions is a form of idolatry and recognize how such prevents us from getting to the kingdom.
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:19-24).
At this point in Jesus’ sermon, He identifies an idol which has lured the hearts of people for many generations: wealth. He warns against the perils of devoting our lives to the pursuit of wealth.
Where can we find contentment in this life? At the beginning of this sermon, Jesus used a word which implies contentment: blessedness. We look for contentment, peace, and joy in many places. Some seek fulfillment through false religion and worldly philosophy. Some seek fulfillment through pleasure. Others seek fulfillment in wealth and possessions. None of this satisfies the deep craving of our hearts.
The Bible is filled with warnings against the deceitfulness of wealth and possessions to bring contentment. The wealthy King Solomon wrote, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity” (Eccl. 5:10). This was as true in Solomon’s day as it was in the time of Jesus.
Warning against the perils of wealth and possessions was a common thread of Jesus’ teaching. For example, He told a hungry crowd, “Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. 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” (John 6:26-27).
On another occasion, Jesus was rudely interrupted while teaching. A man asked Jesus to mediate in an inheritance dispute between him and his brother. Imagine having Jesus standing in front of us. Would we ask about something as trivial as money? This man did. He asked, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:13-15).
Sadly, many have been deceived into believing that their lives do consist of the abundance of their possessions. As Americans, we dream for the day when we will be rich. The pressures of our materialistic society are quite profound. We will often drown ourselves in debt to have the latest and greatest, the biggest and the best. Typically, we measure success in materialistic terms. What is sadder is how our culture has corrupted the gospel of the kingdom with the hopes of earthly wealth.
The Fundamental Problem with Materialism
As has been previously discussed, humans were created to be the image bearers of God. However, idolatry has always hindered men from fulfilling this vocation. Idolatry, choosing to worship that which is not God, is expressed through specific acts of sin. The practice of idolatry deteriorates our humanness and ultimately culminates in death.
Materialism is idolatry. Materialism stems from misguided desire: covetousness. Remember the first commandment? God spoke all these words, saying,
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exod. 20:1-6).
The first commandment was a prohibition against idolatry. This commandment is the foundation of the other nine. Without abiding by the first, none of the others matters. Jesus makes the connection between materialism and idolatry clear: no one can serve two masters. We cannot serve God and mammon.
When reading this section of the sermon, we will typically say, “mammon is riches” and quickly move on to our next point. This is true; however, why did the scholars of King James use the term “mammon”? The scholars essentially left the word untranslated; however, mammon was the personified form of the evil deity of riches during the Middle Ages: the devil of greed and covetousness (Geller). These translators recognized that Jesus was teaching that materialism is a form of idolatry.
In what ways does this form of idolatry deteriorate our humanity? Paul explained, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Tim. 6:9-10).
As Paul describes, serving the idol of money depreciates our humanity by depreciating the image we have been made to bear in life: the image of the Creator (Gen. 1:27). This form of idolatry stems from an insatiable craving. People have allowed unrestrained desire to drive them to commit all sorts of mischievous sin to gain wealth. Remember, sin is the means through which idolatry is expressed. Sin causes decay which culminates in death. This certainly is what Paul indicated to Timothy regarding the result of the love of money.
Of course, Jesus was not teaching us that having money is sinful. Money is necessary for life. No one would dispute this. He identifies a specific form of idolatry which will keep us from fulfilling the purpose for which we have been created. He is warning us of an idol which will keep us out of the kingdom of God.
To what are we devoting our hearts? Where are we directing our love and desire? Is it God or mammon? With Jesus, it is all or nothing. Either we devote every part of our heart to God, and bring Him glory, or we devote nothing to Him. Our treasure reveals our heart.
Bearing God’s Image in a Materialistic Society
Unquestionably, we live in a materialistic society. The temptations of wealth are strong and relentless. What can we do to reflect the image of God into the world, while not being consumed by the idol of mammon?
Live Within or Below Our Means
Our materialistic society pressures us to buy. It is a bit ironic that we are referred to as “consumers.” We consume but are never satisfied. Often, we buy what we do not need, and what we cannot afford. Debt is a major problem within our nation. Jesus expects us to be responsible stewards of our blessings. Living beyond our means is proof positive we are failing in our stewardship: proof positive we are being swallowed up by mammon.
Share and Serve
Covetousness is the height of selfishness. Citizens of the kingdom are to share what they have and help those in need. They should serve the needs of others. Worshippers of the idol of mammon are not concerned about the welfare of others. They are obsessed with themselves. If ever we plan to tear down the idol of mammon, we will have to learn to share and serve. This is what Jesus was trying to impress upon a rich young ruler (Matt. 19:16-22).
In the battle over who we will worship, God or mammon, trust is at the heart of the struggle. In our society, we are told to trust in our wealth. Yes, money can help in many situations of life. It can soften the shock of traumatic events. However, money cannot be relied on to find and experience the blessedness of which Jesus spoke in this sermon. Only through trust in God can we know true blessedness. Paul wrote,
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Tim. 6:17-19).
This passage sounds like a commentary on Jesus’ sermon. To know true life, we must learn to trust in the true and living God.
Yes, contentment is a learned condition. Paul explained to the Philippians how he had learned contentment throughout his turbulent life:
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13).
Living within or below our means, sharing and serving, and developing trust in God are all part of the learning process of contentment. This state of being is the product of focusing and harnessing our hearts. The heart of materialistic individuals focuses on that which is not God and is unrestrained in how he vainly attempts to satisfy lustful cravings. Like Paul, our circumstances in life are constantly changing. There are times when we may have a lot. There are times when we may have a little. Those circumstances may be the result of hard work or time and chance. Regardless of the circumstances, we can always find contentment by being a citizen in God’s kingdom.
Try as we might, no one can serve two masters. We will devote ourselves fully to one at the expense of the other. The devil tries to deceive us into thinking we can serve two. Jesus demands we wake up to the reality in which we are living and make a choice. The influence of the idol of mammon in our society is strong and ever-present. We must constantly guard our hearts and minds against its pervasive influence; otherwise, we will find ourselves outside the kingdom of heaven.
Geller. “Mammon—Greedy Demon in the Bible.” Mythology.net. January 04, 2017. https://mythology.net/demons/mammon/.
Author Bio: David and his family have labored with the Thayer Street congregation in Akron, Ohio since 2008. The church website is thayerstreetcoc.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Via Truth Magazine, January 2019, No. 1, Volume 63
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News & Notes
Folks to be praying for:
Deborah Medlock had been in the hospital since Tuesday of last week until about 2:45 this afternoon. She is feeling a little better and sounded stronger on the phone. To help her breathe, she is now using oxygen continually. Her sense of taste has not yet returned, but she is eating. For the next couple weeks, she will have to remain in quarantine.
Bennie Medlock’s condition of the covid-19 has somewhat improved. He can now taste food again, but is still in the healing process.
Also with covid-19: Joe Hersey, Tiffany Cothren, Tiffany’s children (Rex and Cora), and Darlene Tanner.
Also for continual prayer: Rick Cuthbertson, Neil Teague, Vivian Foster, Larry & Janice Hood, Jim Lively, Judy Daugherty, Rex & Frankie Hadley, Jamie Cates, A.J. & Pat Joyner, Ronnie & Melotine Davis, Shirley Davis, Chris Williams, Tim Kirkland, and Cameron Haney.
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel — for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30-31).
2) Believe in the deity of Jesus Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins. For every accountable person has sinned (Romans 3:23; Romans 3:10), which causes one to be spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1) and separated from God (Isaiah 59:1-2; Romans 6:23). Therefore, repentance of sin is necessary (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30). For whether the sin seems great or small, there will still be the same penalty for either (Matt. 12:36-37; 2 Cor. 5:10) — and even for a lie (Rev. 21:8).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). This is the final step that puts one into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27). For from that baptism, one is then raised as a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17), having all sins forgiven and beginning a new life as a Christian (Rom. 6:3-4). For the one being baptized does so “through faith in the working of God” (Col. 2:12). In other words, believing that God will keep His word and forgive after one submits to these necessary steps. And now as a Christian, we then need to…
6) Continue in the faith by living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Matt. 24:13; Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
We are currently meeting for only our Sunday 10 a.m. worship service each week, due to the coronavirus situation.
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
https://thomastedwards.com/go/all.htm/ (older version of the Gospel Observer website, but with bulletins going back to March 4, 1990)