Updated on January 6, 2014
sayings of Christ: Week 5, Danger of Riches–Values
- Matthew 6:21–“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
- Matthew 6:24–“No one can serve two masters; for 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.”
- Matthew 6:33–“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
FOR WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS, THERE YOUR HEART WILL BE ALSO
What’s the motivation?
It happens to all of us. Before we realize it, we’re doing something and asking ourselves, “What on earth is this?” Or we’re speaking and our words start flowing faster than our brain. In an attempt to prove to people we’re smart, sophisticated, funny, compassionate, or whatever, we’ve slipped from simple sharing into something far more sinister: self-aggrandizement. The world is all about you and only loosely associated with anything else.
Read 6:16-21. What stands out to you?
Review verse 16. Jesus is clear that if a person’s motivation is to be seen by men, they will have that reward–and none other. In Christian circles, we do not talk about rewards much. We sweep that topic under the rug and pretend it doesn’t matter.
Why do we do this? Why do you do it?
We have mistakenly thought that God doesn’t want us to talk about rewards. We have even gone so far as to believe that we should not be motivated by rewards. The desire to have the “right” motivation has somehow morphed into a desire to deprive ourselves of the very blessings God has promised when we follow His ways. No, He is not a candy machine that we put our quarter into and out pops exactly what we want. But He is a loving and gracious Father who longs to give us good things. Who are we to tell Him that we disregard His reward? Who are we to think that the very rewards of God don’t matter?
Rewards matter to Jesus. In fact, much of Matthew 6 is dedicated to His teaching on rewards.
Read Matthew 6:1-15. What does Jesus say about rewards?
Rewards. Did Jesus call them bad? Or curse them?
What kinds of rewards were the hypocrites in these Matthew 6 passages seeking?
Read Luke 6:22-23. how does this passage compare to the rewards sought by the hypocrites?
Jesus does not curse the desire for reward. It is the motivation that causes Jesus to pause. He teaches, not that we are wrong to think of rewards, but that we are wrong to seek the recognition of men.
What is your motivation for earning money?
What is your motivation for spending money?
Read Luke 6:24. What does Jesus say about the rich?
Motivations are tricky things. When earning or spending money, does it make you feel good about yourself? Does it make you feel self-sufficient? We know that doing these things for the praise of men is wrong. We have been taught that over and over again. But the dirty little secret about money, or any idol, is that we seek it for comfort. Emotional comfort in feeling good about ourselves. The comfort of independence, knowing we can provide for ourselves.
Read Psalm 119:49-52. Where are we to find our comfort?
The motivation to seek approval of men is merely a smokescreen hiding the deeper longing of our heart: to be respected, seen as valuable, and honored. When our motivation is to receive these things from men, we find ourselves struggling to fill a great gaping black hole that can never be filled. But when we seek these things from God, then we can know peace.
Read John 14:25-26. You do not have to struggle through this alone. Write out your prayer.
FOR WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS, THERE YOUR HEART WILL BE ALSO
What are you looking at?
Several months ago, I had a series of nights dreaming that someone broke into my apartment and tried to attack me. In the waking world I battled on several fronts. Sharing my thoughts with a friend, we wondered if the real-world battles in my life were impacting my sleeping dreams. After several minutes pondering this, I began laughing. My friend looked at me and I said, “or it could be that I have spent the last two weeks running DVDs of crime-solving television shows while I worked from home.” I stopped watching such shows and sure enough, my sleeping dreams no longer included such “attacks.” What I allowed in my world, even as background noise, impacted my unconscious mind.
Read Matthew 6:19-23. What stands out to you?
We usually include an unfortunate section break between verses 21-22, separating the treasures of the heart from the vision of the eyes. Television is an easy example. If you watch sports continually, your mind will be full of coaching strategy, player statistics, and playoff schedules. If you watch food channels, your mind will be filled with recipes, restaurants, and cooking techniques. (Before we go on, please know I will not be negating or demeaning these interests. If they have increased to the level of being idols in your life, I trust God will show you that separate from this study.)
What topics/things do you spend time watching on television, reading about in magazines, and/or looking up on websites?
These things you spend your time on feed your thoughts. It makes sense that if you watch sports you will know sports better than if you watched food shows.
The same is true for riches. We somehow thing that constantly dreaming of bigger and better doesn’t impact our motivations and perspective. As a person who has struggled with focusing on career trajectory, I know first-hand the dangers of constantly seeking something different professionally. I have felt the impact of lacking contentment in work, and the bitter perspective that emerges as a result.
We think we can idolize and drool over the tool and abilities of the wealthy and not have it affect our motivations and perspectives. “I wish I could just hop a plane and go anywhere I want.” “Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to…” “What do they do that’s so special to be making that kind of money?”
What areas of struggle do you have with regard to this?
Hebrews 13:5-6. What stands out to you?
What stands in the way of this kind of contentment? Confess it here, asking God for guidance.
Contentment is difficult in a world inundating you with flash and sparkle.
How can we battle this? Read Hebrews 13:15-16. Identify the tools God provides to help us realize contentment.
Shift your perspective from one of always wanting to one of contentment, and the richness of your life will increase far beyond anything you could possibly imagine.
NO ONE CAN SERVE TWO MASTERS
[As you read through this section, there is a very important point to be made: the tone of this section is one of good friends having an honest discussion. Though words can be read in many tones, know that the tone of this section is friendly, pointing out the comical nature of human beings while making a serious point. With that, let’s get started.]
The danger of riches is made worse by the fact that in the church we lie about money. We walk in the doors and suddenly honesty and money flies out the window. And to make matters worse, enough preachers lie about where the money is going or push and berate their people to keep giving that other preachers refuse to talk about it at all for fear of being labeled as one of the former.
Sometimes Christians can fall into a trap of wanting to look holier than they really are, so they speak of “fulfillment” and “the will of God” all the while checking out that guy’s new car or that woman’s great shoes. And because we refuse to talk about it, we assume it is a curse. So we secretly long for something we also believe God has cursed.
And we rob the church of the tithe God has commanded. So we can have another overpriced latte or make the payment on the house we really couldn’t afford in the first place. Or we justify our lack of tithing by exchanging to for work–putting service to God on a time-clock, clinging to your coins while telling God your service is more important than His instruction.
“For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil.” –1 Timothy 6:10, NKJV
What do you notice about this verse?
The love of money–not the money itself. Money can be a tool when used as God intended. But grasping your money in one hand while serving God with the other sets you in a place of what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance.”
Dissonance is a clashing–in music, it is disharmony, when two notes clash. In your life, it is disagreement or incongruity. The human mind can handle a conscious struggle, so if you contemplate the struggle of money and God and how it all works together, your mind handles that well. Cognitive dissonance comes when your actions are incongruent with what you really believe. This discontinuity wearies the soul and tires the mind–so much so that you will naturally find a place of resolution. You will either change your behavior to fit your beliefs, or you will change your beliefs to fit your behavior.
At our very core we are single-minded creatures. Being dishonest about money in the church requires people to live in dissonance. And thus, the results are far more dramatic than they would be if we were honest about the struggle.
Honestly admitting your stance on money means being vulnerable. If you believe it is your money and you should be able to spend it however you want, there is fear of judgment. If you believe it is entirely God’s money and you aren’t to spend any of it ever on yourself, you risk someone challenging that perspective. Admitting that you cannot afford to tithe means admitting that tithe is last on your list of priorities and there may be choices you are making that need to be reprioritized.
So instead, you pour your heart and time into the church to “make-up” for your decisions about money. The dissonance increases and soon the church has someone so dedicated to serving that they become overwhelmed, their family suffers, and their service to the church becomes laced with bitterness.
Do you see yourself in that picture? Why or why not?
Or there’s the other end of the spectrum. you tithe and you think it gives you the right to control the church or it’s spending or it’s decisions. You don’t help out to set up a special event, but because you wrote a check, you’re convinced you don’t have to actually work to help build the vitality of the church.
Or you see that you’re bringing in new people to the church or increased attention or increased anything, so you shouldn’t have to tithe. After all, look at the increased income or the value of the “help” you are giving–that makes up for the lack of tithe, right?
Or you make far more than the average congregant. Your hard work brought in that money, why should you have to give a full tithe when that makes up the same as ten others combined? Why should you have to give more?
Or you make far less than the average congregant. People don’t understand how hard it is for you. There are plenty of others who can give to cover the few pennies your tithe would represent.
Or you tell yourself you’ll make up for all the past tithes one day. And yet, that day never seems to come.
Or maybe you do all the right things and you judge others who did not make your same decisions–declaring your hatred of debt, greed, and all the rest. After all, if you can struggle to make those decisions, others should do the same. You see it as an interpersonal issue, and get upset when others don’t do the same as you.
Do you see a theme? Every one of these represent the prioritization of self. Period.
And we all have one or more of these tendencies. We forget that the provision comes from God, we believe the lie that anything we have done has brought this to us, and we make decisions based on these lies.
Where do you fall? Toward which of these do you bend? (This is that honesty part. Whatever your answer is, it is what it is. You cannot hope to break a reliance on money or see God’s will for money if you are not honest with yourself and God.)
Again, we all have a bent (or more than one) in areas of self-reliance and money. And yet we walk into the church and pretend money doesn’t matter. We are all a bunch of liars–and I say that with humorous shaking of head, like closing our eyes makes us invisible to others.
Let’s be honest. Let’s not let cognitive dissonance exist. Let’s take a real, honest look at money, ourselves, and what God truly says about it.
Because here is what happens when these different approaches get honest about their beliefs. The one who can’t afford to tithe will tithe occasionally and maybe begin to find creative ways to cover costs so that tithing becomes an easier issue. The one wanting to know where their money goes releases the strangle-hold on the money being “theirs” and instead trusts God to handle those issues while also volunteering on the church’s budget committee. The one who makes significantly m ore than others sees that the percent asked is the same for all–and sees their larger amount as a provision from God to the church. The one making very little sees their smaller tithe as contributing. the one believing they can put it off starts to learn the peace that comes with taking care of things on the spot. And the one bitter about their own positive choices begins to see how they can relax and let God work in the hearts of others. They can relish in the positive decision and focus on the other areas in their life that may need similar attention.
You see, when we are honest and vulnerable, the level of grace expressed toward self and others increases. When we are honest, we can move ever-closer to the Father who wants the best for our lives.
Read 1 Timothy 6:6-12. What stands out to you?
What things are we to flee from? (verse 11)
Does it say to flee from money?
We flee from the love of money, the desire to be rich because those things lead to temptation and destruction.
According to this passage, what should we pursue?
Read Matthew 6:24. Does Jesus believe you can do both?
Tithe is important. Not because God needs your money or the church needs your money. But because tithing with the right heart is the pinpoint event where a person chooses God or money. We can debate the economy, the cost of living and all the rest. But those do not matter. The question is not the economy–it is your heart toward money and your heart toward God.
Yet we do not talk about tithe–because we know that is the root choice. That is the time when the ugly reality of our reliance of self-acquired money comes face-to-face with the God who asks for full reliance on Him and only a small portion of the income He has provided.
You see, the church doesn’t need your money. It needs His. Because a truly healthy church is made up of individuals who follow God, wherever He leads, whatever He asks. When God alone is our motivation rather than self-reliance, the church becomes incredibly healthy. Not because of us, but because He is ever-changing us.
What concerns stand in the way of your full reliance on God?
What areas of pride and self-reliance stand in the way of full reliance on God?
What heart decisions need to be made with regard to your reliance and too-high prioritization on money?
What is God calling you to do?
Let’s be honest. If you get this money thing figured out, when you truly relinquish this area of so rife with self-reliance, your reliance on God’s provision will bring peace.
End this week’s session meditating on the ways God has provided for you over the years.