What You See May Not Be The Truth

Matthew 7:1-12

by Paul George

A while back, I read the very distressing account of an incident in the life of a young bachelor. He worked in an office where every year the boss gave each employee a turkey as a bonus for the holiday season. Of course, the bachelor could never figure out what to do with his ‘turkey.’ One year the other fellows in the office decided to play a little practical joke on their friend. They exchanged the genuine item for one made of plaster. They could hardly wait to hear his report after the holidays.

On the way home on the bus that evening the young man was contemplating how he could dispose of his turkey. About this time a man in tattered clothing, obviously ‘down in his luck,’ sat in the seat beside him. In the course of their conversation, the young man began to perceive the solution to his problem—he would give this poor fellow his turkey. It would meet a real need for this fellow and his family, and it would solve his problem, too.

In order to avoid humiliating the man he decided that rather than give the turkey to him as charity, he would sell it to him for whatever he could pay. The man gladly produced the last of his money and the exchange was made. Both men parted rejoicing. However, when the bachelor returned to the office, he was horrified to learn of the trick which had been played on him, and the terrible deed unknowingly done to the poor man on the bus. For days, the young attorney and his friends rode that same bus to rectify their error, but no one ever saw the man again.

This story illustrates the principle laid down by Jesus that we are not qualified to pass judgment on the deeds of others. If we were to judge this young bachelor by the act itself, we would conclude that he was a scoundrel. If we were to judge him by his motives, we would have to regard him as a benevolent individual.

Because of our tendency to pass quick and critical judgment on others, our Lord has chosen to address this issue. Chapter 7 verses 1-12 addresses an issue plaguing the religion of Jesus’ day and of ours, that of misdirected effort. Much of what is done in the name of Christianity is unprofitable and detrimental because it is misdirected and misguided. Verses 1-5 warn us of one type of misguided effort, criticism. Verse 6 cautions us not to carry this to the opposite extreme by insisting that we discriminate between receptive listeners and hardened rejecters. Verses 7-11 instruct us to redirect our efforts in the practice of persistent prayer. Verse 12 concludes with a principle that ties together the entire section and guides us in our relationships with our fellow man.

Jesus told the disciples, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1). This is one of the most quoted sayings on Jesus and one of the most misunderstood and misapplied. For this reason, we must begin by dealing with what our Lord did not mean by this warning.

Jesus did not mean that it is wrong to have law enforcement and courts. In his letter to the Christians in Rome the apostle Paul told them, that government is a divinely appointed instrument to mete out punishment (Romans 13:1-7). In his second letter to the first century Christian the apostle Peter wrote, “Submit yourselves to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13-14). Jesus did not dispute Pilate’s authority to execute capital punishment. Indeed, He stated that this authority came from God (John 19:10-11).

There are Christians who would have us believe that godliness is closely similar to gullibility. They claim we should accept every statement of men on its face value, and in no way should we ponder or weigh it as to its truthfulness. That is not the teaching of Scripture. Luke tells us there were “more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica” in Berea, who “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11), they were comparing what they were taught with what was written in the Scriptures. The apostle Paul told the Thessalonians, “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

So often whenever a Christian takes what might be regarded as a negative position, the response is, “Judge not.” However, the context of Matthew 7:1-12 indicate that we must make decisions and take a stand. Paul took a public stand on the issue of immorality within the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 5:4-5). Timothy was instructed to take a stand in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3-7). We are to refuse to invite false teachers into our homes (2 John 8-11). We are instructed to “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3).

It is not wrong to correct those in error. In Matthew 18:15-18, Jesus said, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
But if he does not listen to you, (take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed – Deuteronomy 19:15). If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

In Galatians 6:1, the apostle Paul told the Galatians they were to restore a sinning brother. Paul corrected Peter face to face (Galatians 2:11). Even the elders of a church are not above correction (1 Timothy 5:19-20).

What, then, did Jesus intend for us to understand by these words, “Judge not”? Since the Lord Jesus has all along been dealing more with attitudes and motives in the Sermon on the Mount, we are safe in concluding that the problem here has to do primarily with a critical, condemning spirit. The criticism of which Jesus is speaking of is that which seeks to put others down, while elevating ourselves, a smug disdain of those who feel superior to others.
The contempt of the scribes and Pharisees was more than just the smugness of superiority it was based upon legalism. The Jews had a neatly packaged system of rules and regulations that prescribed an external kind of righteousness. Those who judged, condemned the people and did so on the basis that those who were righteous kept their rules, but the rest failed to do so, and indeed, were ignorant of those rules and regulations (John 7:49). These self-appointed judges set themselves up as those who were qualified to pronounce upon a person’s spirituality by the standards of his own system of rules. They supposed that men would conform to these rules by the external pressure of those religious leaders who judged their performance by their man made laws.

Here was the problem within Judaism in the days of the Savior. Here is the problem within Christianity today. Men are directing their efforts toward producing righteousness through external acts. Worse yet, they are attempting to force this error on others by pressuring men to be righteous by keeping man made rules and regulations and rituals. These efforts are futile and doomed to failure because they do not change a man’s heart. No man can be made righteous until God radically changes his heart. Religion today is trying to reform men, but only Christ can transform men by giving them a new heart. Religion and reform will never save sinful man; only a renewal of heart can do that (Titus 3:5-7).

Jesus told the disciples why they should not judge others, “so that you will not be judged.” Judging is a divine prerogative. We take too much upon ourselves if we set ourselves over others to judge them. It is not the privilege or the position of a servant to judge other servants. That is the responsibility of their master. We make ourselves masters and not servants when we judge others.

The judging that Jesus condemns is wrong because it is criticism arising from impure motives. It attempts to emphasize one’s own righteousness at the expense of a brother’s reputation. The only criticism or correction that is praiseworthy is that which is prompted by genuine love. Love does not seek a brother’s downfall, but his edification (Romans 14:13, 19). Love is reluctant to believe the worse and hopeful of the best, “Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). “Love seeks to conceal unrighteousness, not to expose it” (1 Peter 4:8).

It was the legalistic rules and regulations by which men judged others, rather than by God’s law (James 4:11-12). The tendency to go beyond the requirements of scripture is clearly implied by Jesus when He warned that the standard by which we judge men is the standard by which we will be judged ourselves (Matthew 7:2). If we wish to be overly demanding on others, we must accept this same standard for our own conduct (Romans 2:1-2).

It is easy for Christians to confuse biblical principles and personal preferences, convictions and commandments. We then try to impose these upon others, and we judge men’s spirituality by how well they live up to our preconceived ideas of righteousness.

Personal convictions are to be kept to ourselves, not crammed down the throats of others (Romans 14:22). The entire focus of criticism is upon the lives and conduct of others, but this is none of our business, for each man must give account of himself before God (Romans 14:10). Here we are trying to correct the flaws in others, rather than concentrating upon ourselves. Criticism is minding other people’s business. We listen to a sermon and remark how we wished that Sister Monday were here to hear it. How we deceive ourselves.

The scribes and Pharisees looked upon themselves as the leadership of Judaism. They felt that as such they were obligated to judge those under their authority, and to impose upon their inferiors the full requirements of Jewish traditionalism, which they called “the Law”. Jesus clearly implied in Matthew 7:3-5 that those with the greatest problems were the leaders themselves. How often we project our own failures upon others, while neglecting our own responsibilities.

Judging others is a profitless practice. It fails to edify and build up our brother; it increases our own pride and sets the standard for our own condemnation. Worst of all, it does not produce righteousness in us or in others. However, there is an opposite and equal error. We know from the Scriptures that Jesus Christ virtually divided the nation by His teaching and claims (John 7:40-44; 9:16; 10:19-21). No doubt, one member of a family would tirelessly work to convince the rest of his family that Jesus was the Christ, but often to no avail. Today there are Christians who are saved and yet have spent their lives in apostate churches. They often attempt to stay in the church and to bring about its revival and reform. These words of Jesus have direct bearing on such efforts.

In verse 6, Jesus said, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine.” If we are not to “give what is holy to dogs”, then we must decide who are dogs. If we are not to throw our pearls before swine, we must decide who swine are.

We are not told what that which is holy is, or what pearls signify, but it is not difficult to figure out. Surely that which is holy pertains to spiritual things, matters which Christians would consider of great value and sacred. We would conclude that foremost in our Lord’s mind is the Gospel of salvation. Other spiritual truths could surely be included. Who are the dogs and swine? Judaism considered both dogs and hogs unclean. Consequently, they were expressions which could be employed with reference to the Gentiles (Matthew 15:27; Mark 7:28). Within Israel, the term dog was an expression of disdain (2 Samuel 9:8; Proverbs 26:11). In Hebrew symbolism, the word “dog” is an epithet for a male prostitute or sodomite (Deuteronomy, 23:18). The apostle Peter wrote of those who were apostates and rejecters of the truth, “But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed … For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘A dog returns to its own vomit,’ and ‘A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire’” (2 Peter 2:12, 21-22).

Dogs and swine are not merely unbelievers, but rather are those who have ample information concerning the way of righteousness and who have stubbornly rejected it. They are hardened in their rebellion and unbelief. To persist in witnessing to such people is wasted energy.

The dogs of Jesus’ day were not well-mannered lap dogs, but wild dogs that lived on the streets, eating that which was discarded and unclean. At times, this included dead bodies (1 Kings 14:11; 21:19-24). In offering meat to an unclean dog, one might be bitten in the process. Were one to cast pearls before swine, they might at first think them to be food, and then, not valuing pearls, might trample them under foot and even turn on the one who offered them. Therefore, although one dare not be overly critical of others (verses 1-5), neither is he to be so naive as to not distinguish between those who are open to the truth and those who oppose it.  Jesus followed His own counsel when He ceased speaking openly to those who accused Him of using demonic power (Mark 3:22). When Jesus sent out His disciples to proclaim the kingdom of God He instructed them, “And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet” (Matthew 10:14). Likewise, this was the practice of the apostle Paul (Acts 13:44-51; 18:5, 6; 28:17-28).

While we must initially proclaim the gospel universally and indiscriminately, there comes a time when we must mark those who are hardened to the truth and cease our efforts to convert them and press on. This does not necessarily mean that such persons may not be saved in the future. This is why persistent prayer is profitable.

While the first six verses of chapter 7 have informed us of unproductive activities for the Christian, verses 7 through 11 provide us with a creative and profitable alternative, namely prayer. Nothing neutralizes a critical spirit more than prayer. You cannot long be angry with those for whom you are praying, seeking their salvation and best interest. This, no doubt, is why Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44)

Jesus has told us that we are not to be critical of others, standing over them as their judge and we are to discern between good and evil, truth and falsehood. The question that immediately comes to mind is “How can we distinguish between destructive criticism and discernment?” It is difficult, even impossible we must have divine enablement.

In verses 7-11, we are told to pray for the wisdom and enablement. James tells us, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:5). Surely, the instruction of verses 1-6 demands divine wisdom. “Seeking” and “knocking” suggest aggressive and intensive prayer. Seeking implies continually seeking to know to whom we should speak and what we should say in the light of verses 1-6. Knocking implies looking for opportunities to share our faith in such a way as to stimulate one’s interest in spiritual things. Rather than persisting at criticism or fruitless evangelism among the hardened, let us pour our efforts into prayer, for God is always willing to help us search our hearts. He is always ready to give us His best. Just as earthly parents, who are evil by nature, are eager to do what is best for their children.

If men, evil by nature, desire to give good things to their children, are we not to be assured of God’s answer to our prayers? While God’s willingness and goodness are here emphasized, nowhere are we told that God is going to give us all we ask for. Jesus has said that God does not give His children useless or dangerous things in response to their asking. What is stressed is that God will always answer our prayers as a concerned and loving Father. He will never overlook a request, nor will He respond in a way that is harmful to His child. However, just because we ask for a fish, something useful, does not guarantee that we will receive exactly what we request. God will never give us that which is not for our good. In addition, what God does give us is just what we really need.

We should be thankful that our loving heavenly Father reserves the right to substitute something better in place of our request. We should never hesitate to allow God to substitute what He knows to be better for us than that for which we pray. If there were ever motivation for prayer, it is in this fact. God is our Father, if we, by faith, have become His sons through Jesus Christ, His Son and we are the objects of His intimate and infinite care. No request of ours is insignificant to Him or ignored.

Jesus, in these few verses has summarized the Law and the Prophets. Implied by our prayer life is the fact that we love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and we love our neighbor as ourselves.

To love our neighbor as ourselves is a little difficult to translate into everyday life. How do we love our neighbor as ourselves, by treating him, as we would wish him to treat us.

This principle governing human relationships was not new to the ears of Jesus’ listeners. The ancient world had produced numerous parallels to it, yet all with one notable exception: they were expressed in the negative. The essence of these sayings was, “Do not do to others what you do not want done to you.”

How would I want others to treat me in view of my sinfulness and obvious flaws? I would not want to be harshly criticized or condemned.  I would want to be treated with respect, with an evident spirit of love, encouragement, and a desire to build me up rather than to tear me down. I would not want my sins to be overlooked or excused, but lovingly to be confronted and corrected.

If I were one who had heard the gospel and concluded that I wanted no part of it, I would hope that once I had made my disinterest and rejection known my feelings and decisions would be respected. I would desire that the same points not be raised repeatedly, and that I would not have to avoid contact with the Christian or to terminate our friendship in order to avoid arguing the same points repeatedly. I would greatly appreciate having my critics spend their efforts in persistent prayer, reporting my faults to God alone, and asking Him to strengthen and save me. Were I an unbeliever I would prefer the Christian prevail upon God for my conversion rather than to pester me.

There are several things taught in these verses, first, Christians prefer things to be all nicely packaged. That is the great appeal of legalism, a law for every possible circumstance. However, Christian liberty is not that easy. Legalism attempts to avoid thinking and faith by setting a rule for every conceivable circumstance and situation. Compliance is enforced by external pressure through fleshly effort. Liberty lives by principles that apply to a broad diversity of situations. These principles are applied by faith through the power of the Spirit. They are applied individually as matters of personal conviction. Legalism concentrates upon others, seeking to get men to live according to our personal preferences and prejudices. Liberty looks to our own responsibilities, living our life before God in the light of personal convictions and biblical principles.

Second, while prevailing upon men to accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord can be compared to giving what is holy to dogs or casting pearls before swine, the prayer of one of God’s children is always profitable because we have a heavenly Father who answers every prayer. He never fails to hear or to respond, although He may choose to give us a better answer than we thought to ask for. Prayer dissolves a critical spirit and it is instrumental in obtaining wisdom and discernment.

Third, while the world talks about love, it knows little about true love. True love is not blind to the truth. Love sees things as they are and loves in spite of them. True love does not criticize, but neither does it fail to make necessary distinctions between right and wrong, good and evil.

Our prayer is the prayer the apostle wrote to the Philippians, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment; so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10).

A Troubled Land – Part 4

Matthew 16:18

by Paul George

The source of the problems in our nation is disobedience. The source of the problems in the Church is disobedience. This is not a popular subject and difficult to deal with. We would rather sweep it under the carpet. If we are going to be honest and solve the problems in the Church, we must deal honestly with the source. The Church is not a building. The Church is the body of Christ. Its purpose is to be a beacon in this sin-darkened world directing the lost to a safe harbor and away from dangerous waters. The Church cannot perform its responsibility if the light goes out. The light in the Ephesus church went out when it left its first love. The first sign the light has gone out and the church has lost its first love is the abandonment of devotion.

When the light goes out worldliness, heresy, and compromise enters into the body of believers. When the light goes out the minds of men and women are filled with confusion and doubt. When the light goes out the hearts of men and women fail them because they are filled with fear. When the light goes out the church is just a building. When the light goes out the church loses it power to have an impact and influence on society. When the light goes out God’s love is not revealed to the lost and dying; spiritual apathy erases the Christians testimony. When the light goes out love for God is replaced by the love of things, which results in a departure from the faith and loss of effective spiritual testimony.

It may come as a surprise. When the light goes out the church does not need more programs to recharge the batteries and restore the testimony of the Church. Programs have failed to restore the sacredness of marriage. Programs have failed to heal broken relationships. Programs have failed to build foundations for the building of values and virtue. Programs have failed to solve the drug problem. Programs have failed to reduce the abuse of children and spouses. Programs have eased the Holy Spirit out of the worship service. When the lights go out, we do not need entertainment. When the light goes out we do not need some gimmick to draw the people back to Church. We need the Word of God and prayer.

Programs cannot replace the Word of God and prayer. I have seen hundreds of programs fall by the wayside. Thousands of dollars invested in programs. They did not fall by the way side because we did not try to make them work. Entertainment lasts until the refreshments are served. Gimmicks are useless. The greatest need when the light goes out is the presence of the Holy Spirit. We need to open the door and let the knocking Son of God into His Church. Without Him, it is impossible to turn the light on.

In our disobedient society, the God of the Bible is not recognized as the Creator of the universe and life. Some impersonal “Force” is recognized as the creator of the universe and life. This force is often referred to the “Universal Mind” or “Nature.” The power of the Holy Spirit is being replaced by alleged “mind power” or psychic powers. Sin is nothing more than a bad self-image. We are told our greatest need is not a regenerated heart but a renewed self-image. Our problem is not that we think too highly of ourselves but too lowly. We do not know who we are. A popular pastor and television evangelist made the claim we need to be like Jesus, He knew His worth. His success fed His self-esteem and He suffered and died on the cross to sanctify His self-esteem and our self-esteem. He claimed a person is in hell when he has lost his self-esteem.

I listened to a man stand before a congregation and he used the term “mother nature” at least five times. I asked the question, “Does he know who mother nature is?” Since he was a thousand miles away and could not answer the question, I did the next best thing I turned off the television.

There are multitudes in the world that are living under a false sense of security built on the compromise of the Word of God. A promise of peace built on the philosophies and doctrines of the New Age Movement, cults, and mysticism. Thousands are falling into the snares of Satan baited with the promise of godhood. Professing Christians are ignoring warning signs and running stop signs. They are making decisions based on prejudices, assumptions, and speculations. They are not taking the time to explore God’s Word. They are looking at the world through eyes that have been blinded by the god of the air, the great deceiver and father of liars.

More than 2500 years ago, Israel was standing at a crossroad. The decision the people made was according to what they thought was best for them. They doubted the love of God. They did not trust the One who had brought their fathers from the land of bondage and through the Red Sea. They relied on their own abilities and human logic. They put their trust in their enemies and bowed before pagan idols and worshipped gods made of stone.

We are standing at a crossroads. The problems in the Church are the results of a people who claim they love the Lord and doubt His love. They question His motives. They are putting their trust in human abilities and knowledge. Sin is no longer a deadly spiritual disease. We are merely the victims of circumstances beyond our control. Criminal rights are protected and the victims ignored. Doing what they believe is best for them they ignore what God has said is best for them.

Someone once said, “There are more things between heaven and earth than our schoolmaster’s intellect can grasp. Let us not put our trust in any new tower of Babel; rather let us trust in the Holy Spirit inspired Scriptures.”

Will we ever rid our nation and the Church of the problems they must deal with? No. Can we rescue those who are dying in the sea of darkness sweeping over this land? No. However, we can tell them who is able to rescue them. In these dark days, we must stand strong in the faith. We must not let the deceivers who have made their way into the Church through deceptive means destroy the flock.

It all begins with letting God have His way in our lives.

Laying Up Treasures

Matthew 6:19-34

by Paul George

The Lord Jesus told the disciples, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).

A preoccupation with hoarding earthly treasure makes little practical sense. Eternal investments, investments in the kingdom of heaven, are far more profitable. They are certain, and the benefits long lasting. Earthly investments are short-lived.

There are, as we know, various kinds of wealth, and Jesus reminded His disciples how each form of wealth was subject to loss of value. Clothing was considered one form of wealth in the near East (Joshua 7:21; 2 Kings 5:22). In some cultures today clothing is a form of wealth, or at least a symbol of wealth. However, such wealth is short-lived. Just one of the destructive forces at work in this area is the moth. No matter how hard we try to avoid it, the moth gets into our most precious and valuable clothing and eats holes in it.

Rust can and does consume any metal forms of wealth. That is one reason why you and I have to keep buying new cars from time to time. It is doubtful, however, that rust is the primary image in our Lord’s mind. “Rust” is literally that which “eats” or “corrodes.” More likely one’s wealth would be, in those days, in the form of grain that would be stored until the price was high enough to make a good profit. Any foodstuff would be the target for vermin to get into and to contaminate or consume.

The indestructible forms of wealth such as jewels or silver or gold are not so secure either. Burglars and thieves could, in those days, quite easily “break in” and steal them. Literally, this expression, “break in” meant to dig through. This was easily accomplished when walls were made of sun-dried bricks or mud. Even today, our most secure vaults are not burglarproof.

In verse 21, Jesus tells us why we should not store up treasures on earth. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Generally, we are inclined to think just the reverse of this. We suppose that a man will first fix his heart on something and then his money naturally follows. However, our Lord says that our heart follows our pocketbook.
Where we spend our money, where we appropriate our material goods and our personal time, is where our heart will be. We might apply this principle to marriage. To the extent that we invest heavily, both in time and in money, we will find our affections more and more developed and committed.

To store up treasures on earth is to set our heart on earthly things. It is difficult, even impossible, to desire the return of our Lord when we have made all of our investments in earthly things. Not only this but we also tend to put our trust, our confidence and hope in our investments. The great difficulty of the rich is that they are deceived into “fixing their hope on the uncertainty of riches” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Jesus is not telling us we are forbidden to enjoy many of life’s pleasures, but that we view them as temporary and, in the long term, unsatisfying. Consequently, we choose to deny ourselves of some things in order to gain that which is greater.

In verses 22 and 23 Jesus tells the disciples, “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness.”

To the ancient mind, the eye was like a window that let light into the body. The condition or health of the eye determined the amount of light that entered the body. An unhealthy eye clouded or dimmed the entering light, subjecting the body to darkness. In the Bible, the eye represents a man’s character (Deuteronomy 25:12; 28:54, 56). A man with an “evil eye” is one who is greedy and miserly when confronted with the need of another:
“A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth, and does not know that want will come upon him” (Proverbs 28:22).

The one whose heart is set on worldly riches has an evil eye. In looking out for himself, he neglects the needs of others. The one who is generous with others has a healthy eye. His vision of the needs about him is not distorted. He views his material wealth as belonging to God, and he quickly and willingly employs it to help those in need.
The point of this principle is the love of money is not some minor flaw in the thinking of man. It is like a virus that has entered into the bloodstream. It affects the whole person. The love of money has far-reaching effects. Where we store up treasures is where our heart is drawn to and we invest most heavily.

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Put in its simplest form, “Money is either your slave or your master.” Money is like the fleshly desires. Either we will master them, or they will be our master. One may try to deceive himself into believing that he can pursue both goals simultaneously, God and money. However, our Lord said only one will be our Master.

It is difficult for the Western mind to grasp the meaning of our Lord’s words. Many of us have second jobs. We may leave one job in the evening and go on to another at night. However, the language our Lord used was that of slave and master. A slave was the exclusive property of one master. He had no time of his own. His master could dispose of him as he wished.

Perhaps an analogy that might be easier to understand is that of drug addiction. At first, a man begins to use drugs, but eventually they use him. His body builds up a tolerance for a certain quantity of a drug and he finds he must have more and more. Finally, the drug is his master and he is its slave. The more money one gets, the more one desires. This is what our Lord is saying. Storing up treasures on earth is dangerous and destructive because they take complete control over the one that should be the master.

In His instructions to the disciples, Jesus warned us we should not view our material possessions as a means of ensuring comfort and security in this earthly life. Instead, we should invest in eternal things, for such an investment is secure and the benefits everlasting.

Most people are inclined to think storing up earthly treasures as the inordinate desire to become wealthy for selfish ends. In other words, storing up earthly treasures is equated with financial ambition and prosperity. We who are storing up heavenly treasures often do not think storing up earthly treasures is a problem to us. However, storing up earthly treasures has two distinct forms. The first and most obvious is that dealt with in verses 19-24, the love of money that becomes the dominant and all-consuming passion of our lives. Most of us are not as close to the fire of this temptation as we are its opposite side. Rather than being absorbed in the hoarding of the material things we possess, we are consumed with concern about that which we do not possess.

However, most Christians are more concerned about those things that are not optional, but mandatory, not the luxuries, but the necessities. Notice what Jesus told the disciples, “do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not your life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”

In His instructions to the disciples, Jesus addresses the distracting and devastating worry that undermines our faith and diverts our spiritual energy. Faith is not contrary to sound thinking; rather it is to be rooted in thought. In fact, our Lord is urging us to use our heads and not to panic. We are to consider the birds of the air (v 26) and the flowers of the field (v 28). We are shown that worry is both illogical and unprofitable. Worry is not to be confused with thinking and planning to meet future needs. Worry is not to be confused with genuine concern. Rather, worry is the preoccupation and dissipation of our mental and physical powers with things that are future, hypothetical, and beyond our control. Worry is the opposite of faith. Faith perceives potential problems with a view to the infinite power and fatherly concern of the God who has saved us. Worry sees only the obstacles, (actual or imaginary, and meditates on all the possible disastrous possibilities, while neglecting the fact of God’s divine care and control in our lives. In verses 25-32, our Lord outlined the reasons why worry is both foolish and faithless.

“Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25).

If God is our Creator and He has given us life, will He not also provide the incidentals such as food and clothing? This is the kind of argument Paul employed in Romans chapter 8: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

This is a valid argument, but this is not the main point in Jesus’ instructions to the disciples. Jesus is focusing upon the issue of priorities. Storing up earthly treasures is a reversal of priorities. It places the temporal above eternal things. It is shortsighted, and misses the long view of matters. It is this world centered. Jesus wants us to rethink our priorities. Worry is preoccupation with matters of lowest priority. Worry is a symptom of reversed priorities, and our Lord calls this to our attention. Worry is a failure to see things as they really are.

“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (v 26).

Look about you. Look up in the skies and look at the birds. Do they spend hours in worry and anxiety? No, even by instinct they live their lives in thoughtless dependence upon God. Has God failed to care for insignificant birds? If He cares for birds, which are creatures of much less value than man, will He not care for you? To the birds, God is both Creator and Sustainer. To the Christian, God is our Heavenly Father. Dare we doubt His care? Worry does not see matters clearly. It allows our vision of our Heavenly Father to be obscured. It overlooks the providential care of God for insignificant creatures, such as the birds.

Worry is a waste of energy, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?

Worry is the most unproductive use of one’s time. It accomplishes nothing but unbelief, doubt and fear. It distracts our attention from matters of higher priority and paralyzes us from doing what is needful now. It fears what could be rather than what should be done. It is a proven fact worry can shorten life and undermine our health.

Worry is an act of unbelief, worrying over what we will wear is surely unfounded. Look around; consider the wild flowers of the field. Do they fret and fume? Look at their beauty. Even Solomon’s clothing was no match. Indeed, good clothing can do little but to attempt to imitate nature’s beauty. The beauty which God has given these wild flowers is all the more impressive when you realize how temporary and expendable such flowers are. They are magnificent in their beauty for a short while and then they are gone. Men value them so little that they gather handfuls of the dried grass to throw into the ovens to increase their heat. If these flowers are so insignificant and yet God gives them such beauty, will He not care for His own?
The issue, then, is more than one of mere lack of knowledge; it is lack of faith: “will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30). Worry is a serious sin because it doubts the goodness and the integrity of God. In effect, we disregard the word of God and call Him a liar when we worry. We question His sovereignty, His omniscience, His omnipotence, His tender love and care for His own. Worry is very unbecoming to the child of God. It completely forgets that God is our Heavenly Father.

Jesus told the disciples, “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things.”

Jesus said that when we worry about what we will eat, drink, or wear we are acting just as the pagans do. These things dominate the thinking and the striving of the non-believer, if you do not believe this just look at the media and its advertising. They try to sell us deodorant to cover our body odor, after-shave lotion to make us irresistible, toothpaste that gives our mouth sex appeal, and clothing that makes us look suave and sophisticated. Food, drink and clothing these are the priorities of the world. When we become preoccupied with these things, we are just like unbelievers.

Worry is no mere human failing; it is willful sin. It doubts God and dims our view of things as they really are. When you fall into worry, confess it as sin and ask for forgiveness and victory.

Worry can only co-exist with an unbiblical view of God. It cannot tolerate a Sovereign God who is all knowing and all-powerful. It refuses to acknowledge God as a loving Father who knows our every need, and who brings about every situation to strengthen our faith.

Worry, among other things, is the reversal of our priorities involving heavenly and earthly things. Jesus did not say, seek only the kingdom of God, but rather, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Heavenly things must come first in our priorities. We must see our spiritual lives as of primary importance and our physical life as secondary. Once we have our priorities in order, we shall not worry about those things in life that are beyond our control.

Every one of us is actively pursuing some goal in life. We are all devoted to one thing or another. If we have made our goal the quest for earthly treasures then we must redirect our efforts. The Christian life is not a matter of pursuing earthly treasures it is a matter of actively carrying out the will of God. Therefore, when it comes to the matter of worry we must not waste our energies on worry, but eagerly become involved in the task immediately before us. It is not wrong to be ambitious and aggressive. It is only wrong to pursue the wrong goals.

The Bible teaches us that we must live one day at a time. Christians who live godly lives will have trials and testing. That is a normal part of our Christian experience (Matthew 5:3-12; John 15:20; 2 Corinthians 1:3ff; Philippians 1:29-30; James 1:2ff; 1 Peter 1:6ff.). There will be trials and trouble tomorrow, but these things are beyond our control. God gives us grace and comfort in the time of need. Let us not seek an advance on adversity. We have sufficient troubles today. Let us see to it that we deal with them in such a way that God is glorified.

It is a difficult thing to come to a balanced biblical outlook on material possessions In this passage, the Lord has been dealing with our priorities as they relate to material possessions. Our security is in the Lord, not in our bank account or investment portfolio. Our preoccupation should not be with storing up earthy treasures but with glorifying God and seeking to further His righteous rule on earth.

It is not wrong to have material possessions, but with material possessions comes responsibility, to whom much is given, much is required. Those who have riches are inclined to find in them a false sense of security (1 Timothy 6:17). There is no particular virtue in being poor either. In such a condition, we are sometimes tempted to distrust God or to be dishonest; the right balance is probably best stated in Proverbs 30:8b-9), “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.’”

While we are to be free from worry, we are not exempt from work. Because of the fall, man is to earn a 1iving ‘by the sweat of his brow’ (Genesis 3:17-19). If a man does not work, he should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
Many Christians are troubled by the fact that so many of their working hours are consumed by their jobs. How can I have God’s kingdom as a first priority if I spend so much of my time in secular employment. Such distinctions between spiritual and secular are not biblical. Our work is, largely, our ministry. Working is not or should not be the neglecting of our responsibilities to our family, it is meeting our obligation to provide for them (1 Timothy 5:8), and not a denial of the faith.

To seek first the kingdom of God is further explained by the phrase “and His righteousness.” In other words, seeking the kingdom of God is striving to extend and exemplify the righteousness of God on earth. There is no place where exemplifying the righteousness of God is needed than the world of work. Our work is not in competition with our ministry, it is the cornerstone of our ministry.

While hoarding money and material goods is sin, saving for future needs is not. Joseph demonstrated spiritual wisdom and maturity when he recommended the storing up of Egypt’s grain (Genesis 41:33-36, 38). The sluggard is instructed to study the ant, which prepares for the future (Proverbs 6:6ff.). The virtuous woman is commended for preparing for the future (Proverbs 31:21, 25). Christians are encouraged to set money aside to minister to the needs of others (1 Corinthians 16:2). The man who fails to provide for his family has denied the faith (1 Timothy 5:8). It is not the method of saving for the future that is condemned by our Lord, but the materialistic motive. Perhaps one of the most deceitful errors among Christians concerning money and material blessings is the false mentality that we are not to enjoy earthly pleasures. This attitude does not originate from God, but from Satan. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4).

Finally, although material possessions are insignificant things, a matter of low priority, the way we handle them is indicative of our faithfulness. Our proper handling of material things shows us to be qualified for greater responsibilities.

Jesus said, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon, who will entrust the true riches to you?” (Luke 16:10-11).
May God help us to be faithful in the use of material possessions.