Friday, February 29, 2008

Who’s Your Master?

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”(Matthew 6:24; NASB)

The term “master” here denotes someone who has sovereign authority or control over another. This means exclusive control over another’s actions and priorities. This is not the same as someone who may hold two jobs, devoting a portion of their time to two different bosses. In the sense of someone possessing sovereign authority, it means that they have final say in what that person does. In reference to the master and servant or bond slave relationship, the word used in Scripture is the Greek “doulos”, and refers to someone who surrenders their will for that of another. This involves giving up one’s own interests to be devoted to the interests of the other party. Only one master can have total control at any given time. Here, there can only be one master in control; either God, or wealth. Wealth encompasses anything associated with worldly goods; money, homes, anything falling under the umbrella of worldly possessions.

The sad thing is that it is possible to be involved in church activity, but actually have your heart set on worldliness. The scribes and the Pharisees did just that. They were heavily involved in religious activity, but their hearts were far from being devoted to God. This same situation is described in Isaiah, where the people gave lip service to their devotion to God, keeping their routine religious traditions, but their hearts were far from God.

“ 13 Then the Lord said, "Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,”(Isaiah29:13; NASB)

The term hate as it is used in Scripture, does not necessarily mean in an outright emotional sense. It is often used in the sense of having less regard for. In Romans 9:13, speaking in reference to Jacob and Esau, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”, is not referring to outright emotional hatred, but the fact that God chose Jacob to receive divine blessing, and left Esau to receive judgment. Another passage we can look at is Luke 14:26, where our Lord is describing what it takes to be His disciple.

26"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”
(Luke 14:26; NASB)

Here, hate is not used in the sense of deep emotional hatred, but rather it is speaking of holding lesser regard for. Matthew 10:37 helps us to understand this tough command.

37"He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:37; NASB)

Our love for anything or anyone must be less than our love for God. It is the love of this present world that causes people to forsake any commitment to God and His kingdom. Such was the case with Demas in 2 Timothy 4:10. When the going got tough, he abandoned the work of Christ and deserted Paul.

Scripture is replete with warnings concerning the love of money and the world. James 4:4 tells us that “friendship with the world is hostility toward God” and that if we choose to “be a friend of the world” we become an enemy of God. Scripture warns us not to “love the world or anything in the world” , and for those that do, “the love of the Father” is not in them (1 John 2:15). All that is identified with the world is opposed to God.

“For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world.”
(1 John 2:16-17; NIV)

We are admonished in the Bible to be content with what we have. It is discontentment with what we have that breeds self-indulgent greed for money. Those that allow an attitude of discontentment to take root, develop a consuming desire for acquiring more money that drives them to make foolish decisions. This can ultimately end in a ruined life, and the peril of destruction and eternal punishment.

“6But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
(1 Timothy 6:6-10; NASB)

Our culture has a tendency to pull at us to go along with the world’s philosophy, particularly with materialism. We are bombarded with numerous advertising schemes aimed at breeding discontentment with what we have, and it is too easy to get caught up in it. We need to continually guard ourselves from the love of money, since it can easily draw our hearts away from God.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Evil Eye

22"The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.
23"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!”
(Matthew 6:22-23;NASB)

Here, our Lord is using the analogy of the eye, to describe the condition of our spiritual insight or understanding. Just as the eye allows light to enter into our body, so our spiritual sight or understanding either allows us to be illuminated by God’s Truth, or blocks or distorts our vision of the Truth. It is imperative that we guard our hearts, since our hearts govern our spiritual vision. Once out hearts become centered on worldly goods, our vision becomes blocked from illumination from God’s Truth.

The “clear”, or good eye will allow the entrance of the truth of God’s Word, allowing us to receive illumination and insight from God. This will allow us to discern clear direction and guidance from God, as our hearts are changed. Our focus in life will be centered on things of eternal importance and we will seek those actions which are pleasing to God and live for His glory. The wealth of this world will pale in comparison to the true riches stored up in Heaven. However, if our eye is “bad” or “evil”, our hearts are darkened and this condition affects our whole being. In this condition, it is impossible to perceive clear direction as it pertains to spiritual matters. And we set our priorities based on the condition of our heart, since it is the seat of our passions, desires and affections. Instead of seeking God and His glory, we seek our own glory, succumbing to our passions and lust for material and worldly gain.

It is sad that there are those who allow their hearts to be deceived by the wealth of the world. There are many who regularly attend church, yet there seems to be little spiritual progress in their life. Spiritual growth is stunted and there seems to be a lack of genuine love and passion for the Word of God. Sadly, as you talk with many of them, the overriding theme in their conversations seems to be worldly focused. It is no wonder that it is nearly impossible for them to perceive spiritual matters.

This is why Jesus said in reference to this condition “how great is the darkness!” This condition will snuff out the desire for God and His glory. This is why we need to remind ourselves of the importance of guarding our hearts and minds. I can’t help but wonder just how much this condition is significantly contributing to the shallowness of the church today. Once the focus in life becomes worldly pleasure and wealth, the desire for God and His Word is severely diminished. Just survey the titles of books and materials in Christian bookstores today. Multitudes of books and materials are focused on man-centered philosophy wrapped in a few verses Scripture, with themes clearly associated with a humanistic viewpoint.

But exploring a little deeper concerning the term “bad” or “evil” eye, and the “clear” or “healthy” eye reveals a little more depth to the meaning. The term “clear” is translated from the Greek “haplous”. It is similar to the word “haplotes” translated “liberality” in Romans 12:8. In fact, “haplotes” is derived from “haplous” and the same term is also used in 2 Corinthians 9:13 in reference to the generous giving of the Macedonians. It should appear clear that the terms are associated with generosity. Basically, a generous heart is the sign of good spiritual health.

In contrast, “bad” or “evil” in Matthew 6:23 is derived from the Greek “poneros” and is used in Scripture in Matthew 20:15 to refer to “envy” or “covetousness”. This was the parable of the landowner who hired laborers at various times to labor in his vineyard. Those who were hired last and worked for a shorter period of time received the same wages as the ones who were hired first. The laborers who were hired first grumbled over this fact. The landowner replied with the fact that he was within his right to exercise his generosity as he wished. Here the term “evil” or “envious” eye is used in reference to their response to his generosity. This fits the context in Matthew 6, which speaks of the love of money.

It is also worthy to note that the term “evil eye” is used elsewhere in Scripture and denotes a grudging or greedy spirit. Proverbs 28:22 describes the man with the “evil eye” who hastily chases after wealth. Those who have their minds set on the things of the world will inevitably develop a greedy attitude toward money, and do anything in their power to gain more of it. In greed, many begin to make rash decisions in managing their money, ultimately losing it all. But worst of all, once this greed takes over, the spiritual blinders go down and our hearts are darkened.

So how about those who seem to give large amounts of money even within the church? Many seem to be very generous. We can find the answer by reading Luke 21:2 and Mark 12:42. Here, Jesus observed those who were giving to the treasury, where donations and offerings to the temple were made. Many of the rich were giving a considerable amount of money. But there was a poor widow who gave a miniscule amount of money, two small copper coins, which was a considerable sacrifice on her part. The term “poor widow” denotes someone in extreme poverty. The two small copper coins she put into the treasury were each only equal to one eighth of a cent, yet it was “all she had to live on” (v. 44). To put this in perspective, each coin was equal to 1/64 of a denarius and a denarius was equal to one day’s wage. She would have been a prime candidate to receive aid, but she was giving what little bit she had in her possession. The rich were giving out of their abundance, which required little sacrifice on their part. Perhaps they were somewhat proud and boastful in their giving. The reward in giving to God is largely dependent on the attitude of the heart, not the amount of the gift.

'1And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury.
2And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins.
3And He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them;
4for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on."' (Luke 21:1-4; NASB)

It is extremely important that we as believers get a good grasp on our attitude towards money. This can be the greatest hindrance to our service to God and Scripture teaches that God is not going to entrust us with true riches in terms of responsibility if we cannot manage the “unrighteous wealth” (Luke 16:11). If we prove faithful in handling our money, God will be more likely to entrust us with greater spiritual responsibility. It is frightening that this issue can creep into our lives so subtly, yet it is extremely lethal in its ability to spiritually blind us. And the culture in America can have a tendency to lead us in this direction if we allow it to.

As a test of your spiritual condition concerning this matter, ask yourself what is your response to the Word of God? Do you have spiritual sensitivity to Scriptural truth that makes you desire to put into practice what you read? When making spiritual decisions, particularly in how you serve God, is money a key determining factor to whether or not you are willing to serve God in a certain capacity? Are you more concerned with your spiritual growth or are you preoccupied with gaining wealth? Your attitude toward money and wealth is a key factor in your spiritual health.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Yeah, I know…

I am probably among the worst bloggers in blogland, especially considering that I haven’t posted anything since the end of January. But the past couple of weeks have been busy, especially this last week. Work has been particularly challenging, and one day I was up for 24 hours straight. Sometimes in the IT industry, things like this happen and it is not particularly fun. There was also another night where I had to be up during the very early hours of the morning to monitor a software implementation to production. So needless to say, I have been pretty exhausted this last week. This week should be a little quieter. So I hope to be posting something soon.