Let’s play a word association game. In spiritual matters, there are two kingdoms: earth or heaven; two realms: darkness or light; two masters: God or Satan.
Notice what Jesus does in the Sermon on the Mount: He contrasts and compares: storing up treasures on earth and in heaven, light and darkness. Now if you were in the audience when Jesus came to speaking about two masters and he states, “You cannot serve both God and____________” What would you expect him to say? I would expect him to say “God and Satan.” But Jesus turns the table; he pulls the mental rug from under his hearers.
When Jesus said, “You cannot be slaves of God and of money” (Matt. 6:24). Notice, the word money is capitalized. Money or as the King James Version translates it Mammon. Jesus is personifying money as a rival god. Jesus is making unmistakably clear that money is not some impersonal medium of exchange. Money is not something morally neutral, a resource to be used in good or bad ways depending solely upon our attitude toward it. Money is a power that seeks to dominate us. Money is godlike.
You don’t think money is powerful? Why do we refer to money as purchasing power? Why do we attach symbols to money - like prestige, status, glamour, and worth? Why do we refer to currency as the “Almighty Dollar”?
Money in modern society is godlike. It is a substitute God. And, if we aren’t careful, it will rule and ruin our lives. Henry Fielding was right, “If you make money your god, it will plague you like the devil.”
What do we need to dethrone money? How can we take it off its pedestal and break its control over our lives? Here are four truths we need to understand.
I. Money is God’s
Many people don’t think we should bring God into our finances. One reason for this thinking is that money is too “worldly,” that it’s tainted. Well, money is tainted: ‘Tain’t yours, and ‘tain’t mine! Money is God’s. “The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the LORD” (Psalm 24:1). It’s God’s money that we’re dealing with, and there is nothing too worldly for the One who created the world in the first place.
II. Money is to be managed
Once we understand that God is the owner, and then we understand our role to his money, his possessions, and his talents. From the very outset God placed humans in charge of his possessions. God said to Adam, “‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth’” (Gen. 1:28). Jesus’ speaks in Matthew 6 in the language of a master to his servant, an owner to his steward, a CEO to his manager. The Biblical word for management is stewardship. It means a person who manages things that belong to someone else. A trustee of an estate is a good example. The estate is not theirs - they don’t own it - they are simply to manage the estate for the owner.
Since we are managers of all that God has entrusted to us, we offer God:
- An open hand - An owner has rights and a manager has responsibilities. God has the right to whatever he wants.
- An open mind - In other words, every spending decision is, in reality, a spiritual decision. Giving
- An open checkbook - Stewardship can’t be faked. Our checkbook reveals our money management.
III. Money is a means, never an end
Sometimes we get caught up in net worth statements and checkbook balances and how much is in the retirement account. We are bottom line people. So is God. But the bottom line for God is not how much money we have. It is how we use the money he entrusted to us to expand his kingdom. A little later in this text Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matt. 6:33).
IV. Money is to be given away
Once we understand God’s role in money - it is his. And, our role - we are managers of his money. And, money’s role - a tool, a test, and a testimony. Now we return to the all important question. How is it possible to break the substantial power money holds over us? Very simple - give it away. There is a greater power than money and that power is giving it away. French sociologist Jacques Ellul explains, “There is one act par excellence which profanes money by going directly against the law of money, an act for which money is not made. This act is giving.”
Think about it this way. How do you gain more energy in your life? You expend energy. You give it away through exercise. How do you gain control over sin? You walk away from sin. You give up the pleasure and in doing so you gain power over it. So how do you gain power over money? Simple. You give it away.
Appropriate spiritual stewardship shows the Christ is first in our lives. It shows our faith is in God. It shows that Jesus is in control of our lives.