[Jesus said] “No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Luke 16:13
One of the ironies of living a Christian life is that in order to make effective use of God’s blessing, disciples of Jesus must gain control of those earthly things that attempt to control us. Our hopes and dreams for a life in Christ cannot be misguided by our wants and desires for earthly goods. So much of what we own becomes a distraction up to the point where we begin to live for the sake of our worldly pleasure, rather than the joy of sharing of our faith.
Today’s verse is a reminder that when we get anxious about money, social status, power, the car we drive or the clothes we wear; when we focus on such things, we end up using our gifts and talents for ourselves alone. In short, we become selfish. Christians are human and are also susceptible to temptation and sin. Even followers of Jesus must acknowledge that we at times become selfish, trying to build or retain our earthly wealth. Even while doing the work of the gospel we often find it difficult to let go of that which has hold of us.
For example, reach into your pocket or purse and take out a one dollar bill, or a five, ten or twenty; the larger the better. This money we hold in our hands is precious to us; we work hard for it and it provides a sense of security. But it also brings out the worst in us at times. Often just bringing it out in the open can change the atmosphere within a group. When faced with having to reveal our money we will go to great lengths to guard and keep it. In fact, once we focus on our money we soon realize we want more of it. Money has that kind of power and influence.
Looking closely at the front of your bill you’ll see that our currency is backed by the promise and standing of our government. On its own the bill is worthless. It is the power and influence of the government that gives money its value. On the face there is also an inscription that reads, “This Note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.” The power and promise of our government sanctions the use of this currency to settle the debts we owe no matter to whom they are owed.
Now flip the note over and notice the back of the bill. The bill’s denomination is still perfectly evident as is the power and promise of the government. Yet there is another inscription, “In God We Trust.” This inscription means many different things to many people. Most in our country probably don’t realize that these words have not always been inscribed on our currency. Still, we who are Christians always understand the value of our money, but sometimes forget to acknowledge its source.
What would it look like if before making a purchase, we actually remembered the words “In God We Trust?” What would happen if before we spent our money, paid a debt or gave it to a beggar, we prayed for the person we handed it to and that that our actions would be acceptable to God? Would it change our attitude toward earthly wealth? The power and influence of our money certainly has a strong hold on us, but can we overcome this power through prayer and trust in God? Certainly so!
Returning to the front of the bill you have in your hand, look again at the inscription concerning legal tender. Here is where the people of God come to the reality of our human condition. Even as our currency claims the power of satisfying our debts, it cannot in truth claim to satisfy ALL debt. Our chief debt, the debt we owe to our heavenly Father can only be satisfied through the power and promise of his Son Jesus Christ. Through his precious body and blood given in sacrifice for our fallen world, Christ has purchased and redeemed us, making all who believe heirs to God’s kingdom. In thanksgiving we recognize the value God has placed on his people and the richness of his blessing.
Our thankful response to God’s grace through Christ is that we serve our Lord and Master, joyfully and cheerfully sharing that which God has provided. As we do, we followers of Jesus Christ soon realize the abundance with which God blesses us. The Church of Christ and all who follow him are entrusted with much. In Christ we are freed from the power of earthly wealth, so that we can serve God and others through these gifts.