In this episode we will be exploring the topic of trust, and how that in which we have placed our ultimate trust, God or Wealth, will always be evident in our lives.
Yeshua stated it this way:
“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
You cannot be bound equally both to God and to your confidence in wealth. One will always take precedence over the other, and the results of following either will be evident in your life.
The issue that Yeshua focuses on is not necessarily the results of following either (which are evident throughout the biblical writings), but the complete inability of humans to multi-task serving God in among other responsibilities in this life. He says emphatically, “you CANNOT serve God AND wealth.” In literal terms, the text reads there is NO ABILITY to do both.
Looking at the example Yeshua gives us, it’s as if we were to picture ourselves as slaves, and we have two masters. These masters, while both responsible for us, can command us with conflicting information that would require actions that would go against the other.
For example, let’s say “Lord 1” commands us to fetch water from a nearby spring for his thirst, and immediately “Lord 2” commands us to get his slippers for his cold feet. Which command do we do first? We can’t do both tasks at the same time, and yet they are equally important. Do we get the water first, or the slippers? Both Lords are equally commanding and we are obligated to obey them both.
It becomes readily apparent that if we are to choose one Lord over the other as the primary Lord of us, then the secondary Lord’s commands are moved to the secondary position. In this case, if we chose Lord 1 and his water fetching as being primary, we would then do that task first, and Lord 2’s task of getting his slippers would have to wait.
Also of note is that Yeshua does not provide a third option, as if there was an option to have no Lords at all and just do whatever we want at any given time. He posits that those are the two options, either God or wealth, and we will in fact serve one primary Lord from those options.
This raises the point of just how powerful Wealth as Lord is; he (if we are to personify him for our discussion) actually rivals God in scope and influence, at least from our limited perspective in this world. This is also why he is so dangerous.
Let’s continue this little thought experiment of personifying Wealth as Lord. From our perspective, this Lord can control where we live based on our financial situation. He can control what and how much we eat based on our buying power. He can control the type of car we drive, or if we even have one. If we do have a car, he controls how long our commute is based on where we have to perform our work. He can control our daily lives based on other types of employment requirements we have: how long we have to spend each day at our jobs and how much time off we are allowed to do what we need to do for ourselves and our families, if we have one. Perhaps we have no spouse and children because the Wealth has not granted us the financial stability to do so. He controls our ability to receive appropriate health care, and may even be directly responsible for the length of our lives depending on how hard we have to work and what kind of dangers we face doing our jobs. The list goes on: where we can afford to vacation, what kind of clothes we wear, the social circles we are a part of, and so on.
Wealth as Lord is a very powerful master, indeed. When viewed from our limited perspective, it becomes immediately apparent why people choose to serve the Wealth as Lord, since Wealth appears to provide for the best outcomes of all of these things. Perhaps at times we have also served this Lord, as well. Even if we don’t always do what he wants us to do right away, many times we still answer his call.
But here is something to consider: perhaps if we can look beyond Wealth as Lord and see that there is only one Lord of Wealth, then we find that we only truly have one Master.
Deuteronomy 8:17-18 – Be careful not to say, “My own ability and skill have gotten me this wealth.” You must remember the LORD your God, for he is the one who gives ability to get wealth; if you do this he will confirm his covenant that he made by oath to your ancestors, even as he has to this day.
1 Chronicles 29:12 – You [Yahweh] are the source of wealth and honor; you rule over all. You possess strength and might to magnify and give strength to all.
Proverbs 8:18, 21 – Riches and honor are with me [Wisdom], long-lasting wealth and righteousness. … that I may cause those who love me to inherit wealth, and that I may fill their treasuries.
If we are faithful with the Wisdom which God provides, we will have the ability to look to the only One who provides what we need, and that is God.
Yeshua confirms which Lord needs to always be first:
Matthew 6:32-33 for all these [things] do the nations seek for, for your heavenly Father does know that you all have need of all these; but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these shall be added to you.
We all have necessary obligations in life, but if our over-arching purpose for everything we do does not rest in God and his kingdom, then we have by default chosen to place our trust in the other option, and Wealth then becomes our Lord. We should always seek FIRST the kingdom and its priorities, and then place the concerns with wealth and provision as secondary, because the promise is then that these things “shall be added to you.”
According to the New Testament writings, covetousness is equated with idolatry (Colossians 3:5). When viewed from this perspective, it is clear that God cannot be worshipped among any other gods, as one of many.
Yeshua makes it clear that every choice in life will fall under one heading or the other, God or worldly wealth, and whichever choice is made is a determination of which deity is being trusted.
Some of the writings which were contemporary with those of the biblical texts convey the dangers of focusing too much on the building of wealth and security of this world’s goods. While considered apocryphal by some, the writer of Ecclesiasticus penned the following practical wisdom almost three millennia ago:
Sirach 31:1-11 Wakefulness over wealth wastes away one’s flesh,
and anxiety about it drives away sleep.
Wakeful anxiety prevents slumber,
and a severe illness carries off sleep.
The rich person toils to amass a fortune,
and when he rests he fills himself with his dainties.
The poor person toils to make a meager living,
and if ever he rests he becomes needy.
One who loves gold will not be justified;
one who pursues money will be led astray by it.
Many have come to ruin because of gold,
and their destruction has met them face to face.
It is a stumbling block to those who are avid for it,
and every fool will be taken captive by it.
Blessed is the rich person who is found blameless,
and who does not go after gold.
Who is he, that we may praise him?
For he has done wonders among his people.
Who has been tested by it and been found perfect?
Let it be for him a ground for boasting.
Who has had the power to transgress and did not transgress,
and to do evil and did not do it?
His prosperity will be established,
and the assembly will proclaim his acts of charity.
This whole narrative proclaims the honor of the one who, even though he may be rich, does not seek after it with all of his being. Acts of charity would be evident with him as he seeks to not transgress the commands of God, and therefore his prosperity would be established.
Yeshua also proclaims this same principle in a story that is related of an encounter he had in his day with a rich young ruler.
Matthew 19:16-22 – Now someone came up to him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?” He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he asked. Jesus replied, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.”
In the case of this sincere seeker, Yeshua gets right to the heart of the issue and puts this young man in the cross-hairs of the decisive issue: in order to attain to eternal life or salvation, will this man trust in his riches, or simply place his trust in God?
We may view the man’s response with empathy, because, while the question isn’t necessarily directed at us, we should also understand we are faced with the same principle. Where do we stand when it comes to our wealth? Are we willing to place the needs of others over our own security?
In concluding his discussion with the rich young seeker, the disciples expressed their astonishment at this principle that he seemed to be espousing. Wasn’t it the rich who were shown to be blessed by God, and thereby the ones who were essentially guaranteed an entrance into eternal life?
Matthew 19:23-26 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! Again I say, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.” The disciples were greatly astonished when they heard this and said, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible.”
With God, what appears impossible to us becomes possible. It is not our trust that provides, but God who provides. Our trust in him merely becomes the means of demonstrating that it has been directed into the correct place when it is resting in the providence of God’s mercy and bountiful provision, whether for salvation or provision in this life. When that occurs, we then allow God the freedom to be God in our lives, and for him to provide and direct as he sees fit for his purpose and kingdom.
2 Corinthians 9:10-11 – “Now God who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your supply of seed and will cause the harvest of your righteousness to grow. You will be enriched in every way so that you may be generous on every occasion, which is producing through us thanksgiving to God…
1 Timothy 6:17-19 – Command those who are rich in this world’s goods not to be haughty or to set their hope on riches, which are uncertain, but on God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous givers, sharing with others. In this way they will save up a treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the future and so lay hold of what is truly life.
This statement by Paul to Timothy is a reference to the very principle Yeshua made to the rich young seeker. God is the one who provides us all things. Since that is the case, do we really think that we can somehow provide for ourselves in any meaningful way beyond what he has given us?
This is the root principle that Yeshua was revealing. If we are choosing to trust wealth over God, then we are looking to the provision rather than the Provider. That is the foundation of all idolatry: trusting in a created thing rather than the Creator.
Instead, let’s learn to move away from our own perceived security and into the only true security that exists: that which comes from God. Once we learn to trust God, to really and genuinely trust him for every provision, it’s as if a whole world of possibilities opens up, and allows us the freedom to actually seek first his kingdom.
If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.