You Cannot Serve Both God and Money
O Lord God, as I enter into Your presence this day for worship, I pray that You would fill my heart and mind with true devotion for You. May my heart never be led astray by the riches of this world, but rather move me to recognize that You are the Lord of all things and lead me always to follow You with faithfulness. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
The one, true God is the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father in love has sent His Son as “Savior of the world.” The Spirit has been given to us to lead us to faith in the Father and in Jesus, so that we might live in love!
Jesus warns us about covetousness through His Parable of the Rich Fool. The man put his trust in his great wealth rather than in God. He died the very night that he assumed his life of luxury would begin. God calls such people fools!
Text: 1 Timothy 6:6-19
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
In Christ Jesus, the Son of God and our Savior, dear fellow redeemed:
It is easy to identify gross idolatry. When you see Muslims kneeling on their rugs reciting prayers to Allah—that is gross idolatry. When I saw the hotel maids in India bowing before and placing flowers upon the statue of the Hindu elephant god Ganesh—that was gross idolatry!
It is not always so easy to identify secret idolatry—the idolatry that takes place within our hearts and minds. Greed, for instance, is impossible to see within a human heart, although it can be observed through human actions. The very first sin involved secret idolatry. Moses writes, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Gen. 3:6) Adam and Eve had a sinful desire within their hearts to become like God…indeed to replace God’s authority in their lives with their own. That is secret idolatry!
Our text deals with a prevalent idol in our day—money. As noted in our children’s sermon, money is not a very good god. It is not strong; it cannot hear or answer our prayers; it does not think or act or love. Money, however, does have a powerful impact upon human hearts and minds. As such, money can become the object of our secret idolatry. Therefore, as we consider Paul’s admonitions, I would remind you of Jesus’ words: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mt. 6:24) My dear friends, YOU CANNOT SERVE BOTH GOD AND MONEY! Our text is a treasure-trove of thought on this subject, which we can summarize in this way: Serving money leads inevitably to sorrow! Serving God leads inevitably to joy!
Paul identifies four reasons why serving money leads inevitably to sorrow! First, money does not and will not last! Paul writes: “For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” I would imagine that you have all heard the expression, “You have never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul.” I heard it used again recently by the actor Denzel Washington in a YouTube video. In the video Mr. Washington was speaking to a group of aspiring actors, interestingly, on the importance of prayer. He concluded his remarks by encouraging these potential stars to make good use of any financial resources they might obtain through an acting career. He pointed out that he had been privileged to earn hundreds of millions of dollars during his career, but that in the end it did not matter how much money he made. He could not take any of it with him. What mattered, Mr. Washington said, was that God had entrusted those millions to him and that he was responsible to God to make good use of them while he was here. You and I did not come out of the womb with a money-belt attached, nor will a full wallet in our coffins do us any good. Serving money, as if it will last forever, leads inevitably to sorrow!
Secondly, the desire to be rich leads us into temptation and ultimate destruction! Paul says: “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” It is a fact that the desire to become rich has led many, many people to compromise the truth, to violate their morals, and not infrequently to deny their faith. Several months ago a certain prisoner attended my Friday Evening Bible Study at the Blue Earth County Jail for several weeks in a row. When he asked for a personal visit, I stopped by the next week to see him. He explained to me that he for many years had been a member of a Mexican drug cartel, that he had smuggled drugs from Texas to Minnesota, that until now he had never been arrested, and that he had made a lot of money doing so. Along the way he had married three different women and had three different families, none of whom were aware of the others, but all of whom were dependent upon the money he provided. He was now sick and tired of the drug trade, however, and wanted out. The problem was that he was convinced that if he tried to leave the cartel, a price would be set upon his head and he would be killed. “What should he do?” he asked. Serving money leads inevitably to sorrow!
Thirdly, the love of money is a root leading to all kinds of evil! Paul writes: “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Note that it is not money itself, but our attitude towards it which is the problem.Consider this illustration: let us say that one Sunday morning Glen Taylor decided to send three of his employees here to the church with three bushel baskets full of one hundred dollar bills. They would set them down in the center aisle of the church and hand me a note, which read, “Your members may take as much of this money home with them as they want, as soon as you are done with your end-of-the-service announcements.” What do you think might happen after that announcement? Would there be an orderly departure with everyone taking just two or three one hundred dollar bills, or would there be total pandemonium? The money in the bushel baskets would be doing nothing, but what would our love of money move us to do? Serving money leads inevitably to sorrow!
Fourthly, earthly riches are uncertain and trusting in them leads to pride! Consequently, Paul writes: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God.” Riches are a blessing from the Lord, but in view of sin in this world, they are uncertain. Riches can be stolen, or lost, or spent, and then be gone. The possession of riches can change our attitudes towards other people, life in general, and also over against God. Riches ought not become the object of our worship, but rather a means ultimately for worship as we prove ourselves to be good stewards of what God entrusts to us. Yes, YOU CANNOT SERVE BOTH GOD AND MONEY! Serving money leads inevitably to sorrow!
Serving God, on the other hand, leads inevitably to joy! Paul identifies five reasons why this is true. He says, first of all, that Jesus is the one, true God of infinite presence and power, who alone is worthy of your praise! He writes: “Keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power.” Contrast that description of Jesus with any description you like of the dollar! Obviously, it cannot and does not compare. Jesus possesses “all authority in heaven and on earth.” (cf. Mt. 28:18) Jesus sits at God’s right hand. (cf. Eph. 1:20) When He returns on the last day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord (cf. Phil. 2:10-11). Serving Him leads inevitably to joy!
Secondly, God has called you to faith, assured you of eternal life, and urges you to follow Jesus’ example, for ultimately you will be united with Him! Paul writes: “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate.” When you serve the one, true God He calls you to genuine nobility—the pursuit of all that is good in your relationships with the people in your lives. Your challenges at times will be great, and the fight of faith may indeed be long, but you have been promised the gift of eternal life. In addition, your Jesus is with you—He who has endured and overcome greater challenges than you or I ever could face. Consequently, you can rest assured that serving God leads inevitably to joy!
Thirdly, the living God gives you all things to enjoy, to share, and thereby to prepare for your future! Paul writes: “Trust…in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” Our God is not an eternal kill-joy or a heavenly Scrooge! He created this marvelous world. He did so for your blessing. We are to enjoy with thanksgiving the things that He has created and with which He has blessed us. However, He gives them to us not simply to indulge ourselves, but also to use as a blessing for others and in honor to Him. As we share what God has entrusted to us with others, Paul says that we are creating a foundation for our future happiness in heaven. Financial advisors tell you to store up your wealth to secure your future. There is value in such prudence, but in God’s economy, generosity is just as important! Serving God leads inevitably to joy!
Fourthly, God will provide for you, so your present goal should be contentment! Paul writes: “Having food and clothing, with these we shall be content!” Our “Word of Truth” today is from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Mt. 6:33) At times we might be tempted when we see Paul’s words to respond, “Food and clothing…is that all?” God, however, is our good and gracious Father in heaven. He has our best in mind. He has promised and therefore will provide everything we truly need. Knowing that, we can be content with what the Lord provides, for we can be certain that what He provides is exactly what we need! Serving God, therefore, leads inevitably to joy!
Finally, godliness with contentment is great gain! That is exactly what Paul writes in the opening verse of our text. Luther writes when explaining the 1st Commandment that we are to “fear, love, and trust in God above all things!” We can trust in God above all things, because He has proven Himself trustworthy by creating and sustaining us, by redeeming us from sin and death, and by sanctifying us and bringing us into His kingdom of light and life! My dear friends, the choice must be made! YOU CANNOT SERVE BOTH GOD AND MONEY! Serving money leads inevitably to sorrow! Serving God leads inevitably to joy! --Pastor Paul D. Nolting To God alone be glory!