You can’t take two roads at the same time

Everything about our 21st Century culture revolves around getting our own way. We like our food prepared a certain way. We like particular options on our cars. We like specific types of music or movies or books. In the last 30 or so years, we’ve grown up expecting that people will cater to our whims. That’s customer service. If I want a skinny decaf no foam latte, I order one, and that’s what I expect to get. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Well, there’s nothing wrong it until what we want contradicts what God says is right. Then, we have a choice. Because in the choice between two paths, you can only choose one. You can’t walk down the middle.

CI1HWTBJL1_1372x913Today’s verse is Matthew 6:24.

No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

This is one verse out of a much larger passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:19-34), and if you’ve got time I really recommend reading the whole thing. This is one of those concepts in Scripture that gets really twisted around, I think. There are some who look at wealth and money as though it’s something evil, and that’s just not the case. Money becomes evil when it becomes more important in your life than God.

When you place the acquisition of food or clothing or status higher than your desire to walk with God, you have a problem, because you’re walking down the road that will take you away from God. You can walk with God and have money and resources, but you can’t walk with God and love money and resources more than you love Him. That doesn’t work out so well.

Jesus was devoted to one path. It was the same road He started walking when He learned how to walk, and it was the same road that led Him to the cross to die to pay for our entry into heaven.

Staying on one path is hard, especially when there is so much of the world to see, but once you step off that narrow road, there aren’t always guideposts to get you back to it. It’s like taking a poorly planned detour. In some parts of the country, a detour winds through pretty residential areas, but most of the ones I’ve been on are desert-like and time-consuming and irritating. That’s what stepping off the path gets you–confused and frustrated. And you only have yourself to blame.

It’s tempting to want to live our lives the way we want to live them, but if you are a Christ-follower, your life doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to Jesus. And you simply can’t follow Jesus when you’re only focusing on doing whatever it will take to get more money. And, believe me, I know how important money is. You can sit and be as holy and spiritual as you want, but if you don’t have money, you can’t eat. This has become even more obvious to me since I started working for myself. Money is hard to get.

What’s even harder is trusting that God will provide. But that’s what this entire passage is about. You can serve money and scrimp and save and fret and stress out for your entire life to scrape a few pennies together that might last a few years. Or you can just chill and do what God says to do today and trust that when you need something, God will provide it for you.

Maybe that sounds naive. But I’m not the one asking the questions. Jesus is staring back at me in this passage asking me why I have so little faith.

So stop fretting. Stop chasing dollar bills. Instead, put God’s priorities first in your life and trust that He’ll provide when you need it.

Jesus walked one path. That’s the direction He went. And if we say we’re His followers, we probably ought to follow. Don’t you think?

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Peace of mind in a piggy bank

What would you do for God if money wasn’t an option? How would your life change if you lived for God’s Word instead of your paycheck?

The Bible is full of stories about people who took great risks following God. All throughout the Old Testament, men and women who trusted God did impossible things, crazy things, reckless things. If you talked to them while they were doing those impossible, crazy, reckless things, they probably would have agreed with you.

I’m sure Abraham was terrified when he packed up his wife and left everything he knew for a land he didn’t even know existed. Noah built an ark when no one had ever seen a real rainstorm, let alone a flood. Gideon in the time of the Judges had to think it was nuts to attack a massive army of professional soldiers with a measly few hundred men armed only with clay pots, torches, and trumpets.

On and on and on the stories go, building a heritage of crazy faith so it’s not exactly a surprise when 12 unlearned, ignorant men drop what they’re doing and follow after a carpenter from Nazareth. And from there? Men and women gladly gave up their lives in the name of Jesus Christ.

Which brings us to today. The same impossible, crazy, reckless things still happen in today’s world, but we don’t hear about them as much. Does that mean they aren’t happening as often? No, I don’t think that’s the case. I just don’t think they’re happening as often in the United States.

Men and women give up everything to do what God has called them to do. They leave their lives. They leave their families and their comfort zones. They risk poverty and destitution and slavery and death. And I’m willing to bet it happens much more frequently than anyone knows.

Why doesn’t it happen as often in America? I have a theory.

Piggy-BankToday’s verse is Matthew 6:24.

No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

This is a touchy subject. Money always is. People get defensive about it. And no one ever seems to be able to get it right. Either people talk about it too much or they don’t talk about it enough, but generally speaking whenever money is the topic of conversation, you’re going to have a fight break out.

But the inescapable truth about money is that America has a lot of it. Is it a coincidence that as an overall culture we struggle with doing what God has called us to do?

See, money is deceptive. And it doesn’t have to just be money. It can be possessions. It can be stuff. Whatever you live for that isn’t God. When you have those things, you can get into the habit of thinking you’ll always have them. You can calm your anxieties by reminding yourself you have money in the bank. It’s what you can use to control your life, your problems, etc.

And don’t misunderstand. Having money is wonderful. It’s a blessing. It’s such a gift. If God has given you financial stability and wealth, you have been given a tremendous responsibility to use that gift in a way that honors God.

But if you’re like the rest of lower middle class America, you make it from paycheck to paycheck. You have just enough to be comfortable but not enough to buy whatever you want whenever you want it. And there are days when you can’t help but think, “If I just made a little more money, I wouldn’t have to worry.”

I’ve been to poor countries. And I mean poor. The poorest person in America is still wealthy in comparison. But the poor people I met in the interior of Mexico or the untraveled jungles of Guatemala weren’t consumed with anxiety over what they had or didn’t have. Their lives are simple. Their needs are simple.

American culture serves the dollar. That’s just a fact. Watch television for a few minutes, and you’ll see the truth of it. Money and sex. That’s what we’re about. Our culture is all about creating discontentment, convincing yourself that you need money and stuff to be happy.

That’s what it means to serve money instead of God. Serving money is finding your contentment and your security and your happiness in what you own or how much you have. It’s trying to find peace of mind in a piggy bank when peace of mind only comes from a right relationship with God.

What would you do for God if money wasn’t an option?

It’s a lesson I’m trying to learn, but if you’re a Christ-follower, money should never be an option. Yes, you should be a good steward of what God has given you, but if God has directly indicated that you should do something, you should do it. Money has no say.

Want to do great things for God? Want to be a part of that impossible, crazy, reckless for Jesus club? Throw away your piggy bank. Sure, it has its uses, but it isn’t money that will help you achieve the impossible. That’s God’s job. And you can’t hold on to Him when you’re clutching pennies in your hands.