|Written by Toby Sumpter|
|Monday, 13 December 2010 14:57|
Idols are not kind. Idols are cruel and satanic. The root meaning of the word "satan" is accuser. Satan, the Devil, was the chief accuser of God's people (Job 1, Rev. 12:10), but every idol, every demon is some offspring of the Devil, accusers and manipulators all. Idols manipulate through guilt; they accuse their slaves and then gleefully watch them twist and cower in the wind.
Mammon is one such idol. Mammon brow beats his victims with accusations. And Mammon rears his ugly head at holidays and feasts and all occasions for buying and gift giving. Of course the frontal assault is the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. Don't you wish your breasts looked like this? Don't you wish your car looked like this? Don't you wish you were as cool as that guy on his iPhone? Shouldn't you have a Roth IRA with thousands of dollars in diversified mutual funds? And people envy and lust and charge up their credit cards vainly pursuing happiness with green paper and plastic and megabytes, ripping off their wives and children and grandchildren and the poor. And Jesus roundly condemns such slavery. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth. Don't build bigger barns. Damn the American Dream. Tonight your life may be required of you. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. And where your treasure is, your heart will be also.
But Mammon is not so easily shrugged off. Mammon also likes flanking maneuvers. Here Mammon appears in the guise of the homeless, the poor and destitute in third world countries. Mammon slips a noose around the necks of countless thousands of Christians and slowly suffocates them with images of starving children with HIV in Africa and sarcastically mocks the plush, wealthy lifestyles of western Christians. And every cent, every dollar is spent in cringing agony. Do I really need this? Do we really need to spend this much? Isn't there a cheaper way to do this? Why is this so expensive? Or sometimes it's in the opposite direction: have we really given enough to charity? Have we given enough to missions? Have we been selfish with our spending? Could we have given more? Could we have sacrificed more? And consciences are racked with uncertainty and fear.
How do you know if you are being generous enough? How do you know if you are giving enough money away? How do you know if you're spending too much on yourself? How do you know if you're being selfish and greedy?
But Jesus says you cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve God and Mammon, and the sure sign of the dedicated servants of God is that they seek first the Kingdom of God and they do not worry about money. They do not worry if they have spent too much, and they do not worry if they have given too little. All of their money belongs to Jesus, and all of their stuff is His. And their lives are wholly devoted, love offerings for the Kingdom of Christ.
Love is the answer. Love is the key. Love casts out fear. Love mocks Mammon's one-track mind. Love does not worry. Love is generous and overflowing. But the obsessed, selfless, cross-carrying love of Christ is manifested in countless ways in the Body of Christ. Some of Christ's disciples must sell all that they have and move to the inner city to minister to bums and drug addicts. Some must sell half their possessions and move to Africa as missionaries. Others must build big houses for strangers and orphans and widows and fellowship dinners. Others must save up and give extravagant gifts to Christian schools. And still others must have very little and joyfully give and share their little. And all for the love of Christ. The mark of a disciple of Christ is that he or she does not worry about what they will wear or eat. They are not worried when the Lord puts prime rib on their table, and they are not worried when the Lord gives a small bowl of porridge. And they are not worried about what everyone else around them is doing either. They do not covet; they do not envy; they are not suspicious. They are not worried. And they know what to do: they give thanks and then they open their hands generously.
But Mammon whines. Mammon whines when a year's worth of wages is poured on Jesus' feet, and Judas points his greasy, accusing finger and asks if you really needed that flat screen TV and reminds you that some of the poor will be starving to death tonight while the blue light dances around in your warm house. But Jesus says that this woman has done it for His burial, and the sinful woman who kissed His feet in the gospel of Luke did it out of great love, "for she loved much" (Lk. 7:47).
Paul says, "And although I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3). Paul and Jesus say that the answer, the key is love: love of God, love of Christ, love of God's people, love for the poor, love for our families, love for our neighbors, love for our enemies.
And this really does mean great diversity in the body and enormous freedom. Of course some cowards will hide behind the pretense of “love,” and say that they are not called to sacrificial living. They really aren’t called to give; they are called to comfortable, middle class living. And Christ will say to them, "in as much as you did not do it to the least of these you did not do it to me," and many rich, self-serving Christian Americans will go away into everlasting punishment (Mt. 25:46). God searches the hearts, and He requires the souls of the grasping (Lk. 12:20).
But it must not be missed that some in the name of mercy and compassion are actually doing the bidding of Mammon. You can tell them by their haggard, desperate appearances and whiny voices. Their sacrifices are not full of joy. They wear their guilt with haunted expressions. They are worried that they have spent too much, worried that they have not given enough, worried about what they are wearing, worried about what they are eating.
But Jesus says, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?... For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Mt. 6:25, 32-33)
And so it is almost Christmas, and Mammon seeks to do His worst in the Christian Church. Mammon would love nothing more than to incite envy and worry and division throughout the ranks of God’s people. But we do not serve that satanic idol. We do not serve his accusing finger. We serve the God of the Exodus, the God who sets slaves free. We serve the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the God who overflows in generosity every day, every minute. And He will not let up, and He will not run out.
So what is the conclusion? Go love God will all that you are. Bow before Christ and confess with your wife and your children that it all belongs to Him. It is all at His disposal. Your checkbook is the Lord’s, your house is His, your car is His, your 401K is His, and then seek His Kingdom first, fearless and without any shadow of worry. And then give. But do not give like a debtor; do not give like a slave. Stop counting your money, stop worrying about the account balances, stop doing the math in your head. Give like a lover; give like a friend. Give because you cannot help yourself; give because God is good. Give because Christ is born; give because Christ is risen. Give because God provides manna in the wilderness and meat falls out of heaven. Give because the world is magical. Give because your wife is beautiful. Give because you really do have more than you need. Give because it’s extravagant. Give because you can. Be St. Nicholas and fill the stockings of needy children with candy and laughter. Visit the prisoners and make them smile. Visit the widows and embrace them with the love of Christ.
Give with abandon. Give with open hands. Give to the poor, give to missions, give to your wife and children and neighbors, give to your employees and your coworkers, give to the cranky old man down the street, give to the homeless drug addict downtown, give with your heart overflowing with love, and watch the Lord of heaven rain His abundance down. Watch the Lord of heaven bless you. And see if your garage is big enough to store it all (Mal. 3:10). Good luck trying to outgive God. Good luck trying to outlove your heavenly Father. Extravagant is God’s middle name, and God is love.