Sunday, September 28, 2014

Relationships Are More Important Than Money

Jesus talked about money and relationships in his most famous sermon - the Sermon on the Mount.

 “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.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

As we consider our priorities, three relational truths from this passage are vital. First, notice that Jesus said we "cannot serve both God and money." He didn't say "should not" or "might not want to attempt to"; he said "cannot". Jesus teaches us that competing values cannot coexist. One will overwhelm the other.

Our modern-day answer is, "I'll manage my life better, and then I'll be able to do more! I'll find time for being completely committed to God and for making money - and for recreation and career and hobbies too!" Jesus says, "You cannot serve both God and money," and we think, "Well, Jesus obviously didn't understand how to multitask!" It doesn't matter how well you manage your life or how many labor-saving, time-saving devices you buy; if you try to hold on to competing values, one will always overwhelm the other.

And here's the strange thing: the lesser value almost always overwhelms the greater. Lesser values take less faith and less effort. The lesser value seems easier, and so it will constantly draw you in. Because to all appearances you can reach a lesser value more quickly, you'll be continually tempted to make it your first priority. Those who try to love both God and money end up loving just money.

Lesser values don't deliver on their promise. That's what them lesser! A while back, I received an email from a friend Bucky. He was on the cusp of a career change, with all of the energy, anxiety, and evaluation such a change creates for anyone. His son had asked him to spend college spring break driving around the old South, visiting all the places where "Dad grew up!" In the email, Bucky said, "I really can't afford to be gone righ tnow but decided that twenty years from now, no one will remember that I took time away for the rest of his life. Pray for our safety, and that I will be able to resist the temptation to do emails and make phone calls every night!" That's a choice for the greater value of relationships - choice for what will last.

There is a second truth here, found in Jesus's question, "Doesn't life consist of more than food and clothing?" The answer is, "Of course it does!" The striking thing about the lesser values is that the more of them you achieve, the more you realize how little power they have to bring fulfillment. You end up lying awake in the middle of the night with these very words of Jesus running through your mind: "Doesn't life consist of more...?"

Revolutionary War hero Patrick Henry is famous for knowing something about values. His stirring cry "Give me liberty or give me death." is certainly a values statement - trumpeting his commitment to the value of freedom. He also had something to say about the value of a relationship with God over lesser things. Near the end of his life, he penned these words: "I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give them, and that is the Christian religion. If they had that and I had not given them one shilling, they would be rich; and if they had not that, and I had given them all the world, they would be poor."

There is a third truth in Matthew 6 that has the power to refocus our lives. Jesus says to those he was teaching, "You have so little faith!" The question Jesus posed that prompted this exclamation was, "If God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won't he more surely care for you?" When you boit it all down, questions about priority are questions about faith. If I have faith that God will care for me, it frees me to live with certain set of priorities; if instead I feel that it's up to me to take care of myself, my priorities will go in a completely different direction.

In order to make your relationship with God and others the top priority, you're going to have to trust God like never before! If you're looking for a challenge, if you're looking for an adventure, you'll find it in having the faith to put your relationship first. 

(From Tom Holladay's "Relationship Principles of Jesus")

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