Let’s pick it up at verse 24. He says, “No one can serve two masters.” We’ve heard that. “Either [he’ll] hate the one [or] love the other, or [he’ll] be devoted to the one and despise the other.” And before we go on, because we are Americans – can you just swallow hard? – you can’t have it both ways, all right? That’s what we wanna do: “Oh, I love God with all my heart, and . . . .” All right? You can’t have it both ways, according to Jesus: “You cannot serve both God and money.”
“Therefore I tell you” – therefore. “What do you mean?” Well, what’s He say? “Hey, hey, I understand. This is axiomatic. This is truth. Therefore, let Me give you the solution! Let Me help you learn how not to be materialistic.” “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or . . . your body, what you will wear.” And then, we get a rhetorical question: “Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” And we would all say, “Well, yes.”
Or, illustration number two: “Look at the birds of the air; they [don’t] sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” And then, some logic, application: “Are you not much more valuable than they?” And it’s grammatically in such a way that the answer is, overwhelmingly, of course you are.
Then, by the way, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to [this] life?” Logical conclusion – let’s see, no one.
And then, a question: “And why do you worry about clothes?” Illustration number two: I mean, see the lilies of the field? “They [don’t] labor or spin.” They’re not wiped out. They’re not in minivans and SUVs and having bills up to their eyeballs. They’re not stressed out. They’re not uptight. They don’t feel like their life’s out of control. They’re not taking pills to go to sleep at night and pills to get ‘em up in the morning. They don’t feel like everyone’s pulling on them from every direction, and there’s no way to find some peace and direction. Gosh, that passage really opened up, didn’t it? It says, “. . . I tell you that . . . Solomon in all [of] his splendor [wasn’t] dressed like one of these.” Now, again, the a priori logic, from lesser to greater: “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown [in] the fire, will He not much more clothe you” – and circle this phrase – “O you of little faith?”
The issue behind materialism, at the core, has nothing to do with things, or even money. It has to do with faith; it has to do with trust: “Do you trust Me? Do you trust Me to come through for you, yes, in the material necessities? But do you trust Me to come through for you, that you’re significant and valuable the way I made you? Do you trust that if you would find My purpose and My role for your life – that you don’t have to look like that, you don’t have to live in that zip code, you don’t have to drive that, you don’t have to have so many people know you? Can you trust Me that if you do life My way, the deepest things that you long for in your heart, I’m going to give you? Because I’m good, and I love you.” That’s really what He’s getting to. “So do not worry, saying, ‘What [are] we [gonna] eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink? or ‘What shall we wear?’”
And then, this is more than a mild rebuke, “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Put a little line under run after, because He’s gonna use a play on words. It means to vigorously pursue. And that verse that we like that’s coming up, that tells us how to really arrange our priorities, where it says, “But seek [ye] first” – the word seek, this word is an intensive form of that. It’s the same word. The pagans are seeking, are running, are pursuing after all these things.
And His point is that you don’t look any different than the pagans when you’re running after all these things, when your priorities are out of whack, when your relationships are being deteriorated, when you think that things and status and stuff, and letters behind your name and kids getting into certain schools and SAT scores being a certain way, and, vicariously, your little league teams of your kids and grandkids winning little championships.
And by the way, when this sucks you in, it’s deceitful. This isn’t happening to bad people that are saying, “You know what? I love to go to church, but I like to go to those strip clubs, too.” These are issues that the faithful will struggle with.
He says, “Guys, you know, I’m gonna leave, and I’m gonna cut out of here, and there’s a mission and I am the Messiah, and God has a plan for the world. And I love you, and I’ll take care of you, and there are things that really matter, and eternity really is real, and there’s a real, real heaven, and there’s a real, real hell, and I’ve chosen you, and this is the character and quality and the rewards of a Kingdom citizen, and I want you to be salt and light and live it out, and I want you to know that your righteousness has to exceed that of the Pharisees, ‘cause what I’m telling you, it’s issues of the heart! I mean, I’m telling you, guys, I came to give life to the world, and I want you to be the conduits of My grace.
But you know what? There are gonna to be two motives. You can play that game, and you see it. There are gonna to be two treasures. You’re gonna have to decide. And it’s gonna to get down to how you look at life! Are you gonna use ministry as a platform for the same junk of people thinking highly of you and impressing them and all the rest? Or, are you gonna to have the singular eye, the single focus? ‘Cause guys, I want you to know, I’m gonna check out of here, and you’re either gonna to worship Me, or you’re gonna worship mammon.” It’s the Aramaic word for possessions, property, and money. It’s just materialism. And so, now it’s, “I wanna deliver you, fellows. I wanna help you kill the spider that’s at the root of the priority issues.”
Notice the symptoms. I wanna go back through and make some observations from verse 24 through 27, and then, we’ll come back to the solution, where it says, “But seek first” – doesn’t that sound like a priority deal? – “His kingdom” – that’s where Christ’s rulership is reigning, where we’re doing things God way. He’s the CEO of the universe, and you say, “Ahh, since You’re running the whole world, why don’t You be the CEO of my life, too?” It’s really what He’s saying. And you seek first His agenda, instead of your own, and you’re seeking first His righteousness. So, it’s about character development.
What if every parent was as committed to the character development of their kids as they are how good they could be in all these athletic teams and ballet and music and on and on and on and on? See, these are good, loving people, who just find themselves in a maze of activity, the school activities here and here and youth here, and this here and this here, and then youth group here, and the church does this, and this does this, and this does this, and – why? “Well, ‘cause my kids have to have the best, and we have to prepare them.” Why? “So they can get ahead.” Why? “So they can get good jobs.” Why? “So they can make a lot of money.” Why? “So they can be happy.” Ehhhh! Ehhhh! Wrong paradigm. Is that who’s happy? “Well, all the other couples in the church are doing it, and their kids are playing all the 17 sports, and I don’t want my little Missy to miss out!” It’s like we’ve taken our brains and unconsciously allowed the flow.
Now, is it wrong to play youth sports? Of course not. But what’ll happen if you started with, “We’re gonna have great times as a family. We’re gonna really meet with God. My first responsibility is, I’m going to have fun, and I’m going to teach my kids –” I mean, imagine the deep relationship that occurs when, three nights a week, I’m sitting in little stands, feeling like I’m being a good parent, as my kids are running around being yelled at by other parents, who probably don’t know how to coach the sport anyway. And then, we have to hustle supper, and then, it’s late to do the homework, and you know what? You have no relationship with him, or her. And then, you’re under pressure going home, and then they go to bed, and then you get up early and you do the same thing again. And then, your kids wake up, and you took ‘em to church every week. Some of you even put ‘em in a Christian school. And you tried to model the life, and then, you know, at 18, 19, after one year of college, they say, “Man, I don’t know what this Jesus-church-religious stuff is, but all – I’m worn out, and I don’t – I don’t need it or want it.” And then, we say, “Lord . . .”
And see, it’s not bad stuff. The enemy of the best of God’s will is never bad stuff – you’re smart people. It’s good stuff. Good is always the enemy of the best.
And to follow this passage, I’m telling you, you’ll get unpopular. “You’re not allowing your kids to do three sports this time?!” You’re not allowing ‘em to be in the play, do this, do this, do this, do this, do this, and...
Don’t think of materialism as simply possessions, and, “Do I love money,” and, “Let’s see, am I a shopaholic,” or, “I’m a workaholic.” At the heart of materialism is believing that the material world, a condition of the heart, it can be the concern for other things.
Look what Jesus says – the symptom of materialism, anxiety, is the mark of a life preoccupied with material things. And if you have that pen handy – you wanna do a quick little Bible study? Look at verse 25: “Do not worry.” Skip down to verse 27 – you can underline that: “Who of you by worrying.” Skip down to verse 28: “Why do you worry” – underline that. Skip down to verse 31: “So do not worry.” Verse 34: “Therefore” – just in case you missed the first four or five “do not worries” – this is Jesus – “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow.” Well, I mean, we are just fixated on all the things that might or could happen, or what we’ve gotta do today in order to take care of tomorrow. “. . . Do not worry about tomorrow” – why? – “for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
And the root problem is lack of faith. See, I’m always hedging my bets. You know, If this doesn’t work out, I need to do this relationship and this relationship, and I need to do this and this, and I’m afraid I’ll miss out.
How can you miss out if God is good, God is sovereign, and you’re listening to Him? The frantic pace of our life is, you don’t want your kids to miss out, you don’t wanna miss out, and since you don’t clearly know the way, you try to do more than God ever intended, and then you blame God for how tired you are [quote] “doing His will.” It’s about faith. Stop the preoccupation. Cleanse the calendar. Cleanse the relationships.
I mean, some of you have some people that, you know what? If God was gonna use you to help ‘em, they’d be helped by now. I mean, how many times can you hear the same thing? “Eh-na-na-na-na.” And the only reason you’re meeting with them is guilt.
Maybe some of those people you’re helping – maybe they – they need to hear, “You know something? I’ve done all I can do to help you. Here’s the card of a Christian counselor that I’ve learned in our area, if you wanna keep talking to someone. Maybe if you pay them, we’ll get better results. I can’t help you. I love you. I’ll pray for you. I can’t help you.” I can see I’m gonna create chaos all over America after this talk.
Notice, the acid test of materialism is not how much I have or don’t have, but my preoccupation and concern over it. Did you get that? I can be preoccupied and concerned of what I don’t have and what I need. Either way, it’s materialism. The explanation – He says, “Stop your preoccupation with material things.”
Why? Look at verse 25. He says because it’s shortsighted. He says, “[Don’t] worry about your life, what [you’re gonna] . . . eat . . . [what you’re gonna] drink.” He’s saying, there’s more to life than things. And His motive, here, is to protect us and our wellbeing. Material things are unable to meet the deepest needs of your life.
If your kids get in Harvard, if they have a 1500 on their SAT, if they have beautiful little grandkids, if they get a great job, if they drive a BMW, have a wonderful house, an amazing driveway, and you can invite all your friends and show pictures to everyone, if they go into the ministry, if that’s what you – and some even go on the mission fields. And you finally have your nest egg. If your 401(k) is protected from all the sub-prime mortgage, and everything is perfect, I will tell you, you will sit as a desperately lonely person, thinking, What happened? I mean, that didn’t do it? No. And it never will. That’s the lie. That’s the enemy. That’s a god.
Now, as you walk with Him – here’s what I’ll tell you – He may let your kids get into Harvard. Thank Him. If He supplies you with beautiful grandchildren and children, and blesses you financially, what you’ll find out, if you’re there, is that it’s more of an overwhelming stewardship of what to do with all that money, than it is what you thought it would be like: Oh, we finally made it. ‘Cause the more you have, the better the maturity and the faith that it requires.
And so, He says, “Don’t buy into materialism, because it is shortsighted. Second, He says it’s illogical. Here’s the application: Look at the birds, look at the flowers. I mean, aren’t you more important than them? Yes. So, it’s that classical argument. He says, look, it’s shortsighted. It’s impractical.
At the end of the day, what is it that really matters? What has value? If you wrote down the top five memories in your life, what would you write down? Wedding day, birth of a child, birth of a grandchild, a deep friendship, times with your family, recovery from cancer. How many of those are material?
But He just says don’t buy the lie. This is really about a lie.
He says it’s unprofitable – verse 27 – right? Can you add a single day by worrying or being preoccupied by material things? All it produces is ulcers and migraines and dysfunctional families and sleeplessness. It’s disgraceful. He says, the pagans run after this. When Christians live frantic, preoccupied lives, thinking that all those things and what they can accomplish - we don’t look any different than the world. That little tract that we give ‘em – “Hey, why don’t you come to our church? We have 11 activities every week. Your life can get as busy as ours.” You know. But we’re doing it for Jesus.
The promise: If you will pursue knowing Christ and making Him known – verse 33 – as your first priority, He will meet all your material needs. Run, seek, pursue after Christ – knowing Him and serving Him, and let Him tell you what to do with your time. Let Him tell you which relationships to be in and which ones to get out of.
It’s kind of funny, and I’m poking fun, because I find when I say really hard things, if we poke fun – it’s better to laugh now and then cry privately. Because some of you, if you start cleaning your relational network and cleaning your calendar and cleaning your garage and getting stuff out of storage – by the way, well, why do we need all this storage? Do you realize, 30 years ago, that wasn’t even an industry?
It is stuff that ruins your relationship with Christ. Stuff is the spider, and stuff can’t deliver. Make Him – run after Him. Invest in people, invest in God, and use things and money to extend love. And God says, “I will tell you what, I’ll work out a way that we can get those kids through school, and those house payments, we can work those out. I’ll help you with those.” And use your brains. Be wise. Make the good investments.
The spider in your life, my life, and in this most prosperous country in the world and among evangelical believers in America, is materialism. It’s not about things, or how much you have or don’t have. It is a condition of the heart that starts, first, with motives. You discover it through these two treasures. It gets to the core of two eyes, singular or duplicity. And then, it results in two masters, either God or mammon.
And the only way to live in a materialistic world and not be materialistic is what Jesus said: “Seek first His kingdom” – His rule, His authority, in everything, in every situation – “and His righteousness” – as the primary goal, to become like Jesus – “and all” – that’s a pretty big word – “all these things will be added to you.” That’s why Paul would say don’t fix your eyes on these things. But then, he said, “Richly enjoy all these things that God gives you,” when they’re gifts.