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About this series
Balancing Life's Demands
Biblical Priorities for a Busy Life
Are you busy, tired, stressed out, and stretched to the limit? Does life seem a little out of control? Are you running long on "to do's" and short on time? In the series, Balancing Life's Demands, you will learn how to put "first things first" and find peace in the midst of pressure and adversity. This isn't about cliches or quick fixes, just practical biblical insights to help you order your personal world.More from this series
The story goes like this. There was a very strong Bible church, Bible teaching church, and they had what they called, years ago, “revival meetings.” And so, once a year, they would bring in a great Bible teacher, and they had revival meetings. It was a very small town – it was up in the mountains – and a very small community, and everyone knew everyone. And so, it was a big thing in town, and a lot of people would come from the town. And every year, a number of people would come to Christ, and Christians who needed their priorities realigned would get their priorities realigned.
But they always knew what was going to happen on Friday night. On Friday night – they had a town drunk, and he chose Friday night, and he would come, and he would sit in the back, and he would listen to the message. And near the end of the message, you would hear, “Ohhh! Amen! Um-hmmm-hmmmm-hmmmm! Yes, Lord, that’s what I need to do!” And so, they would give a time of invitation, where people could come forward and deal with God. And everyone knew, on Friday night, the town drunk came through. I mean, for the last 15 years, every Friday night, he would come forward.
So, it was Friday night. He had moaned; he had groaned. He had “amened.” And now, he is walking forward. And he comes, and, you know, he sort of had this down: “Oh, Lord! Ohhhh, Lord! Ohhhh, the cobwebs of sin that I have been entangled in! Oh, Lord, I just ask, once – please, remove the cobwebs! Remove the cobwebs in the tangled sin of my life!” And there was a man – after 15 years – who’d heard this for 14 years, and he stood up in the back and, in a very loud voice, said, “Dear Lord, forget the cobwebs! Kill the spider!”
And I’d like to suggest that we’ve really addressed a lot of the cobwebs of priorities, of time, and money, and relationships, that we have said, “Okay, what’s really important? We wanna put first things first. We wanna keep first things first. We wanna develop some discipline. We wanna do it in the right way. We wanna do it with a perspective that it’s relational and from the heart.”
And my concern is that you’ll go for two weeks, maybe some of you for two months, and you’ll stop knocking out the cobwebs: “Oh, we’ve got a budget now. We’re now giving off the first portion. Okay, I’m starting to spend some time with God.” You know, you’re going to dust off that old Day Timer and plug in something on one of those PDAs. You start reading your Bible more, might even join a small group or get in a Bible study. You know, you start changing a little bit what you’re gonna do with your giving.
And all these things are extraordinarily important, you know, you sort of, “Umm,” and then, after three months, six months, eight months, nine months, a year, you might be ready to come back to The Cove and say, “Oh, Lord, the cobwebs of those priorities! Oh, Lord, You know what it’s like. There are so many demands on my time! Oh, Lord, you know, we were on a budget for a while, and we didn’t expect that doctor bill, and then, there was that camp, and then, we really need – and…”
I’m kind of messing with you. But I’d like to suggest that to move beyond the periphery, we need to kill the spider.
What’s at the heart of misplaced priorities? What is it that keeps pulling us in ways that our priorities, over and over and over, get out of whack? And Jesus is gonna address it. Jesus is gonna say, “There is a singular, root cause to misplaced priorities, and it is the spider. And you need to kill the spider. And when you do, the cobwebs’ll go away.” And if you’ll notice in your notes, He’s gonna give a warning, and Jesus will teach us, in Matthew 6:19 to the end of the chapter, that the root problem in priority living is – and here’s the word you can write – materialism, materialism.
Now, before you get all uptight and think, Oh, he’s gonna talk about I have too much and is it wrong to have this and every time someone brings this up, I feel guilty – just lighten up, okay? Just lighten up. Let’s analyze what is materialism. First, let me give you a definition, and don’t try and write all this down at this point. Try and think about what it says.
Materialism, by the way, is a disease of both the rich and the poor, and everyone in between. It has little or nothing to do with what you have. It is a condition of the heart, where I am leaning, trusting, depending, or even believing that the outward props of things, money, and possessions, and the fame, status, and power that they provide, have the ability to achieve for me inward peace, happiness, and satisfaction in my life. Materialism is a condition of the heart.
I can show you people that don’t have two nickels to rub against each other, that are shot through with materialism, as evidenced by, when they get their first three dollars, they go to 7-Eleven and buy a lotto ticket, because, “Man, if I could hit the lotto, then everything would be okay.” And most of ‘em’ll never take the time to read some of the research, and, actually, some of the – it’s sad – books of tracing the lives of people after they’ve won the lotto. The percentage who end in divorce, the percentage that say it ruined their life, the percentage who say, “If I could do it all over again and not get it, I would do it.” But see, it’s a condition of the heart.
And I could show you people with great wealth, who have so many things to keep up with – so much stuff, so much demand – that their time and their energy – it’s not like they feel stuck on it, it’s just, their time and their energy, because they unconsciously have been led to believe, I need to have these things, and there’s no margin in their life. Their problem is not, “Can I get it or ever have it?” Their problem is, it has them, and they don’t even know it.
Material things are in no way – listen carefully – evil, in and of themselves. You might jot in the notes – I’ve quoted it several times – 1 Timothy 6:17. If there’s one verse for me that helps me on all the financial issues of life, it’s 1 Timothy 6:17. It has this tremendous balance. And, usually, we miss it on one end or the other. Paul says, “Instruct those” – teach those – “who are rich in this present world” – that’s you; that’s me – “not to . . . fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but [to fix their hope] on God, who . . . supplies us with all things to enjoy.” The “all things” are material things. The goal is to enjoy - that can never be my hope. Don’t be conceited. Don’t be arrogant, he says, and fix your hope on those things.
So the problem is not that things are evil, in themselves. It’s when I’m trusting in or even desiring them with the belief that they can fill the inner void in my life and bring significance, security, peace, joy, and meaning. And what He’s going to do, from verse 19 through the end of the chapter, is, He’s gonna teach you, and He’s gonna teach me, how to kill the spider of materialism, so it will once and for all begin to remove the cobwebs of misplaced priorities.
Now, the structure of this is very important. You’ve noticed in your notes I’ve put it on the right side. The context is – what? It’s Matthew 6, verses 1 through 18. We looked at it in our last session. And remember, He talked about – what? He talked about giving, He talked about prayer, and He talked about fasting. What is the one thing that was true of His teaching about giving, prayer, and fasting? When you pray, when you fast, when you give, don’t do it like the [Congregation: Pharisees] to be seen of men, but when you do it, do it in secret, so your Father who sees in secret – here’s my point. Here’s what I want you to get: The context of what we’re gonna see is two motives. You can either impress people, or you can please God.
And then, the text will unfold, because the question is, “Well, how do you know what your motives are? I mean, He just told me my motives need to be secret and to pleasing God. Well, how do I know? Who can know what’s in your heart?” Well, in verses 19 through 21, He’s gonna say, “Guess what? I will show you a very clear way to know exactly what your motives are. The two motives reveal two treasures.”
And then, after that, He’s gonna say, “Now that you understand that there are two treasures – one eternal and one temporal – I’m gonna tell you where those treasures come from. There are two eyes; there are two perspectives about life.” And then, finally, those two perspectives will determine two options, two masters. Let me walk through the passage with you.
Okay, Lord, we understand, when we pray, when we give, when we fast, we need to do it with the right motive. Your means of protecting our motive is secrecy. Well, how do we know what our motives are? Here’s what He says – verse 19, Matthew 6: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” – the reason – “where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Translation – it’s a bad investment. “But store up for yourselves” – will you underline the word for yourselves? This is not about deprivation. This is about doing something good for you. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
And so, He just makes a point. He goes, “If you wanna know what your motives are, it’s pretty simple. Where’s your treasure?”
Your money is the greatest, clearest, true revealer of your heart. Our trust always follows our treasure. Our trust – what I believe is gonna come through for me. People whose God is gold always have anxiety. People whose God is Christ, even in the midst of varied circumstances, can relax. He says there are two treasures. So, He says be smart. Invest your treasures in what’s ahead.
And then, He says, “Well, okay, okay, now I can – I can see where my motives are. If I wanna do an acid test of where my motives and heart are, I’m gonna look at my treasure.” And the treasure of money, for sure, but I would also say the treasure of my time, the treasure of my energy. Well, what what are the resources? What is the wealth that I have, and where do I spend that wealth? That will tell me my true treasure, my true motives.
And then, there’s this kind of interesting passage – I mean, really interesting little passage here. And notice what it says. He says that “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good” – circle the word good, and then, above it, write the word singular. “If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad” – circle bad, and, actually, then write the word evil underneath that – “your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
Now, it’s really interesting, here. He’s gonna say, the eye is the lamp of the body, you know. And there’s using this play on words, and He’s gonna help you see that your outlook will determine your outcome. Your perception will determine your pursuits. He’s gonna say, what you and I perceive to be as important is what we will passionately pursue. So, I jotted a few thoughts. A mother, her children. A man, his work. An athlete, his workout. An artist, his art. A musician, his music. A Christian, his God.
He’s gonna say, if you don’t know what drives your desires – He says, “If your eye is clear.” The word is haplous. It literally means “to be without any folds in it.” In Latin, it’s intranslated simplex. It has the idea of simplicity; clear, singular focus. On the contrast, from clear, singular, there are two motives, there are two treasures. Really, He’s getting down to the eye, physically – wherever the eye goes, the whole body follows, right? I mean, I don’t have eyes in the back of my head. Whatever I see, perceive, make direction. He says your desire, your core beliefs, your passions, your pursuits, what you believe – if it’s clear, if it’s singular, if it’s on God, if it’s honoring Him, if it’s being the man, the woman that you know He wants you to be – He says your whole body’ll be full of light. Everything else comes.
He said, however, you can have these external things going on, and religious activities. If your eye is evil, if there’s duplicity, if your deep belief is that things and power and status and possessions can deliver satisfaction, meaning, and significance, He says your whole body will be full of darkness. Your eye, or desire, if it’s clean, healthy, undivided, and godly – your whole life will be directed and affected by God’s blessing, power, and presence. It has the idea of undivided loyalty to God, singleness of purpose, if you will. If your eye focus is bad, your whole life will be infected by darkness, and ultimately destroyed.
The word for evil here, it’s very interesting. It’s poneros. It means “evil; corrupt; perverted.” It’s used for food that has been spoiled or is unsuitable to eat. It’s something separated or anti-God. It’s translated in Matthew 18:22. Remember the worthless servant? That’s this word. John’s gospel contrasts this word – you’ll hear it against God’s light, God’s Word, God’s work. In Matthew 13:19, the article, there, is added, and the hoponeros is “the evil one.”
And the point I wanna make, here, is simply at the heart of all these things we’re talking about – cobwebs, priorities, time, money, symptoms – He said, “There are two motives in walking with Me. Those two motives lead to your treasure. Your treasure will tell you where your motives are. But what treasure you pursue has to do with your core beliefs, passions, desires. What do you really, really want? What do you believe – not what you say, not even what you verbalize – but what do your actions demonstrate is your core pursuit in life.
And then, notice what Jesus will say. He says you can have only one of two masters. It will be either mammon or Him. Right after the two eyes. I mean, it’s an amazing thought, here. He says, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or [he’ll] be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” It doesn’t say you cannot have God and have money; it says you cannot serve God and money.
The battle in priorities boils down to, you either have faith in God and His promises for peace, security, significance, and your passion is a relationship with Him, or you have faith in things and their power to deliver for your life. And so, what you have, here, is, it is as clearly laid out as anywhere in Scripture. This is the issue: materialism. It’s a condition of the heart.
How do you go about it? Well, check your motives. There are some practices. Where’s your treasure? It’s the revealer. Check, then, your eye – where’s it focused? And then, finally, your eye will reveal one master or another Master.
Now, here’s the question – I mean, this is the question that brings everything we’ve talked about in the series to a head. Here’s the fundamental question. You’ll notice, I put it in your notes. It says, “Do not allow the pursuit of material things to thwart your spiritual development.” I mean, that’s the statement. That’s what He’s saying.
But then the question is, how can we live in a material world without becoming materialistic? Isn’t that it? I mean, I got news for you. There are college tuitions, and you save for this, and you have house payments, and, “I gotta rent this; I’ve gotta do that. I’ve gotta buy food; I’ve got responsibilities. So, I live in a material world. I can’t come up to some mountaintop and hear great things about God. Buddy, when I get home, I got bills to pay. I got issues. I’ve got tuition. I’ve got car repairs; I’ve got doctor bills.”
How do you live in a material world, without being materialistic?
And you notice, remember when Jesus was talking about spiritual growth and spiritual development, how it happens, and He was talking about the power of God’s Word, and He says, the Word of God is like a seed, and the man went out and sowed the seed. And there are four types of soils, and the soils are the human hearts, and Satan comes and the hard soil takes it away. And there’s one that sprouts up quickly, and then persecution comes, and it dies out. The third seed – remember, it grows up, but the thorns grow up around it, and it chokes out the life of truth in your heart and soul. Does anybody remember? It’s the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches – the deceitfulness.
By the way, when your money is messing you up, when your possessions are messing you up, I got news. You don’t know about it. That’s what deceit means. You know, we read stuff, say, “Well, oh, yeah. Boy, I’ll bet there are some people out there that are really deceived.” No – no, you don’t get it. I’m deceived. It’s how much.
And then, that last part. This is why we don’t have margin in our lives. Not just the deceitfulness of riches, but He says, and the concern, the worry, the preoccupation with – what? Other things. What other things? Other things, other than what really matters. He’s talking about priorities.
And so, what I wanna do is, I wanna walk, now, through verses 24 through 33, and we’re gonna get the solution. You can walk out of here, and I can walk out of here, with absolute clarity before God: This is how you kill the spider. And then, those priorities and practices and disciplines are how you maintain that relationship of – what? Having the right motives – “I wanna please God” – of doing – what? Looking at treasure as some tug of war? No.
I want my treasure to be an investment, where it’s gonna make the most. So, I wanna invest the treasure of my money and my time and my heart and my energy in people, not in things, in doing things that last forever, in loving people, rather than using people to get things.
Well, how’s it happen? Well, 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 that you can tell your friends about at cocktail parties – and of course Christians drink different stuff at cocktail parties, depending on what kind of background they come from.
In fact, our cocktail parties are often in the foyer of the church. “Have you heard about my grandson?” “Yeah, Harvard really didn’t quite work out, but we thought MIT would be a good second choice.” “Yeah, well, did you hear about my daughter? Yes, well, she’s been doing it for 11 years.” “How old is she?” “She’s 12. And at one, we put her in the pre-Olymptic gymnastic team. They ran tests on our DNA, for 100,000 dollars, and we could see that she had high-side potential, and actually, in the Olympics of 2042, we’re expecting a gold medal. And we’ve rearranged our entire life. We’ll be moving to Houston soon, you know that’s where the gymnasts and –” I’m putting you on, but so help me, you just back that off a little bit, and we all play those games. And we think our meaning and our significance and our value is what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished, who we know, what our kids have done.
Now, is there a place for a God-honoring sense of accomplishment and pride? Of course. That’s not what He’s talking about, here. 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.” I mean, these aren’t people that are necessarily logging on to the Internet, robbing people behind the scenes.
Who’s He talking to? He prayed all night – Luke 6. Who’s He talking to? “Hey, Pete, you gotta watch out for the . . . James, John, listen up on this one.” These are His disciples, and the crowd’s overhearing. 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!”
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? He’s out there in that little uniform that I can’t believe they made us pay that much, and 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 . . . I mean, there’s times I was the pastor. I would say to my own kids, “You’re not going to that youth activity.” “Dad, come on!” “No.” “You’re the pastor!” “I know I’m the pastor. I’m a dad, first.” I remember the time at our church when, I mean, it was so blowing in California, in so many different directions, and we unconsciously – I mean, the fifth and sixth grade, we had hundreds there, and hundreds in the junior high, and hundreds in the high school, and this and this and that.
And I sat down one day, and – ‘cause I was a parent – and I thought, what would it be like as a really committed Christian in our church? Oh, you come to a service, you serve somewhere, you’re in a small group. Let’s see, Tuesday night, we’re doing that dinner, and the electives. And then, my lands, if you had a kid here, you’d have to be out this night, and junior high is dropped off here; high school’s here. I remember getting our whole staff together and saying, “Man, we’re the enemy! We’re idiots! We have successful programs that are killing families.” And we pulled it back and said, “Okay, high school, junior high, fifth and sixth, and the family life counseling ministry – you all get together, and we ain’t doing anything unless whatever we do flows to build healthy families, instead of build our church programs.”
And here’s my point. You can see it when I give it to you corporately like that. That’s what’s happening to a lot of you. I mean, who can argue with 150 fifth and sixth graders studying God’s Word on this night? Or 150 or 200 junior highers doing it this night, and then going on a retreat here and then having an outreach over here, and doing this over here? The only problem is, Dad is not the priest of his home. You know, he and his wife are going, “Do you think we could get a vacation from, like, everything?” And they get tired.
See, 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. I’ve got a good buddy who is extremely wealthy and very godly, and I remember he built a nice house, paid cash for it, was, at one point in time, in one of my ministries, chairman of the elders, great buddy. We met on a regular basis. And he did some other things, and he had a nice pool over here, and this here and this here.
And I remember meeting with him one day, and he said, “Yeah, I made a decision. Pshew! I’m tired of the upkeep of the stuff I’ve got. If you got a pool you gotta have a pool guy. If you got a second house, you gotta have come someone clean it when you invite people over to stay; then, you gotta go up there just often enough to feel like you’re worth the second house.” And then, he said, “You know, I love the yard; I love the landscaping. But I can’t do it. We got a landscaping guy.” He started adding up how many hundreds of dollars a month, just to keep up all the nice stuff he had, that he graciously used and gave, over and above… He just said, “I’m just tired. My to-do list is about all these things.”
Some of you have things, and I’ve talked with some of you, and it’s like, “I don’t know how to get out of this, and I got these cobwebs, and I do it for a couple of weeks, and there’s a struggle, and . . .” You know, you can’t tweak it. Some of you need to really pray – and don’t write me and blame me if you make a dumb decision, all right?
But you need to really, really pray, and then, you need to say, “You know what? These relationships that we feel guilty about that are going nowhere, that we just – out of expectation – you know something? We’re just not doing those anymore.” And you know, some of these activities, some even [quote] “religious activities” – ‘cause people expect ‘em, and, “I’ve done this for 11 years” – well, good, don’t make it 12.
Figure out what God wants you to do. Get focused. Simplify your life. Get a handle on your money, on your time, in alignment with, “What am I supposed to be, and what am I called to do?” And then, just cut some stuff loose. I mean, just get out the old spiritual butcher knife – Slop! Swap! I mean, just – “I’m not doing that anymore.” And, oh, you’ll struggle and feel guilty, and good, loving people, “You can’t do that. Our program could never go on without you. You are the source of our church program. The ladies will never go on without you!” Well, then, you got a bad program, ‘cause we all thought they could not go on without Jesus. Right? So, that’s what we need to talk about.
Now, let me give you the symptoms here. I think I had a small tangential moment. I think it was a Spirit-led tangential moment. But I’ll tell you, that last three minutes wasn’t in the notes. But I really think it’s where American culture is, among believers. And I just keep meeting people that I love, who unconsciously are on this rat race. Did you notice the title of this, by the way? “How to Get Out of the Rat Race Forever.” I will guarantee, it will be painful. It’ll be painful. You’re not gonna tweak a couple little things. It’ll take a gigantic, clear step of leading from God, where you look at your plate, and you just take some things off that you assumed you always had to do. And then, you’ll put some things on that will be about storing up treasure forever.
Remember the centenarians – now that I know what they are – those people who live over a hundred? Man, I’ll tell you what – the relationships on your plate, and are they deep? Friendships, family. Are there any relationships that need to be repaired? I mean, those are the things that are gonna matter. And what do we say? “Oh, we’d love to get together. We really can’t. There’s a couple we really connect with; we’d love to be with them.” And you look at your schedule and, you know, three months from now… Well then, just look at your schedule and start going, “You know… [makes cutting motion].”
And people do this all the time, in business. Have you ever had someone call you and say, “We’re really sorry. There was a tornado. We were supposed to roof your house. We have to delay it for a month”? And so, what do you do? “No, you can’t do that! You come right now!” What do we say, “Oh, okay.” Right? You can say that. You know, we had this on the calendar – no, no. Keep your word. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking, you know – you swear to your own hurt and change not.
But some of the stuff is sort of social obligation-type stuff. You just start going through and going, “You know what?” If it matters, and you long to do it, and you’re passionate about it, and you know God wants you to do it, let’s do it. And if it doesn’t, then figure out how to wean it, where you get down to the basics.
‘Cause 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.”
The meaning of worry – I love the Spanish word for worry. Do you know what it is? Preocupado. It means “be preoccupied.” See, we always think of worry as, I’m wringing my hands, and I’m so uptight about this. The Greek word for worry has this idea of a divided mind, of being torn in two different directions, of being pulled in opposite directions. 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. It’s the only reason. It’s not being led by God.
And you know what’s amazing? I still remember, my dad was an alcoholic, and they went through all this different stuff. And he was a good functioning alcoholic - “Ralph, you need to stop drinking,” and this and this, you’re neglecting the kids. “Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah.” And I remember, this was my mom: “Ralph – Reb” – she never called him “Ralph” – “We’re in a really” – she was a guidance counselor, so she kind of knew her stuff, even though we were a dysfunctional family. But she was one awesome codependent, I’ll tell you that. I mean, really.
And I remember when she came out of her codependency. She said, “Ralph” – and she took a beer bottle. She goes, “You can have that, or you can have me and the kids.” And I was the last one out, and my sister, so I’m in pretty late high school. So, she knows . . . “You got 24 hours to make a decision, and you can do whatever you wanna do.”
She nagged him for 10 years. She tried to help him for 10 years. She set a boundary and decided, What do I need to do to follow God? And guess what? In 24 hours, my dad decided he’d quit drinking.
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? [Congregant: No.] Okay, then I’ll say it again. That was really a rhetorical question of which I was looking for no answer, but since we’re a kind of family, this is good. The acid test of materialism is not how much I have or don’t have, but my preoccupation and concern over it. I can be preoccupied and concerned over all the tons of stuff that I do have, or 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 they got 1500 on their SAT, I’d ask Him for counsel, personally. 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? Let me get you started: 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? Have you ever gone to, you know, after the funeral – I’ve done lots of ‘em – and you go to someone’s house and hang out, have a little food, and you talk about the person. Have any of you gone to one of those, and people get around little tables, and all the people made nice little food, and . . . Have you ever been to one of those, and maybe a group of guys in the corner, “Did that guy have a nice car, or what? I mean, you know what? If I had a 401(k) – in fact, he had a 501(3b), and a 401(k). He was capital “B.” He was 32 on Forbes’ list. Man, did he look good dead! Whoo! Man.”
I’ve never heard that. The only thing we talk about when people are gone is – what? Either how they modeled their relationship and love for God, and what they did in their relationships. Period. Period. And the saddest funerals I’ve ever been to have been with the kids, who knew the inside story. And funerals – people are the biggest liars at funerals. Oh, my lands. You know. “Oh, Bob, he was duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh,” and the kids are going, “Uh-uh. He wasn’t home. He was a jerk. He had anger management issues, you know. He never talked to me.” You know. And . . . But I will tell you, when someone has lived well and died well – actually, as hard as it is to let go, it’s sweet time. Man, it’s sweet when you see life.
And you know what? Jesus said, “I’m trying to protect you.” Some of you, if you could just relax and seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, He might scare you and just make you rich. And some of you will wish, later, that He hadn’t. 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?
Why do we have all these garage sales? ‘Cause I gotta get new stuff I don’t need, to impress people who don’t care, and I put it in the garage. Then, I can’t fit it in the garage. Then, I try and sell it, and that’s a hassle, and I tried eBay, but, yeah, I don’t know about that. And so, I start – but wait, you don’t wanna lose it. So, it’s gotta be temperature controlled, you know. And I put it in storage. And we’ve got stuff, then we got stuff, then we got stuff, then we got stuff, then we got stuff.
Guess what? You know what your life is? Full of stuff! 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.
I came across an article I wanna close with, because this really is a warning. It’s an article about California, a cover story. When Jim Smallridge went to bed at his parents’ house in rural San Diego County late Saturday, he wasn’t concerned about wildfires. They were ravaging the Cleveland National Forest 15 miles away, a distant glow in the night.
He awoke a few hours later to find flames in his parents’ front yard. “It was on us like that,” he said, “chasing us,” says Smallridge, 42 years old. I knew that if we didn’t get out in a matter of minutes, we’d be dead. Minutes, it turned out, were all the residents of Lakeside had. After frantically knocking on neighbors’ doors, Smallridge managed to escape with his son Shawn, 18, by driving their pickup truck through a 200-foot-wide wall of flame that blocked the only road out of the neighborhood.
Now, imagine that: “It’s here. We gotta go. Tell the neighbors.” So, he tells the neighbors. “Son, get in the truck.” Pshhhh – and who knows what’s on the other side of it. They come through the flames.
“Others weren’t quick enough,” Smallridge recalls. They disregarded his frantic warnings, or they responded too casually. Several wanted to save their televisions and computers. “They looked like they were packing for a trip,” he said. “The ones who listened to me and left the area immediately, lived. The ones who didn’t, died.”
Feels a little bit like God speaking through Moses: “I put before you today a blessing and a curse. Choose life.” 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.