Guests: Brant Berglin and Mathilde Frey
Read for This Week’s Study: Ps. 33:6–9; Matt. 19:16–22; 1 Pet. 1:18; Heb. 2:14, 15; Exod. 9:14; Ps. 50:10.
Memory Text: “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9–11, NKJV).
The lesson this week is a reflection on the age old issue of not being able to serve two masters very well. Key to this discussion is the understanding that, when talking about serving two masters well, we have to have in mind primary loyalties. We cannot share primary loyalties between two entities. We do not have enough time, or energy or inventiveness to do that. Primary energy and loyalty can be given to only one thing.
The two entities under discussion in this lesson are God, and what Old English referred to as “mammon,” or money, material things. The Bible would have us understand that, giving primary loyalties to God and to the pursuit of possessions is impossible. We will simply default to the possessions. Do you agree with this assessment? If you do, for what reasons do you agree? Do you disagree? If so, for what reasons? The parable of the rich farmer found in Luke 12:20,21 would be a good discussion starter.
The point should be made that this assessment is not driven by the idea that the material world is somehow evil. Some forms of religion argue that there is a division between the “spirit” and the “material” realms, that the spiritual one is good, the material one bad. It is for this reason that some people despise the body, seeing it as carnal, not worthy of attention. But the creation story is very plain, that what God made was good. So the problem is not material things themselves, but the love of obtaining them, the inordinate love of things, that can be a seriously driving passion in the minds of humans.
The point to keep ever in mind is that, since God made all things, He rightly claims ownership. That leaves humans at best to be managers of another’s goods. And managers should never take to themselves the prerogatives of owners.
One of the main instructional stories in the Bible that illustrates this point so well, is the well-known story of the interchange between Jesus and a young man known as the rich young ruler, found in Matthew. The story reads as follows:
Matthew 19:16-22 – “16 A man approached him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?” 17 Jesus said, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There’s only one who is good. If you want to enter eternal life, keep the commandments.” 18 The man said, “Which ones?” Then Jesus said, “Don’t commit murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t give false testimony. 19 Honor your father and mother,[a] and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” 20 The young man replied, “I’ve kept all these. What am I still missing?” 21 Jesus said, “If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come follow me.” 22 But when the young man heard this, he went away saddened, because he had many possessions.” (CEB)
This is a very sad story for in it we see clearly the outcome of the struggle when it occurs between two masters. In this case, as it is in most cases, for we are very attached to things we can see, the possession side won without much struggle at all.
We do well to keep in mind that there is a certain difficulty in being a follower of Christ. Just as he gave all for our redemption, giving up his station in heaven in order to do so, in like manner, primary loyalties are called for from those who believe. The focus of this struggle is the self. Will we serve the interests of self, or will we be drawn to God and the promises He holds out? This struggle has often been called the greatest of struggles for a believer has to live in self-denial that God might prevail in his or her life. This struggle runs contrary to human nature. These thoughts are reflected in the words of Peter in his letter to the Christians:
1 Peter 1:17-19 – “17 Since you call upon a Father who judges all people according to their actions without favoritism, you should conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your dwelling in a strange land. 18 Live in this way, knowing that you were not liberated by perishable things like silver or gold from the empty lifestyle you inherited from your ancestors. 19 Instead, you were liberated by the precious blood of Christ, like that of a flawless, spotless lamb.” (NIV)
How do you think we can learn to distinguish between the proper use and enjoyment of things, and the inordinate fascination with acquiring them?
What is the best way for successfully fighting the battle against self? What are the best tools to use here?
Psalm 33:6-9 offers a useful reflection:
“6 The skies were made by the LORD’s word,
all their starry multitude by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathered the ocean waters into a heap;
he put the deep seas into storerooms.
8 All the earth honors the Lord;
all the earth’s inhabitants stand in awe of him.
9 Because when he spoke, it happened!
When he commanded, there it was!” (CEB)