SSATFA # 2: Things, Things, Things_God or Mammon.

 

“Things” is a difficult word. It can mean so many different things. It has   10 distinct meanings in the dictionary, each with multiple levels of meaning. It can mean “a matter of concern” as in the phrase “many things to do”. It can mean a “deed, act, or accomplishment” as in the phrase “do great things”. It can be used in the sense of “possessions, effects as in the usage of “pack your things”. And on another level that is less tangible it is “whatever may be possessed or owned or be the object of a right, and on still another level it can be “an article of clothing” as in I don’t have a thing to wear. With still another definition it can be “an object or entity not precisely designated or capable of being designated” as in the phrase “use this thing”. Likewise depending on the usage of the word it can have the definition of “detail or point” as in the phrase “checks every little thing”. Thing or things can be far more abstract as an “idea or notion” like in the sentence he says the first thing that comes into his mind; thing or things is also used in the sense of something individual like “not a living thing in sight”. You have heard it used in the sense also of “the proper or fashionable way of behaving, talking, or dressing” as in this is the thing. And then the tenth definition is as “a mild obsession or phobia” as in he has a thing about driving.

The word “thing” in the Bible also has different meanings. Most are familiar with the quote of Romans that “all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose.” Things there refers back to the context of how God is working for the good of the called, the Holy Spirit and Christ are also working together for the good of the called. Here the things are good.

In another context, that of I John 2:15-17 “things” is bad.

“Love not the world; neither the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  {God, the great originator and controller of the new birth will not allow it to happen. He will not allow His love to be in anyone who does not give Him “exclusive loyalty” to borrow a phrase from Thomas McComiskey in THE MINOR PROPHETS.  It is also remembered so well from a Contemporary Philosophy of Living class the supreme attribute of character from Josiah Royce of “loyalty”.  Loyalty in our contemporary jargon best describes the top love that King James struggles for in usage of the word “charity”.}           All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world. The world passeth away and the lust thereof but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”  For normal Christian living, the two lusts of the flesh and eyes can be recognized and with the power of the Spirit overcome; however “pride of life” is difficult as it seems so natural in life, Christian or otherwise, it is thus hard to recognize it as a forbidden lust just as lust of the eyes and lust of the flesh, to recognize it as not of the Father but of the world, and part of the love of the Father of which it is stated in the Word cannot exist in the Christian life simultaneously with the love of the Father.

Another bad usage of “things” is found in the parable of the seed and the sower that was told by Jesus. Jesus first told of the seed of the Word that fell among thorns which immediately sprung up then the thorns choked it out. And then Jesus explained this as when an individual hears the Word of faith and of God and explains the thorns that choke it out as “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and other things”. You noticed that “other things” with cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches that choke out the word of faith.

I think you would agree that Jesus is primarily concerned about objects or possessions here, and this is the usage of the word things on which we try to concentrate as perhaps the number one diversion of people living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Things as objects or possessions dominate lives. Recall it was the very good and moral rich young man that walked away from Jesus when Jesus told him to give all his possessions to the poor, then come follow Jesus. The young man walked away according to the Scripture “because he had great possessions.”

At least this young man realized it. How many young men and women are walking away from Jesus who do not realize that they are so occupied with objects and possessions that Jesus has been ignored by default. The words of God have lost much of their effective meaning in their lives simply because they are too occupied with possessions—”things” if you would—to even think about God and Jesus.

  1. The word that Jesus used in the Sermon on the Mount to describe “things” is the word “mammon”. What you have in this Sermon is the contrast between the things of God and the things of mammon, things created by man and by the world.
  2. There is nothing wrong with “bread” but if man lives by bread alone then he cannot also live a balanced life of every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
  3. The temptations of Satan to stop the ministry of Jesus centered around the things of this world, and the sad fact is that Satan really has the ability to control these things of the world. If you allow these things to control your life it is sadly the equivalent of allowing Satan to control your life. While the things themselves, like money, are not evil, the things become the root of all evil. In fact, money would fall into the category of mammon as “all things created by man” “Mammon” is the word used by Jesus for things. Is it a surprise to you that while we hear so much about Jesus and the teachings of Jesus and about God, we do not hear the word “mammon” mentioned much, the world not wanting any bad connotations attached to the buying of things. Mammon which literally means things of man’s creation is not bad within itself. Mammon is much like money. In fact, when the word mammon originated it applied most significantly to money. Well, mammon and money are not evil per se, money and mammon are the root of all evil. It is the root of all that diverts a man effectively from God; it is the root of all that causes man to live more by bread than by the words of God; it is the root of what chokes out conversion with the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and other things.

Jesus in His teachings of the Sermon on the Mount described it this way, and we have never been able to see the real meaning to the extent of a practical application in life.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”  (Matthew 6:24)

We hear this and we go into self-denial:   “No, that is an archaic teaching that came before this age of technological things and world-class education and the development of a social conscience. I can love my things without hating God; and I can love my God without hating things. I can be loyal to the accumulation of things without despised God, Jesus, and the Bible; and I can be loyal to God without the despising of my education, status from men in business, my house, and my other things. Extremes are not necessary, we say to ourselves. I can be moderate in the things of God and I can be moderate in the things of men’s creations.

Well, the words of Jesus stand firm; and they stand unchanged down through the centuries as recorded in the Bible. “You cannot have two masters”. {You cannot escape the conclusion that God demands and deserves, and it is for your own benefit, exclusive loyalty. If it were for eternal life alone it would be worth it, when you consider the length of eternity compared to the short boot camp here on earth; but it is also a life style here on earth which Jesus calls no less than the “abundant life”. This abundance is sometimes misunderstood, and privately interpreted as the prosperous life of the middle class; but one such abundance is the privilege each day of casting every care on God the Father. “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time, casting ALL YOUR CARE upon Him, for He cares for you”.}

Well, the reply might come, we just do not understand what God meant when He gave Jesus those words to teach. Yes, we do! The meaning is right there on the surface. I recall from many of my good Bible teachers, one at Ouachita Baptist University who said, “just let the Bible say what it means…let the Bible say what it wants to say     ” AND WHAT THE BIBLE IS TRYING TO SAY IS THAT EITHER MAMMON OR GOD WILL DOMINATE YOUR LIFE, AND WHICH IS TO DOMINATE IN YOUR LIFE IS YOUR CHOICE.

Generally, you would have to agree with me, it is the case that those all wrapped up in things, also do not have the motivation of “service” for God in the first place. Where they have missed the boat, and it is an eternal miss, is the meaning of service for God and in the placing of service for God in first place. This is as basic as the first three of the Ten Commandments. It was summarized by Jesus as-“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, mind and soul, and Him only shall you serve.” {Notice how the “Him only shall you serve” rings again of the exclusive loyalty; and how this summary from Jesus is as old as the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus is quoting here from the Old Testament.}

One might respond, “This is simple, and we know all these things, because we are church members.”

No, you don’t as indicated by the popularity among Bible believers of the philosophy of Joel Olsten as given in his bestselling book YOUR BEST LIFE NOW. In one chapter alone on the good life, Joel mentions “things” twenty-three times. Also, the so-called “Women of Faith” with their popular challenge for women to live the extraordinary life now—supposedly a Bible and Christ ministry—offer you a catalog of things to buy which are called “women of faith resources”. Now, what in the world does a ministry of Christ and the Bible have to do with the selling of sweaters, and necklaces, and purses, and all sorts of things. In the case of Joel and the ladies of faith, they are promoting immediately the very mammon that diverts from the service of God.

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