Nov 042016

Do not judgeJudge not, that you be not judged. (Matthew 7:1)

I believe this verse is one of the most misunderstood and misused verses in the whole bible. It is probably one of the favourite verses for unbelievers who want to carry on doing what they want to do, usually in rebellion to God and His ways. They direct it at God himself. “Who is He to tell me I am wrong what I am doing? It’s my life, I’ll do what I want.” “Don’t judge me God.” And if they direct it at Him, they will most certainly direct it at His followers.

In today’s society, judging other people is very wrong, but is Jesus saying we shouldn’t judge at all? I don’t believe so, because there are other passages that call us to exercise judgement;

You have to exercise judgement to fulfil these two verses:

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)

And what about:

When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? (1 Corinthians 6:1-2)

It is so important, as in all scripture, to look at passages in context. This verse should not be taken in isolation. Jesus has been talking in ‘The sermon on the mount’ about our attitudes, about our humility and singling out the religious leaders who led in a hypocritical way. They pronounced moral judgements on others whilst being guilty of those same sins themselves.

Jesus is not condemning all moral judgement or accountability but rather the harsh, prideful, hypocritical judgement that condemns others without first evaluating one’s own position and spiritual condition. We should judge lovingly, not self-righteously. There is a big difference and it is all in the attitude.

Jesus said himself in John 7:24 “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.

Let’s look at what sort of judgement is right:

Not judging superficially– We shouldn’t judge solely based on appearances, ensuring we don’t jump to conclusions before establishing the facts. If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13) We do not judge motives and intentions of the heart, only God can do that.

Not judging hypocritically– Jesus has already been confronting, in this same sermon, hypocritical behaviour (see Matthew 6 verses 2, 5 and 16) and He will continue challenging this behaviour as He goes on.

Not harsh, unforgiving judgement– We need to be gentle towards one another. to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy towards all people. (Titus 3:2)

True judgement– The bible clearly forbids ‘false witness’ A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape. (Proverbs 19:5)

The world says “Do not judge, do not make moral evaluations, don’t condemn anything!” but Jesus is not saying that. He is saying don’t be hypocritical in your judgements or judge people with different standards than you would hope to be judged by. When you judge; be loving, kind and gracious with a spirit of restoring people to their right relationship with God. But don’t tolerate sin!

We will start to look at the consequences of judging wrongly next week.

 November 4, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Oct 282016

worrying about tomorrowTherefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:34)

We have now spent quite a number of weeks looking at all different aspects of worry and anxiety. Today I am going to wrap up this subject with an overview of what Jesus has been saying in these few verses and then finish with some personal reflections.

In these 9 verses (Matthew 25-34) Jesus has been showing the utter futility, for the believer, in worrying. Worrying cannot do you any good. Firstly, it’s not going to add any length to your life or improve it in any way. Secondly, look around you! See how God provides for and feeds the birds and clothes the flowers of the field. Thirdly consider that God is your loving heavenly father who loves you and wants to provide for you. You are far more precious than birds of the air or flowers in the field, so of course He will look after you! Conclusion; worrying is not just pointless it is counter-productive and demonstrates a distinct lack of faith!

When you look at these arguments, in the cold light of day, they make perfect sense. So why do we still worry?

I’m reminded of the story of Peter in Matthew 14:22-33. All the time he had his eyes and trust on Jesus he was able to miraculously walk on water, but as soon as he looked at the wind and the waves and the circumstances, he started to sink. I am convinced that is the same as our worry and anxiety. We have taken our eyes off God and started looking at all the circumstances. The answer of course is to spend more time with God; to read His word, pray, worship and meditate on His goodness.

This series on worry has come at the perfect time for me. I have just changed career and have started driving buses for a living. Before this summer I had never driven anything bigger than a small van and now I am driving double-deckers down some very narrow roads. The temptation to worry and be anxious has been huge. I can’t say it has been easy and I have certainly had my moments where I have lost some sleep and found it really difficult. But God has been so good and helped me as I have leaned into Him. I have had to constantly hand over my concerns to Him and press in through prayer, but He has been so faithful.

If you are finding life difficult, with worries and concerns besetting you, let me encourage you to draw near to God. He really is the only answer.

I’m just going to end with a few quotes which I found quite thought provoking:

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
(Leo F. Buscaglia)

“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere” (Erma Bombeck)

“Fear can keep us up all night long, but faith makes one fine pillow.” (Philip Gulley)

I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize the Lord is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult, His grace is sufficient.(Hudson Taylor)

And finally from the straight speaking John Stott

“To become preoccupied with material things in such a way that they engross our attention, absorb our energy, and burden us with anxiety is incompatible with both Christian faith and common sense.  It is distrustful of our heavenly Father and it is frankly stupid.”

 October 28, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Oct 212016

seek first the kingdom of GodBut seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Today’s verse is one of the most well known in the bible. It can be found on inspirational posters and bumper stickers and probably coffee mugs. It is a great verse which rolls off the tongue, but what does it really mean? It is not always quoted in the context of worry, it is often just quoted as a nice thought, but if you have been following these blogs for the past few weeks, you will know that Jesus has been explaining why we don’t need to worry and this verse is a sort of summing up of what He has just been saying. Let’s break it down and look at it carefully.

Seek– To seek for something denotes action, it is not passive, not hoping that something will just turn up. It’s going ‘all out’ to get something. Jesus summed it up well in Luke 15 when He told parables about the lost sheep and lost coin. The searcher was single minded in their seeking, which is the sort of seeking Jesus is referring to here. It’s not a ‘one off’ seeking either, it’s a daily choice!

First– This is the thing we should be doing above all other things. Making it a top priority, not settling for a lesser target or compromising. We are talking about ‘the pearl of great price’ which takes precedence over all other things.

Kingdom of God– For many years I didn’t really understand what this phrase meant, but Jesus used the term a lot. In fact it was the central theme of His ministry. He would often say “The kingdom of God is at hand” or even “The kingdom of God is within you”. Many people have differed on the precise meaning of this term, but I think it is clear from the context of what Jesus was saying and doing. A Kingdom denotes a ruling and a reigning of a King. When Jesus demonstrated the nearness of His kingdom He would generally be; healing people, delivering them from demonic activity, working miracles or preaching the good news. You could liken it to heaven touching earth. There is no sickness in heaven and so when Jesus healed somebody he brought heaven’s kingdom down to earth. There is no lack in heaven and so when Jesus fed the five thousand he brought the provision of heaven down to earth and so on. He demonstrated love, joy and peace, all attributes of His heavenly kingdom.

When we seek God’s Kingdom first we are looking to act like Jesus in our everyday lives. It could be by; blessing people, providing for them, loving them, feeding the poor, helping the helpless, being kind, being generous and hundreds of other things that happen because we love Jesus and we want people to know and love Him too. It doesn’t have to be big things either. Just the mundane, every day, Christ-like attitude we demonstrate on a daily basis. It all shows a seeking first of Christ’s kingdom. It’s in every decision we make to do the ‘right’ thing. That leads me on to the last bit;

Righteousness– God’s righteousness is what we are given as a free gift when we are saved. It is nothing we have earned or could possibly attain for ourselves. One of my favourite verses in the whole bible is:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Let that sink in; you have become the righteousness of God. God looks at you and sees the perfection of Jesus. But it is still something we need to take on, it’s a daily choice. We can choose to seek first and pursue God’s righteousness or we can just do what we want to do. Jesus is encouraging us today to seek first the better thing, to go after God and all He has for us with all of our might, to make it our top priority.

Jesus says when we put Him first, all the other stuff will be added anyway. We pursue the kingdom and we won’t be lacking in food, clothes or provisions. He takes care of all of that.

Next week, I’m going to attempt to sum up all we have been looking at over the last few weeks and again see why it is pretty pointless worrying about things. Until then..

 October 21, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Oct 142016

Dont be like unbelievers1Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. (Matthew 6:31-32)

In our verse by verse study on the ‘sermon on the mount’ we have spent a number of weeks recently looking at the whole subject of worry. Jesus has stated clearly that worry is unnecessary based on the fact that we have a loving heavenly father who is ready, willing and able to provide for us and yet we can still find ourselves worrying unnecessarily.

As we draw to the end of this subject, I want to consider again what Jesus is telling us from the verses that are before us today.

Let’s start with His conclusion; we have a heavenly father who knows what we need.

We looked at a similar subject a few weeks ago when we considered the question why pray?

So on a similar vein, if God knows what we need, why do we need to ask?

· God is looking for humility – a trusting spirit. Asking Him for things is a humbling experience. We are admitting that we cannot provide for ourselves.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you (1 Peter 5:6)

· Trust – You come to Him trusting He will provide for you. You are showing that you believe in Him and His promises and His willingness to provide.

· Guarding against complacency. If God just handed everything to us on a plate we would pretty soon forget where it came from.

· Relationship. It says in the passage today ‘heavenly father’. He is a responsible and loving parent and part of our coming to Him is a development of that relationship. It’s not a good relationship if we always turn up with a list of requests and never want to spend time with the giver of those gifts.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13)

Jesus is comparing God’s provision with what the Gentiles have to hope for. The word ‘Gentiles’ could also be translated ‘Pagans’ or ‘unbelievers’. Basically, anyone who doesn’t know God or have a relationship with Him. You probably know quite a few!

As I have said previously, we live in a society that is obsessed with ‘things’. Things to eat, drink or wear. Materialism. The daily pursuit of these things causes worry and anxiety and is ultimately unfulfilling. Those without God don’t have any trust that these things will be provided for them, they are left to fend for themselves.

The difference between a believer and an unbeliever should be stark, but sadly sometimes the difference is not obvious and not immediately clear. If we worry like unbelievers, what are we saying about God and His ability to provide? What sort of message are we sending out about His love and compassion?

We should be living in the reality of these verses. We have lasting hope and they have none. We have a heavenly father who loves and cares for us and they don’t. They have to rely on their own wit and abilities, we trust in the care of a compassionate generous father.

As we trust in the reality of these truths, we send a signal to the world of what they are missing. We are much more likely then, to have the opportunity to share with them the hope that they can have this relationship too. Let’s determine this week to live a life free from worry and full of trust and see what opportunities our father gives us to share this hope with others.

 October 14, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Oct 072016

O you of little faithwill he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:30)

I wouldn’t say this is one of Jesus’ favourite phrases, but He does use it a few times.

When the disciples got anxious in the storm: And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26)

When Peter started to sink after walking on water: Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)

And when the disciples completely misunderstand Jesus when they think He is talking about physical bread: “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?” (Matthew 16:8)

And lastly the parallel passage to the verse today in Luke 12:28

The other examples are Jesus talking to individuals. But today He is talking to a whole crowd from many different backgrounds. Did they all have little faith?

Jesus knows we have little faith, He knows because He made us. He knows our weaknesses and failures. I believe this phrase is a very gentle rebuke, where Jesus is tenderly pointing us in God’s direction and saying you can have more faith if you simply look towards Him. When you take your focus off your concerns and instead fix your gaze on Him as a loving heavenly father who is passionate about us and wants to provide for us abundantly, then faith will grow.

Jesus is not judging us, He is pointing us to the truth of His commitment for us. When we lose our trust in His commitment to us, it causes us to worry. Worry is doubting God. It is saying “I don’t think you can come through for me this time God” We often sort of believe that He can but doubt that He actually will. This is sin. This is placing the problems above our trust in God and doubting His willingness to help and His ability to fulfil His promises.

God never rejects those whose faith is weak, He wants to inspire them and to increase their faith

a bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not quench (Matthew 12:20)

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him (Romans 14:1)

But he does commend those who are strong in faith:

When Jesus heard this, he marvelled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. (Matthew 8:10)

Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:28)

I am convinced that the more time we spend in Jesus’ presence; praying, reading His word and worshipping, the stronger our faith will become. Because our focus is on Him rather than the problems we are worried about. It’s all about shifting our focus.

It’s important to recognise that Jesus didn’t say “O you of no faith” as Christians we have enough faith to save us. That is the easy bit. To grow stronger we need to develop that faith by recognising that God cares for every area of our lives and is ready, willing and able to provide for us in every aspect of life.

 October 7, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Sep 302016

What shall I wearAnd why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:28-30)

We have spent a number of weeks now on the subject of worry. We live in a very anxious society and our appearance seems to be a large part of that. How we dress, what sort of clothes we wear and how we present ourselves seems to be hugely important. Whether it is a desire to impress, to fit in or even to stand out, the subject is hugely significant for many of us.

I am amazed how many hours are spent by an increasing amount of people in society, obsessing about fashion, make-up, clothes and having the perfect body. I am more aware of it now, having a teenage daughter in the house, than ever before.

As I was thinking about this subject, it occurred to me that God’s original intention was that we shouldn’t need clothes. Adam and Eve in the beginning were perfectly happy naked. The need for clothes has only come about through sin and shame. Now I am not suggesting we go back to not wearing clothes, we can’t undo the mess that our original parents created. We all know instinctively that nudity is wrong. We have to wear clothes, the question is; how much time and attention should we spend on them?

As with so many other things, we need to get a balance. It is good to dress well and look respectable. We shouldn’t be unkempt or slovenly. The bible says that we can actually glorify God in our body;

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

The point today is that we should not obsess about our appearance.

In our passage today, Jesus is once again comparing the way God looks after the rest of his creation as a reason not to worry about our own appearance. Solomon was the richest king in Israel’s history with unprecedented wealth. And yet Jesus says that even a flower of the field looks more magnificent than he did. There is something beautiful about God’s created order that man just cannot reproduce. Even the most elaborate artificial flowers are nothing compared to the real thing.

The obsession with appearance is rooted in the need to feel attractive, needed, wanted. When we realise how God feels about us, the pressure is off. He made us as we are and He loves us as we are. It’s time we saw ourselves as God sees us and not as society does.

God’s view of beauty is so different to ours. The bible gives a few hints about this in the following passages. They are addressing the attitude of wives, but the principal remains. For men as well as for women, God is much more interested in the heart than the external appearance;

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewellery, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1 Peter 3:3-4)

likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. (1 Timothy 2:9-10)

 September 30, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Sep 232016

adding an hourAnd which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (Matthew 6:27)

Even to those of us without any medical experience, it would seem obvious that you just won’t add any time to your life by worrying. Jesus asked a lot of questions like this to show the futility of this kind of thinking. In fact the opposite is true. You are much more likely to reduce your life expectancy through worrying.

Worrying can affect the body in many ways. It can cause amongst other things; high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, acid reflux, dizziness, fainting, hyperventilation, disturbed sleep, and bowel disorders. Another side effect is damage caused to our bodies by the way we try coping with worry. Too much alcohol and an over dependence on anti-depressants or other medication will damage our bodies as well.

Actually, anxiety and worry are a normal reaction to stress. If we had no worry at all in our lives, we would probably have a bit of a problem. We sometimes need a little bit of stress in our lives to help us perform well and achieve more. For example the pressure of an interview or upcoming exams can motivate us to study more and focus our attention. Psychologists call it the ‘fight or flight’ response. This is our body’s instinctive reaction to stress, where adrenaline and cortisol are pumped into our bodies causing our reactions to heighten and our performance to improve. This is natural. The problem occurs when this reaction is triggered daily by excessive worrying and anxiety. This leads to the illnesses I listed above.

If you have a tendency to worry, I just want to give you a few possible practical solutions, followed by some spiritual ones;

· Talk to your doctor or a medical professional. They are trained to notice certain signs you may be exhibiting. They also have knowledge of the best medication to prescribe. Don’t just assume that because someone else had the same symptoms as you, it should be dealt with in the same way. This can be the first step to admitting that we have a problem and that we need help.

· Exercise – exercising produces different chemicals which are beneficial to the immune system. It also helps you feel better in yourself.

· Eat a healthy diet – Stress can cause you to eat too much or too little. Again, the right kinds of food are beneficial to the balance of your body.

· Learn to relax – We need to know when it is time to slow down or just switch off.

· Accountability – There are many reasons why God gave us His church to be a part of, but one of the most important is so that we can be in community and share one another’s burdens. Worry is heightened when we are isolated and it is reduced when we share. Other people can help us put our problems into perspective.

· Submission – Anxiety and worry is often rooted in proud, self-sufficient or controlling people. Anxiety comes when they can no longer control the things or situations around them. Those that trust God are submitted to Him and find it much easier to let go and rely on Him.

· Focus on God – It is far better to look at the solution than worry about the problem. By gazing on Him everything gets into the right perspective.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord for ever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. (Isaiah 26:3-4)

 September 23, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Sep 162016

God feeds the birdsLook at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26)

Jesus is continuing on his discourse from ‘The sermon on the mount’ on the subject of worry. You can almost imagine him looking up into the sky as he is speaking and pointing at some birds as an illustration.

It’s a simple but profound image. Birds are seemingly carefree, they fly around, gather food, sleep and repeat. They seem quite happy about it too, given the amazing morning birdsong you can here as they sing to each other. One can almost get quite envious of this simple lifestyle.

It’s not that they are unproductive, even though the worms (or whatever) have been provided by God, they still have to dig and search around for them. Jesus is not saying that we won’t have to toil to get what we need. Birds don’t just sit on a branch with their mouths open waiting for worms to drop from the sky (unless they are the baby birds in the picture). What we need to do, like them, is to work hard and then, the important thing is to not worry. Worrying is what they don’t do. They are not sowing or reaping and stockpiling worms for the hard winter. They go out, get their food and then do the same the next day.

I don’t think Jesus is warning about making provision for the future, that is a wise thing to do. What He is highlighting is not to worry about the future and simply trust that we have a loving heavenly father who wants to provide for us.

God’s provision for all creation is called ‘common grace’. This is the idea that God is gracious to all he has made, whether deserved or not. He blesses all. He looks after and sustains all of nature, the things that man cannot control and is not even aware of. There are probably fishes in the deepest ocean that God sustains that haven’t even been discovered yet. What a generous, kind and gracious God He is.

The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. (Psalm 145:9)

For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45)

The point Jesus is making is that if God looks after the birds, how much more will He look after us. It is not a popular concept in our society at the moment, but in God’s eyes, humans are more important than animals. It is humans who were created in God’s image. He bestowed on us more worth than everything else He created. So if He looks after each little bird on a daily basis, He will certainly look after you and I.

 September 16, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Sep 092016

Dont be anxiousTherefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25)

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
(Corrie ten Boom, Clippings from My Notebook).

Worry can be quite a pastime for many of us. I’ve even known some people who are worried that they don’t have anything to worry about, if that makes any sense. Worrying can become a big part of our lives and the more complex our lives become, seemingly the more we have to worry about.

Over the past few weeks we have been looking at the subject of money and that is a subject which can often cause anxiety, whether we have money or not.

Jesus has been encouraging us to take our gaze off this world and look to the kingdom of God. The more we focus on the here and now the more we will get wrapped up in this world. Jesus is very much talking about the everyday cares of life; what we eat and what we drink and what we have to wear. He is saying that life is so much more important than the mundane and the everyday worries of life. If we change our gaze towards God we will see a father who is loving and kind, whose every instinct is to provide for His children, who has called us to a purpose and who will give us the tools to achieve that purpose.

If you are a person who worries too much, I would suggest your gaze is in the wrong place. In my own life, the more I pray, worship, read my bible and seek God for who He is, the more content I am and the less anxious I tend to be. I also have my gaze lifted away from the cares of life and get excited about the many possibilities God has given me. When I focus on God, I get real purpose for my life and an excitement about what God can do with me.

Even this week, I have felt anxious. We all do at some point. I am doing a new job and it is very different to anything I have done before and every day has new challenges and opportunities for fear. But I can testify that when I have given these fears over to God, He has brought amazing peace to me. He will do exactly the same for you.

We will spend quite a few weeks on this issue and look at different aspects of this very important subject. If you have any examples of God helping you in this area, why not leave them in the comments to encourage us all.

casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

 September 9, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Sep 022016

MammonNo 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 NKJV)

In the ‘sermon on the mount’, Jesus talks about the way we should live and the attitudes we should have if we want to follow Him. Over the last few weeks we have been looking at money. In fact this subject is covered by Jesus a lot in all His teachings. He talked about this subject more than heaven and hell, because He knew the power it could have over us.

I have used the New King James version of the bible in our verse today, because the word ‘mammon’ means a lot more than just the word ‘money’ which many modern translations use (probably for simplicity!)

The word ‘mammon’ comes from the Greek word ‘mammonas’, which has a similar root word in Hebrew, Latin, Aramaic, Chaldean and Syriac. The word means; money, wealth, material possessions and worldly gain or even the idol of materialism.

Worship of mammon can show up in many ways. It isn’t just about being greedy for more money. It could be when we envy what others have, or are anxious about our own financial abilities or unmet needs or just a failure to trust in God’s provision. It is a sin that can easily entangle us in its grip without us even realising.

It has not been proved, but some scholars believe it to be a Syrian and Chaldean demon God, similar to the Greek god of wealth, Plutus. The city of Babylon in Revelation 18 with all its avarice and greed, is a description of a world given over to the spirit of Mammon.

Many writers over the centuries have personified mammon in various books including the classics ‘The divine comedy’ by Dante, Milton’s ‘paradise lost’ and Spencer’s ‘The Faerie Queene’. The picture at the top of this blog is from Collin de Plancy’s ‘Dictionnaire Infernal’, not a very edifying book, but I thought the picture demonstrates the effect of mammon quite well.

The apostle Paul describes, really well the contrast between being content and the effects of mammon:

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10).
Solomon writes of the futility of chasing after mammon: “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

Notice the emphatic words used in today’s passage. It doesn’t say you shouldn’t serve two masters, it says you cannot. The idea is taken from slavery in the ancient world. A slave was the complete property of their master, no free time or time to themselves. It was expected that they would be on hand to attend to their master 24/7. In this context it would be impossible to serve another master. It would be like trying to walk in two directions at the same time. The bible makes it clear that we were once slaves to unrighteousness, but now we have been bought with a price and are slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:15-23) God is now our master and we do what He says. If we are serving God, we are not serving Mammon and vice versa.

As I said before, mammon can easily lure us into its trap without us being fully aware. It would be a good idea to pray and ask God what areas you are being influenced in. To finish, I have given a few indicators which show where we may be susceptible to Mammon’s influence:

  • When we are worried or anxious over money
  • When we are not able to manage money well
  • Impulse buying
  • Stinginess or lack of generosity
  • Not tithing or giving
  • Tithing is actually an Old Testament principle. Under the New Covenant we should be even more generous in view of God’s grace towards us.
  • Not being satisfied with what we have
  • Bondage to debt
 September 2, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »