By Jady W. Copeland
This article and the number three article are the very core of our theme “Possessed By Our Possessions.” We ask again, “Do we control our material possessions or do they control us?” If we are in control, then everything we do with our goods will honor God. Do they cause us to do something that would not honor him? If God is my master, he is in control. Likewise if I am in control of my possessions they serve me.
The broad base of Christianity is love. “We love, because he first loved us” (In. 4:19). God is love, and if we choose him as our master, then the attributes he has (to perfection) must be our desires and resolves. The Lord set our priorities and our rule for living in Matthew 22:37 when he said for us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is total commitment to the master who created us and gave us perfect directions for life here and hope for the life hereafter.
One’s master can be known by looking at his service (Rom. 6:16). We are the “servant of him whom we obey.” If we look at the servant, we can know who is the master. If we obey the desires of Satan, he is our master. If we obey God, then he is our master. One who is not serving God (whether in ignorance or simply refusing to obey the Lord) has Satan as his master. And one cannot serve both. if “things” control us we are the servant of materialism. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (Matt. 6:24). God and mammon are opposites. We make the choice either purposefully or by default perhaps ignorantly. We can (with God’s help and strength) be master of our material goods or in weakness we may let the desire for money, goods, houses and pleasure so control our lives that in effect we are mastered by possessions. Many Christians (I am afraid) honestly believe they are in control of their total being but when the test comes God takes second place.
Sincere Love (2 Cor. 8:1-9)
The Macedonians had “sincere love” and Paul wanted the Corinthians to have the same love as proven by the earnest way these brethren gave to their brethren. Notice verse five: “And this they did, not as we had hoped, but first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.” It seems to me that “giving themselves to the
Lord” is about the same as loving God with all one’s being (Matt. 22:37). One who has given himself to the Lord will hold nothing back he is willing to use his time, money, efforts and all his abilities to the service of God and put nothing between himself and the Lord. Notice the “sincere love” of the Macedonians.
There are several expressions in this text that truly emphasize the great love in giving themselves to the Lord. Even in their “deep poverty” they joyfully gave to their brethren in need (v. 2). And this was “in much proof of affliction” that they gave of themselves. They gave “beyond their power” (ability, NAS). Being poor themselves, they were still willing to share what they had. And not only joyfully, but they gave “of their own accord” more than Paul evidently expected. In Romans 12:9 Paul wrote, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” As we look closely then at the attitude of the Macedonians who in their “poverty” gave joyfully even beyond their power, because they first “gave themselves” to the Lord and were thinking of the good they could do for the needy brethren, we truly see “sincere love.” It was not hypocritical love. With that attitude I think we don’t worry about the Macedonians being “possessed by their possessions.” (Read brother Robert Turner’s good article, Abound in This Grace Also in the March 4 issue of GOT.)
The Christian’s Attitude Toward the Material
Where is your life centered? On what do you concentrate your thoughts and deeds? In whom is your hope? From whence comes all good things (Jas. 1:17)? Isn’t it a shame that too many have their mind set on the “gifts” instead of the “giver”? When we look at our blessings, how can we who believe in God be so inappreciative of the source of these blessings? And too often we promptly set our minds, our affections, our time and all we have on the gifts and forget the giver.
Now let us note carefully Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:26: “For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” But this statement is preceded (v. 24) by the root principle deny self. “Self” is at the bottom of most (if not all) sins. “Self” wants the things we can see, use and profit by at the present time. Jesus said, “But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). And here he was talking of the necessities of life. Knowledge of our priorities is not our problem pushing aside “self” and the desires for “things” (which give us pleasure here) and putting the kingdom first is the problem.
Perhaps if we look at the purpose of material things we can better appreciate the Christian’s proper attitude toward the things of the world. After all, is not food merely to sustain us in this life? What about the life to come? At the judgment, the things we may have accumulated in this life will seem pretty insignificant.
In the parable of the sower (Matt. 13) the seed that fell among thorns represented “he who heareth the word; and the care of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” (v. 22). In the lives of men there seems to always be competition between the “cares of the world and .. . riches” and the desire to serve God. If one seeks God first, serving God will win but if we love the riches and things of this life more, then God comes out second in the race. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
Heavenly and Earthly Treasurers
Jesus said, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through and steal: for where thy treasure is there will thy heart be also” (Matt. 6:20-21). This statement by our Lord surely sets the priorities for his followers concerning material things. Live your life so that your goal is on heaven, for regardless of how hard this life may be, your treasure cannot be taken from you if that treasure is in heaven. Earthly treasurers are temporary; they decay, are taken from you unjustly and thus in the long run give little lasting satisfaction. The statement by Harold Fowler sums up this idea: “Jesus knows that he cannot leave man as he is, bombarded by contradictory ethics and driven by inward desires and harassed by daily worries. Man must possess a moral principle that will rivet his attention on God, cause him to reject worldly ideals and treasure heaven above all other joys. Further, Jesus knows that there are two persistent, dangerous rivals to that one true objective that must command our undivided loyalty and effort, two rivals which will choke out his word every time: the worries of the world, the worries of life (Lk. 8:14) and the deceitful attractiveness of wealth (Matt. 13:2). Jesus must destroy man’s confidence in wealth as a genuine support, and by building confidence in the Father, he must exterminate man’s worry” (emp. mine, JWC) (The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, pp. 368-369; College Press, Joplin, MO).
Have we truly “given ourselves to the Lord”? This is time commitment and total dedication. When we have that desire, when we have that commitment, then the attitude toward materialism will take care of itself. When one confesses that “Jesus is the Son of God” this is really unconditional surrender to him as Lord and Master. We must let him be our Master not material things.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 9, p. 14-15
May 6, 1993