Get Your Thinking Straight
(24) No man 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. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
(25) Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
(26) Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
(27) Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
(28) And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
(29) And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
(30) Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
(31) Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(32) (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
(33) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
(34) Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
In the ancient Arabian folktale, Aladdin is the lazy son of a poor Chinese tailor. After his father's death, he meets a magician who says that he is Aladdin's uncle. The magician convinces Aladdin to go after a beautiful lamp that is hidden in a cave. When Aladdin gets the lamp, he refuses to give it to the magician. The magician becomes furious and seals the cave, leaving Aladdin to die. In despair, Aladdin cries and wrings his hands, bringing forth a genie from a ring the magician had given him. The genie frees Aladdin from the cave and he soon discovers that the lamp also produces a magic genie when it is rubbed. The genies grant Aladdin his every wish, and he eventually becomes immensely wealthy and marries the daughter of the sultan. Aladdin is able to overcome every foe with the power of the lamp. All wonderful children's tales have a happy ending, and Aladdin goes on to live a long, happy life, and he succeeds the sultan to the throne.
The story of Aladdin is so entertaining that Walt Disney made a hit movie about it back in 1992. The movie grossed over half a billion dollars and won several prestigious awards. I was wondering this week, while I was studying our Scripture from Matthew 6, what would happen if we had Aladdin’s lamp. If you had access to a magic genie, what would you wish for? And what would your wishes say about what you really believe?
There is no great mystery here. We all know what the average American would choose: more money, a happy marriage, compliant, well-adjusted children, good health, long life, endless happiness--all of which is about me.
I saw a story about a teacher who asked her class a similar question: “What would you wish for if you had one wish?” One student immediately said, “A big house for my family and me.” Another student proudly proclaimed, “I wish for lots of land, I want to plant an orchard and export fruits.” A third student declared, ‘I want a truck.” A young girl added, “I want a billion dollars. With that I could buy the house, the orchard, and the truck.”
Now there was a student in the class with a bad case of sickle cell anemia, whose life prospects were limited. He was sitting quietly listening to all this. Then teacher called upon him, “what would you wish for?” The student almost whispered his answer, “I would ask for lots of time. With that I could make the money, to buy the house, the land, and the truck and live long enough to enjoy them.”
Our hearts, of course, go out to the last student, but even so, he has not got it right. That is what Jesus is saying in Matthew 6. All of these ways of thinking are wrong. We wish for all the wrong things. We think crooked.
In v24, Jesus says, “No man can serve two masters.” We might argue with him about that. Most people try to serve many masters. The Spanish would say, “el hefe,” or boss. When I am with my grandchildren, I have three bosses, 3 “hefas,” right there. However, Jesus' point is none of us can serve two masters equally well. Jesus goes on to say that we will “hate the one and love the other.” Again, we might argue with Jesus a little here. Many people serve many masters and they are lukewarm about all of them. They do not hate them or love them. They do not like them or despise them. They just go along with them and do what they order halfheartedly, indifferently. As soon as they are out of one boss’ sight, they willing obey another. They say that is life. That is what happens when you are “poor and hired out.” Again, that is the point Jesus is making, we can serve many masters halfheartedly. We cannot serve many masters well. And he makes the application. He is not talking about earthly masters at all. In the latter part of the verse, he says, “You cannot serve God and Mammon.”
The word “Mammon” represents greed, avarice, and selfishness. It was originally a Hebrew word meaning “wealth,” or “one who trusts in wealth.” Mammon is the false God of materialism. In modern translations, Mammon is often translated as “money.” You cannot worship God and money. Again, most people disagree with Jesus. Most people have no problem going to church and saying good things about God, and spending the rest of their time worshipping money. That is why they are consumed with worry and anxiety—because they never have enough money, they never have enough things.
Therefore, the things of this world, or more accurately our desire for the things of this world, should not dominate our lives. God should dominate our lives. The kingdom of God should be number one on our list of priorities.
Jesus' teachings in the Gospels strike at the heart of our worldly way of thinking. What Aladdin's magical lamp would provide for most Americans would have little resemblance to what Jesus says we need. This was true in the first century. It is still true in the 21st century. The human heart has not changed one bit. We spend so much time worrying what about what others think about us or what other people say about us that we lose sight of what truly matters. That is why Jesus encouraged us to seek first things first.
Most people are misled, misguided, and misinformed. Their thinking is crooked. They seek after gold; they dismiss the voice of God. I say “they;” I should say “we.”
We prefer designer clothing; we ignore robes of righteousness. We worry about our health; we neglect holiness. We are impressed by palaces of bricks and mortar; we should be impressed by homes of grace and godliness.
Jesus is well aware of what we think, and he is telling us, we have it backward. We should continuously, earnestly, passionately seek God's will for our lives.
What is your ambition in life? To get rich? To make a name for yourself? The highest desire that can possess any human heart is a longing for God.
We have gotten our priorities all confused. Young people today choose careers based upon how much the job will pay; they ought to be asking what is God's purpose for me. They ought to be asking how to be holy. Adults are consumed with the thought of being happy. . I hear this all the time. How can I be happy? Here is a secret, a secret of life. You cannot be happy by seeking happiness. That does not seem to make sense, but that is the way it is. Happiness comes from the pursuit of God's purpose for our lives.
That leads us to another thing. People are always asking, how can I get rid or worry and anxiety. Here is another secret of life. You cannot get rid of worry and anxiety by striving to get rid of worry and anxiety. Again, that does not seem right, but that is the way it is. You get rid of worry and anxiety by focusing on something else, by focusing on God. That is straight thinking. That is putting first things first.
Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness," but we get it all messed up. We seek things, not God. We seek comfort, not God. Things can never give us direction in life. Things can never comfort us in a lasting way. Things are just things, but God is God.
That reminds me of a little story I read, King Henry IV of France once asked the Duke of Alva if he had observed the great eclipse of the sun that had recently occurred. "No," said the duke, "I have so much to do on the earth that I have no leisure to look up into heaven." Commenting on this, Thomas Brooks (1608–1680), an English Puritan preacher and theologian, said, "It is sad to think how heart and time are so taken up with earthly things that we have no leisure to look to Christ and the things that belong to everlasting peace."
We are so worried about what we want; we convince ourselves that what we want will solve all our troubles; what we want will make us happy, but then we get it, and nothing changes. That is the way it always is with worldly things. We think these things are going solve everything, and they solve nothing. How then can we be free from this false Mammon?
Jesus says in v 25: “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” Life is more important than food; the body is more important than clothes. What does that mean? You might reply, life cannot exist without food; the body needs clothing for protection. Jesus is saying do not worry about that kind of thing. Can he be serious?
Jesus is obviously talking about more than biological life. He is talking about the totality of a person. We are more than biological machines. We have a reason to be here. We have a purpose in the presence of God.
In vs. 26-30, Jesus explains this truth by giving two illustrations from nature. First, he talks of God's care for the birds of the air. We could debate Jesus about this. What about birds that starve to death? What about birds that get covered with oil after an oil spill? God does not seem to be taking care of them. Worse yet, what about people who trust God and starve? We have more questions. Is Jesus encouraging his disciples to be lazy? Is it wrong to earn wages to provide for one's family or retirement? Well, let us think about this.
When Jesus said the birds do not sow, reap, or store in barns, he implied that these are normal human activities, yet, he also meant that his disciples must live in complete trust in God's providence. The disciples must pray the petition of the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread," and live that petition. We do not depend on our own strength to solve our problems; we live trusting God.
In v27, Jesus says, “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” An ancient cubit was about 18 inches. Let us make it even shorter than that. Can all your worrying add one inch to your height? Obviously not. The point is, give it up then. It is utterly useless to worry.
In v28, Jesus gives us a second illustration about the lilies of the field. The lilies do not do any human style work, such as spinning thread for cloth, yet even the splendid king Solomon is no match for their dazzling beauty. The point again is that if God so cares for the natural creation, we can trust God to care for us. Or as Jesus says in V30, “If God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”
Then in vs31-34, Jesus repeats his thoughts. Maybe he knows that we do not get it. This is so different from the way most people think, it seems so alien to us. Jesus says, “Therefore take no thought, saying, what shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” Today we talk about how bad our economy is, but those people that Jesus was talking to in first century Galilee lived on the edge of famine and starvation. They often literally did not know where their next meal was coming from. Jesus said to them, do not worry about it. He said, worry is the way Gentiles think. The word, “gentiles,” as Jesus uses it here, means people who have no knowledge or understanding of God. Those people run after the things of this world.
Then Jesus adds in v32, “Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” God knows what you need. You can trust god.
Therefore, Jesus moves to his conclusion in v33, “seek ye first the kingdom of God.” Be single-minded disciples and focus on this, because this is the most important thing. The kingdom of God should be foremost in your concerns, so much so that all other concerns are judged according to what part they play in the Kingdom. On one occasion, when a would-be disciple asked Jesus to allow him first to go and bury his father, Jesus tersely replied, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead" (Matthew 8:22). In other words, following Jesus is more important than anything else.
What does the Kingdom mean right now to you and me? It means God is absolute king of our lives. God is our consuming passion. If we get that straight, then we have got it all.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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