The man sat in my office with tears welling up in his eyes.
He was a member of the church. At least nominally so. His name had been on the membership roll since long before I came to that church and so had the name of his wife. They were a couple who had grown up in the community and had also grown up in the church. Yet to say that they were detached from the fellowship would be a huge understatement. They readily told anyone who might inquire, that they were members of the church, yet their actions belied any appearance of really being part of the body.
Every church has folks just like these, and every pastor is familiar with them. They faithfully attend services – on Easter, Christmas, and Mother’s Day! On the remaining 49 Lord’s Days they are the ecclesiastical equivalent of the military’s MIA. Along with their absence from corporate worship, they take no part in any of the ministries of the church. There are little or no relationships with other members, so they are missing out on the fellowship aspect of being part of the “family”. Financial support of the church and its mission in the world is virtually non existent. Membership Committees and visitation participants initiate most of the contact they have with the church – that is until there is a tragedy or crisis in the family – or someone is in the hospital or a family member dies.
Then the call comes to the pastor.
This gentleman sat across the desk from me and poured out his heart “Pastor, I’m at the end of my rope!”, he said desperately. “I work hard to provide for my family. I make a good income. My wife also works to supplement our income. We should be living the good life, yet we just can’t seem to make ends meet. We just keep getting farther and farther behind on our bills. We live in a nice house, but it’s really smaller than what we want, and we would like to be in a more prestigious neighborhood. Our vehicles are so outdated that I’m almost ashamed to drive them. We love our boat, but it seems like I’m spending every dollar I have on repairs.”
He went on to talk about other family issues. “The wife wants more. My job situation is very difficult and I’m not sure how long I may be able to stay there. Our son is becoming more rebellious, and I just don’t understand why we are not prospering.”
He went on with a laundry list of other problems.
He seemed broken, and my heart hurt for him and his family.
“Tell me ___________ , how is your personal walk with God?” I asked.
“Your personal relationship with the Father. How is your walk with Him?”
“You mean do I pray?”
“I mean what kind of relationship do your have with Him? How often do you pray – really pray? What do you ask for in prayer? How much time do you spend with Him in His Word? Do you value a relationship with Him and His church? What are you truly looking for in life?”
“I just want to be happy”, he said. “I just want to feel like I can provide for my family and that we have the things we need. I just want my family to get along. I don’t understand why God is not taking care of us and meeting our needs. Doesn’t the Bible say He will supply our needs?”
I sighed to myself. How many times have I heard similar questions from people who profess faith in Christ? It was painfully obvious through his behavior over the years, that the material things of life were of much more value to this man than his was his personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It was borne out by his fixation on stuff rather than the Savior. He had no time for the Lord or for His church.
My thoughts went back to the earlier question I had asked. “What are you looking for?” That is a question that every believer should consider from time to time. Are you looking for “the good life” or abundant life? It’s a valid question each of us should consider!
Jesus addresses the same subject in the midst of the passage of scripture that we know as The Sermon On The Mount. In Matthew chapter six (just after revealing the right way to give, the right way to pray, and the right way to fast) the Great Teacher goes into a discourse about how we relate to God and to material things.
He talks about treasure. He compares and contrasts the value between laying up treasures in the temporal, terrestrial realm, as opposed to investing in the spiritual. Are your treasures laid up in Heaven, or on earth? You can’t have it both ways. Jesus sums it up by saying, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (v. 21)
He shows us a comparison of light and darkness in our lives, and then He moves on to talk about the futility of trying to serve two masters.
Many years ago, I worked as a buyer trainee in the retail clothing business. The way the Men’s Department of that great store was structured, I was required to learn all ends of the men’s clothing division, and the men’s furnishings section. Each of the two sections had a department manager/buyer, and I answered equally to both of them. Both were great guys. I enjoyed my personal and business relationship with both men. But it was virtually impossible to divide my time, attention, and allegiance equally between them. I just couldn’t. One would give me certain tasks to perform, the other would do the same and it was impossible to give 100% to either.
Jesus uses the same example when it comes to our relationship to material things and to the things of God. You can only have one master! Our utmost loyalty cannot be divided between the material and the spiritual. You will always show preference to one or the other. Jesus nails down the truth very succinctly in v. 24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Then He comes down to the teaching that the gentleman in my office needed to learn, and the lesson that we all should receive:
“Therefore 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? Look 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? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And 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? Therefore 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. Vs. 25-32.
The words of Jesus, here, need no interpretation. They plainly set out the premise that unfettered concerns about the material are both foolish and futile. God most certainly is aware of our needs. Trusting Him in every aspect of our lives is mandatory. We cannot change a single thing with worry and fixation on what we will wear, eat, or drink. In our day the same principle also includes what we drive, where we live, and what we want.
Jesus gives a very simple yet profound formula of how you can know that you will receive all the material blessings you require in this life.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “ v. 33.
How about it? What are you seeking? Is all of your time, effort and worry focused on the natural material things, or are you seeking first a close intimate relationship with Christ? Are you focused on His Kingdom? Are you wearing His righteousness through faith?
If you are a true Christ Follower, your loyalties cannot be divided. If He is not Lord OF all in your life, He is not Lord AT all!