While surfing the internet I came across this from Redland Baptist Church. It is used here by permission of Pastor Mark Adams. It's an article with the Monkees used as a basis. No matter if you are a fan of the Monkees or not you should read this article.
This past Christmas one of my favorite gifts came from Lois Brown & Patti Graves. In going through Lois' house to get it ready to sell, they came across some old 33 1/3 record albums that had belonged to her son, and thought I would enjoy having them. The recordings were made by a pop/rock group from the late 60's known as THE MONKEES. I guess Lois & Patti heard I was a fan. And I am.....in fact, when I was in Junior High I was not just a fan of the MONKEES...I was a devoted fan of THE MONKEES. I scrimped and saveed so that I could purchase every one of their records as soon as it came out. I never missed an episode of their weekly TV show. I knew all of their songs by heart...still do! I even went so far as to pattern my life after those four guys.
Mike Nesmith, lead guitarist for the MONKEES, always wore a knit hat with a little ball on the top and so I decided to do the same...even in the summer. Mickie Dolenz-drummer for THE MONKEES always wore a wide belt with a big buckle and he wore the buckle on the side....not in the front...so I did too. THE MONKEES became the focus of my life. They traveled around in a converted Pontiac station wagon...candy-apple read with a white canvas top....called the MONKEEMOBILE. I remember approving of my parent's decision to purchase a new Pontiac station wagon that year because this provided me with one more way to relate to my heros. I didn't usually purchase magazines in those days but I remember buying several copies of 16 magazine because they were filled with pictures-candid shots -- of THE MONKEES and I cut them out and pinned them up on the walls of my room.
Soon my room was WALL-TO-WALL MONKEE pictures.
Well, one night at the height of my MONKEE madness, I had trouble sleeping. I just didn't feel right...there was a feeling of unease deep in my spirit....almost a fear. I tossed and turned for hours but could not find peace enough to sleep. I finally was driven to my knees in prayer and as I talked to God and listened to His still small voice I began to see my fascination with THE MONKEES in a different light.
I began to understand that this feeling of unease that I was experiencing was a message from God...a warning that I had allowed this singing group to become a real idol. I had given them too much of my devotion....I had built too much of my life around my love of these four guys and their music.
So after a prayer of repentance I got up and took all those pictures down...everyone of them....and threw them all away. I left hundreds of little pin holes in my wall....but the moment I finished this task my fear and unrest left and I slept like a baby.
Now,before you chalk this up to typical teenage behavior you should understand that all of us struggle with idols in our lives no matter what our age. Webster defines an idol as "ANY object of passionate devotion...ANY object of worship." He says that to idolize something is "to love or admire it to excess." And I have seen people of all ages love or admire things to excess...things just as silly as THE MONKEES. All of us struggle with idolatry in some form or other. And, in today's text Jesus warns us of something that can very easily become an idol for all of us if we let it. Take your Bibles and turn to Matthew 6:19-24 and let's read our Lord's warning together...
19 - Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
20 - But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 - For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 - The eye is a lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.
23 - But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 - No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money."
Now any THING can become an idol in our lives....we are sinful people who have the ability to make any THING an object of our passionate devotion. But in this text Jesus is warning us that there is ONE thing that is very easy for us to love to excess....perhaps in all of life it is the easiest thing for us to idolize. THE THING I AM REFERRING TO OF COURSE IS MONEY.
In this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus went so far as to picture MONEY as an evil entity...a false god....opposed to the purposes of God. Jesus even gave money a Semitic name: Mammon. And this was a new thing...no one else in the culture of Jesus' day had given money a name like this -- as if it were a living thing. But Jesus did. And Jesus made this unique point because He of course saw everything in a unique way. He looked at everything with the eyes of God....and from His eternal perspective He saw things the rest of the world could not. Jesus saw that money was not just a neutral medium of exchange but was something that we very easily lift to idol status. And when we do this...when we love it to excess...Jesus knew that money could take on a power with a life of it's own.
Now before we go any further, let me make a very important point here....it is not the amount of money that is the problem. Idolizing MAMMON is not a practice limited to those who are wealthy....the poor can just as easily slip into this practice.
John Michael Talbot is the General Minister of The Hermitage, a community of monks, nuns, and families belonging to a religious order called The Brothers and Sisters of Charity. Everyone in the group is committed to living a simple life, and has relinquished all but the most necessary possessions. Talbot writes, "Taking a vow of poverty is not a cure for materialism.
Many people come to this community and go from being selfish with thousands of dollars to being selfish with a coffee mug." You see our problem with things is not how much we have...it is our attitude about what we have. As it says in I Timothy 6:10 money is not the problem it is the LOVE of money that puts us under the spell of Mammon.
When we love money to excess-no matter how much or little we have-it can take on a personality of its own....an evil force if we let it.
Now is this a little extreme? Isn't it ONLY money? Aren't these coins and bills just inanimate objects? Or, can they become an evil force....a false God...for us to worship? Are our wallets possessed? Let's take a few minutes here to consider this....is money as a god of sorts in our culture?
1. Well, when you think about it MONEY IS almost a SACRED thing to us.
When I say "sacred," I'm speaking of something that has the mysterious power to elicit our loyalty, to confer worth to us personally, something that we organize our lives around.
Well, is money "sacred" to us in that sense? I think we'd have to honestly say "Yes, it is." For...Money is a very personal, private thing in our society. If you doubt this then the next time you are invited to a party and the conversation lulls test this out by saying, "Let's all share how much money we made last year. In fact, why don't we pass around each other's check books so we can read the register and see how we spend our money!" If you were to do that you'd never be invited to that house again....this kind of statement would be considered the greatest kind of social mistake that you could make. For money is a very personal, private thing.
And, In our society, people do ascribe worth to other people based on the amount of money they have. How many times have you heard someone comment on a person who is known to be wealthy by asking, "I wonder how much he is WORTH?" Dr. Lee Salk, professor of psychology at the New York Hospital Cornell medical Center, says, "People jockey to find out what other people earn because, in our society, money is a symbol of strength, influence, and power."
Then, consider of how much of our lives are spent in one way or another in relationship to money...thinking about money....working to accumulate money...worrying about money. The most common source of marital difficulty is disagreements over money. And more than a few people here would have to confess that their favorite thing in life is spending money.
So I think we would be accurate in saying that there is a sacredness and spirituality to our attitudes about money.
2. And then, MONEY does deceive us in the same way that a false god would.
It promises something it does not deliver. Money assures us that it will make us happy...that it will bring us fulfillment. Money tends to lead us to believe that if we only had more of it, everything would be great....If only we had a bigger house or a nicer car or a better wardrobe things would be better for us. And of course we discover that this is not true....things don't make us happy...no matter how many things we have. As it says in Ecclesiastes 5:10, "Whoever loves money never has enough money...whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income."
This week I came across some statistics about money and people. Statistics say that the percentage of Americans who earn less than $15,000 a year and believe they have achieved the American dream is 5%. Now that is understandable....Fifteen thousand dollars a year is not really much....I think it is at or very near the poverty level.
So it is understandable that only 5% of those people would think they've achieved the American dream. What is interesting though is that -- of Americans who make over $50,000 a year, the percentage of those who believe that they have achieved the American dream is only 6%. A $35,000 difference in income and only one percentage point difference in the level of happiness! You see money deceives us....it promises happiness...it promises to make our dreams come true if we get more of it...and then it does not deliver. In fact usually the opposite of joy -- depression -- usually follows purchases. We buy something thinking it will make us happy and then it doesn't...we realize it wasn't worth it....so what do we do?
We go and buy something else thinking it will make us happy. We find ourselves on a treadmill of sorts...we're like alcoholics thinking one more drink will solve our problem. We experience what King Solomon did when he had everything money could buy. Listen to his words from
Ecclesiastes 2 : "I built great houses for myself and planted vineyards...I made gardens and parks and owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem.
I amassed silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces....I denied myself no THING that my eyes desired...
...yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done...everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
NO THING was gained under the sun."
So money is like a false God in that it deceives us.
3. And then another demonic quality that money can take on when we idolize it is that it leads us to invest in things that are not really important in life.
Jesus warned us of this when He said that the love of money causes us to tend to "store up for ourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal." Dr. Ben Carson is the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. In his new book The Big Picture, he shares a personal experience in which he witnessed the love of money changing people's focus from the important to the unimportant. Dr. Carson grew up in near poverty and gathering the necessary funds to get a good education was a real struggle for him. He writes that his dorm room at Yale was the most comfortable living space he had ever had....it was affluent in comparison to the home he grew up in. But this was not true for many of his fellow classmates who came from very well-to-do homes. Dr. Carson had almost no spending cash but his room-mates had a seemingly limitless supply. They were constantly purchasing clothes and costly sound systems for their rooms or a taking girls out on very expensive dates.
Spending their endless stream of money took time from their studies and many of these guys flunked out as a result. On the other hand, Carson's poverty helped him focus on his studies. He had no money to distract him in this way. Carson's classmates could have become doctors....investing their lives in things of eternal significance but they allowed money to divert them from this purpose. You see, money can lead us to focus on temporary things instead of things of eternal value. It can cause us to get things mixed up in life. .
In an article for CHRISTIANITY TODAY, Gary Thomas writes, "Thinking about eternity helps us retrieve perspective. I'm reminded of this every year when I figure my taxes. During the year, I rejoice at the pay checks and the extra income and sometimes flinch when I write out the tithe and offering checks. I do my best to be a joyful giver, but I confess it is not always easy, especially when there are other perceived needs and wants. At the end of the year, however, all of that changes. As I'm figuring my tax liability, I wince at every source of income and rejoice with every tithe and offering check-More income means more tax, but every offering and tithe means less tax. Everything is turned, up-side down, or perhaps more appropriately, right-side up. I suspect Judgement Day will be like that."
And it will, in I Corinthians 3 Paul reminds us that when we stand before God at the end of time...
"...our work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work." But until we have that eternal perspective many of us idolize money and when we do we ascribe worth to the wrong things. This reminds me of the story of a very wealthy man who was nearing death. He had repeatedly heard the phrase, "You can't take it with you." but he vowed to anyway. He sold all his possessions and had all of his money converted into gold bars and put them in a big sack and left instructions that when he was buried that sack would be placed around his neck.
Well he died and arrived at the pearly gates with this sack of gold around his neck. Peter met him and told him he would have to leave that sack behind. But the man insisted and said, "No, I'm taking this in with me!" Peter said, "You cannot take this with you into heaven. If you won't leave it behind then I have no choice but to send you to hell." The man said, "Well, okay...I'll go to hell because I will not enter heaven without the contents of this sack." Peter said, "Well, okay....but before you head off to hell, could I look in the bag to see what is so important?"
The man allowed him to do this and when Peter looked in the bag he exclaimed, "You gave up Heaven for pavement?" That's the way Mammon works....it leads us to ascribe great value to things that are really worthless from an eternal perspective.
4. And then fourthly, when we love money it becomes like a false god in that it pushes us away from the One True God.
In this text Jesus sets money-MAMMON-in opposition to God. Remember, He said, "You cannot serve both God and Mammon." To try and do so would force us to hate one and love the other....their purposes are opposed to each other. Dietrich Bonhoefer said, "Our hearts have room only for one all-embracing devotion, and we can only cleave to one Lord."
So, Jesus is warning us here that MAMMON can become a lord in our lives....a force that disrupts our relationship with God and leads us away from accomplishing His purposes. I came across some other interesting stats about money recently. In American households with an income under $10,000 a year the average giving to charitable causes is 2.8%. Now, you would think that when the income goes up the percentage of giving to God's purposes....such as helping the poor and the needy...the percentage of giving to the church would rise. But it doesn't work that way because so many people let money ensnare them and push them away from God and doing things that would please Him. The stats show that in households with income between $50,000 and $75,000 a year the average giving is only 1.5%....half that of families living at the poverty level. You see, money can get a hold of us... MAMMON can change our focus in life....from doing God's will to doing what we want....from working to meet the financial needs of the kingdom of God to selfishly satisfying our own desires. We tend to think that we use money...that we own it...but if we are not carefule it is the other way around. Money owns and uses us.
So, back to our original question: Is Jesus being extreme when He gives money the name MAMMON and describes it as a false God? Well, no, I don't think He is....for as we have pointed out...money-MAMMON-has many characteristics of a false God. * To us it can become a sacred thing. And it does deceive us....promising one thing and delivering another. And, like a false God, it tempts us to focus on the temporary, unimportant things of life and not the eternal things. And indeed it can even put us in opposition to the purposes of God.
So Jesus was NOT being extreme. It is VERY easy for us to love money to excess...to worship it...to idolize it....and when we do Satan is more than ready to use it as a powerful evil force. Jesus was right to give money the name MAMMON....Money does have a destructive potential. In Jesus' time here on earth, He repeatedly dealt with money matters because MONEY MATTERS.
Did you know Jesus had more to say about money and stewardship than about any other subject: including HEAVEN, HELL, SALVATION, and THE SECOND COMING? In fact one out of every four verses in the New Testament has to do with POSSESSIONS. And in some of these texts Jesus pointedly describes money as an entity...a false god preventing an individual from coming to know and follow God. Remember when the rich young ruler asked Jesus how he could have eternal life and he received the startling reply, "Go and sell what you possess and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and come follow Me." (Matthew 19:21 ) You see to this young man, material things HAD become a god....an all-consuming idol opposed to God and it had to be rejected totally. Remember Jesus' lunch with Zacchaeus? Jesus freed him of this possession by Mammon and he was so excited that he responded by exclaiming, "Half of my goods I give to the poor and if I have defrauded any one of anything I will restore it four fold" (Luke 19:8 ) And....remember after this statement in which Zacchaeus renounced money's claim on his life Jesus said, "Today salvation has come to this house." or "Since you have ceased to worship the false god, Mammon, salvation has come to this house!" You see in these cases Jesus saw money as an idolatry these two men had to be converted FROM before they could be converted TO Him. And money -- mammon-can just as easily becomes a god in our lives.
Well, what are we do? How can we free ourselves from the destructive power of Mammon? How can we prevent it from staking claim to our lives? Well God gives us a very simple solution. He tells us that the way to defeat Mammon is by GIVING. Throughout scripture Christians are advised to avoid Mammon's clutches by GIVING instead of HOARDING. Romans 12:8 lists "GIVING" as one of the spiritual gifts bestowed on believers by the Holy Spirit. In I Timothy 3:3 Paul advises young Timothy that deacons should not be lovers of money inferring that they should give to meet the needs of others. In II Corinthians 8 we are told to emulate Christ by "excelling in the grace of giving."
You see, Mammon's law is to get and get and get and when we do the opposite...when we give and give and give to meet the needs of others we deal a fatal blow to Mammon. Where there is selfless giving, money-Mammon -- is impotent. Do you understand what a revolutionary thing takes place when we give our offerings on Sunday morning? We're not just doing this so that we can pay salaries or pay the mortgage or send money to missions. We are doing this to worship. The primary reason we pass these plates every Sunday is because to do so is an act of worship... In giving we exalt the One True God. When we put money in the offering plate we are at the same time saying "Yes" to God and "No" to Mammon. We profane that false god, MAMMON, and say "You have no power over us." Gordon Crosby once said, "To give away money is to win a victory over the dark powers that oppress us."
Well, since GIVING is so important we should have a thorough understanding of it....so let me suggest two basic guidelines for the kind of giving that defeats Mammon.... Well first of all we must remember that scripture teaches that God owns everything we have and we give re remind us of this.
So we should dedicate all of our income...every single one of our earthly possessions...to God because we realize that it is all His in the first place. In Job 41 God declares, "whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine." To Moses, God said, "All the earth is Mine." (Exodus 19:5-6 ). And Psalm 24:1 says, "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof." John Wesley once said, "When the Possessor of Heaven and Earth brought you into being and placed you in this world, He placed you here not as an owner but as a steward." You see God's ownership of everything changes the kind of question we ask in giving. Rather than, "How much of my money should I give to God?" we learn to ask, "How much of God's money should I keep for myself?" I had thought to title this sermon, "THE SERMON ON THE AMOUNT" because that is what Jesus is talking about here....the amount we should dedicate to God-not 10% but 100%.
True stewardship is realizing that all we have comes from God and the way we live every moment and spend every cent should reflect that belief. In his book, Master Your Money, Ron Blue said, "Stewardship is the use of God-given resources for the accomplishment of God-given goals."
You see, we are not owners...we are stewards. That's why we don't call this emphasis "givership" and instead call it "stewardship". To foil Mammon's control over our lives we must realize that all we have is God's.
Secondly we should make giving a lifestyle.
I heard about a little girl who experienced a major breakthrough in her life when she learned to tie her own shoes. But instead of excitement she was overcome with tears. Her father asked, "Why are you crying?" "I just learned to tie my shoes," she said. "Well that's great!" "I know," she wailed, "But I'm going to have to do it for the rest of my life." And you know many of us feel this way when it comes to stewardship. We learn that it is exciting to give....but then we realize we have to do it over and over and over again for the rest of our lives. Stewardship isn't an annual thing.....it is a lifestyle that God calls us to. I know we are focusing on stewardship today but the emphasis on stewardship is never over around here...every Sunday is Stewardship Sunday.
For Stewardship is nothing less that all we do with all we have for all of our lives.
Did you know that in Ghana the only way to ask the question, "What is your religion?" is to ask, "Whom do you serve?" Well, why don't we each ask ourselves that question this morning....Whom do I serve? For that is the question Jesus puts before us in this text. He wants us to understand that we must make a choice. We can serve God, or we can serve money. We cannot serve both. Jesus doesn't tell us it's unwise to serve both. He doesn't tell us it's difficult to serve both. He doesn't tell us it's spiritually immature to try to serve both. He tells us it's impossible to serve both.
We must make a choice. We come now to the close of our service and you know in a very real sense the offering is not what we do in the middle of the service each week. It is what we do now -- at the end of the service. We sing a closing hymn each week to give each of us an opportunity to offer our lives to God in some way.
Today that offering may involve your joining this church...or rededicating some aspect of your life to Christ. It may involve a commitment to begin tithing...or renouncing some THING's claim on your life. It may mean your deciding to become a Christian.....surrendering your life to God as you repent of your sin and embrace the forgiveness that Jesus offers. We invite you to share these decisions with us publicly now as we stand and sing. And remember, if you need to talk to someone after the service there will be deacons stationed just outside the doors ready and willing to talk.
The above monkees photo is used by permission of Mary Spooner. She does not operate a Monkees site but operates this George Reeves site.