Idolatry and Greed (Part 1)

In dealing with Naaman, Gehazi and Elisha, we saw how Gehazi’s idol was money (silver), possessions (clothing) and possibly the other things Elisha spoke of. Today I want to show you that the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. In doing so I want us to look at a passage from the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5 to 7 could be described as Jesus’ applicatory commentary on the Ten Commandments. Where we have been dealing with Commandments 8 …

Ex 20:15 “You shall not steal”

… and 10 …

Ex 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor”

… what Jesus has to say about “treasures, money and possession” in Matthew chapter 6 is relevant to Gehazi’s behaviour, idolatry and greed. But let’s put the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) into practice. The Ten Commandments from the Old Testament, although still relevant to the people of God today, was to be obeyed. They tried to do this in a literal legalistic manner which was impossible. Even today we in Jesus cannot keep these Commandments. Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount, to be followed by God’s Kingdom people, taking the Ten Commandments and interpreting them in such a way that we can understand and follow God morality and ethics as a way of life. The basic teaching is that this is the way God requires His Blood washed people to live. Right here we find the start of holiness and the means of progressive sanctification. So as we come to Gehazi and anyone who, legitimately or sinfully stores up treasures on earth needs to understand that “the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart”. In coming to Matthew 6, it’s not coincidental that Jesus deals with three topics before he comes to “treasures, money and possessions”.

(1) Giving to the needy. (6:1-4) The focus here is not to give to the needy to be seen, but to give in secret where only God sees. The people of God need to support the people of God who are in need but to do so discreetly. So firstly get this point … where it comes to wealth, we care for those in Christ who are in need. This does not depend upon how much we have but on the need of the person before us.

(2) Believing prayer. (6:5-15) Like the previous point, Jesus teaches what not to do and what to do when we pray. Boosting and showing off have no place in believing prayer because prayer is trusting God to receive our praise and worship as well as to meet our needs. If we miss prayer as depending upon God we miss the point of prayer!

(3) Taking prayer to the next level. (6:16-18) The concept of fasting has a specific role in the life of the church and believers. Like the other two points, fasting is not to show off or to be seen and pitied but to draw closer to God by taking prayer to the next level through abstaining from pleasures and perhaps necessities to seek God’s face to meet urgent needs. Sharing what we have and depending upon God to meet all our needs (not our greed’s). If this is the way Kingdom people trust God (which includes helping the needy), why as the people of God should we be like Gehazi living for greed which is idolatry?

1) Building one’s personal kingdom.

Mt 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”

This verse is not saying you can’t own a car, house, have decent clothing, eat good food, have a pension fund or banking account or other investments. Rather it is saying that accumulating unnecessary wealth in any form will have devastating consequences. Have you noticed how fish moths devour material not used in years? We spend huge sums of money on alarm systems, electric fences, security companies, home, vehicle and possession insurance only to find we still get burgled and have to pay high excesses or the insurance does not cover what we have lost. The more we own the more risks we have. The more possessions are our god, the harder it is to lose them. Idolatry is a curse.

2) Building God’s glorious Kingdom. 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. At first this verse might seem puzzling. Yes we invest in prayer, holiness, discipleship, evangelism and many other spiritual gifts to add value to the Kingdom of God … but this also includes our financial resources. Running a Church and doing evangelism costs money. Regular tithing helps the Church or individual to do gospel work. This is kingdom investment and in the process you store up treasures for yourself in heaven.

(1) Kingdom investment relates to you tithing and giving to the gospel cause. You might not see it or be aware of it, but souls get saved through ministry and ministry costs money. As you give, whichever way you do it you pray that God will bless what you give and use it to bear gospel fruit … and He will.

(2) Kingdom investment also relates to the blessings and rewards you will receive in glory. You send your investment ahead of you and reap the benefits once you arrive in Glory. To “store” or “invest” in heaven is sacrificial, intentional and obedience

Tomorrow we will pick it up again, but for now, let’s become provocative. We are dealing with the single most difficult issue in life … money and how we use it. We live in a world that is largely secular and materialistic. We all fall into this trap very often. We build our own kingdoms and find it hard to part with what we accumulate. In the face of this, are you investing in God’s Kingdom? Are you using the resources God gives you to invest in His Kingdom? Do you know that in this way God uses what you give to Him to save souls for His Eternal Kingdom? What would you prefer to do … loose your resources to moth, rust or the thief or to see souls being saved and God’s Kingdom growing? Remember how Gehazi took the sinfully obtained money (silver) and clothing and hid it. Do you do this with legally obtain money?

O God, we are aware that You alone are the owner of all things on this earth including what we have. Help us to use what we have wisely. Amen.

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