Whose God Is Their Money
Original Publication 8/1/2011
Robert Wurtz II
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And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. (Luke 6:33-35 NKJV)
Our passage is taken from what is known as the Sermon on the Plain, and is complementary to passages from the Sermon on the Mount. These sermons laid the foundation for what would come to be known as The New Covenant. In them, the Lord Jesus outlined what the Christian life is all about. All Christian teaching ought to begin with a heavy dose of the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain. The disciples began their instruction here, and we ought to follow that pattern. What use is it to understand the great doctrines of salvation if we have not yet learned what it is to be sons of the Most High?
This particular section in Luke 6:33-35 deals with the essence of genuine Christianianity, and more specifically, what John called “the heart of our compassion.” He asked a riveting question in his first epistle that is relevant to our discussion, But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:17 NASB) John’s emphasis is on love. For example, he penned, by the Holy Spirit, John 3:16. However, love is not a fuzzy feeling we get when we like something. It is much deeper than that. 1 John 3:17 is saying that if a professed Christian can see their brother in need and then close their heart so that they neither feel — nor act to help, the love of God is not in the person. There is no need to ask any more questions. You have your answer. Nevertheless, we see it happening all the time in the West. People too often love in word and in tongue, but not in deed and in truth. In other words, they love very well until it costs them something.
Samuel Chadwick once said that “Covetousness is the disease that is withering our church life in all directions.” I concur. Moreover, I never cease to be amazed at how even the most “spiritual” of Christians can skirt around this straight-forward passage in Luke 6:33-35 as if it doesn’t apply to them. How can this be? Even a child could read and understand. They would not need a degree from Seminary or Bible College to put together the nouns and the verbs. It is simple and straight-forward. What does the passage say? But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return.
It is a generally true statement that God’s children, who have means, will give when they see a legitimate need and not expect repayment. Even under the Old Covenant God gave directives along this line. The poor were to be taken care of by those who had means. The blessed were to lend to the unfortunate — even if the year of release was at hand. In other words, they were to give even if they knew the person’s debt would be cancelled by God’s decree before they could repay. (Deut. 15:7-10; Deut. 24:10) They were not only to lend, but were not to grieve for it. Why? Because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand.” (Deuteronomy 15:10 NKJV) Imagine that! God was saying that if they lend to the poor and not demand it back, then He will bless everything they put their hand to. This is true prosperity preaching.
Dancing Around the Scriptures
And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? (Luke 6:33-34) Nothing. Absolutely nothing. How many people do you know who make personal loans at interest? Probably none. Things have not changed. Most sinners loan someone $50, and they expect their $50 back. They loan $5000 and want their $5000 back. Institutions lend at interest, but people generally do not. Moreover, why use the term sinner? Because that’s what Jesus said that sinners do; for even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. That is as clear as anything. How is a Christian different than a sinner if all he or she is willing to do is what the ungodly are willing to do? Moreover, ask a sinner if they are willing to give and expect nothing back. You will find they generally are not and are highly offended at the proposition. The typical response? “Are you crazy?”
The NIV renders the passage, And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. Our Greek word here is repaid ἴσος and it means repaid “equal.” We find it used similarly with money in Matthew 20:12; Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. The workers got equal pay in spite of their having worked an unequal amount of hours. The sinner loans and wants his equal amount back. This is a very simple and straightforward affirmation of Deut. 15:7-10. If God expected this attitude under the Old Covenant, how much more from those who under the New Covenant are partakers of the Divine Nature.
Mastering the Excuses
Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. (Luke 6:30)
Who is “every” man? The Greek word employed is the same as in Matthew 4:4; But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. How do we sidestep this command? I have heard it cynically asked, “What happens if someone comes up to you and asks you for everything you have?” Well, I don’t know of it happening yet. These are merely foolish excuses meant to straw-man God’s commandment. You and I typically know when someone has a legitimate need. If they are willing to ask, we ought to accommodate their need to the best of our ability. Indeed, I can already hear another hundred scenarios about abuses; nevertheless, we have to reckon with these verses. We are either going to obey God, or we will explain away the text. It all depends on our attitude towards money and possessions.
Sin Under The Radar
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
Focus on that last statement, for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Two sins that rarely get talked about: greed and gluttony. The smoker gets slammed, the alcoholic and pornographer gets chastised, and rightly so; however, greediness and gluttony are unreproved. Nevertheless, clearly in Matthew 6:19-21, a person’s earthly treasure can have their heart as surely as God can. Thomas Manton once stated that, “There are two sins which were Christ’s sorest enemies, covetousness and envy. Covetousness sold Christ, and envy delivered him.” Judas kissed the door of heaven” and betrayed our Lord because of his thieving and covetous heart. How many will be as Judas and come into a sober mind just in time to see the finality of their greedy ways — but it will be too late? Jesus talked about the sin of greed and covetousness many times, and Judas let it go in one ear and out the other. He tried to serve God and mammon and ended up betraying the Prince of Life. As George Barlow put it, “Covetousness is a sin that comes earliest into the human heart, and is the last and most difficult to be driven out.”
An Evil Eye
Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee. (Deuteronomy 15:9 KJV)
Here we have God warning the children of Israel about what is known in Hebrew idiom as “an evil eye.” In Proverbs 23:6 we learn that a person with an evil-eye, as translated in the KJV, is actually a miser (stingy person) as translated in the NKJV. The NET has this translators note: In Hebrew an “evil eye” is the opposite of the “good eye” which meant the generous man. The “evil eye” refers to a person who is out to get everything for himself (cf. NASB, NCV, CEV “selfish”). Notice how they are described by Jesus in Matthew 6:23, if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! A greedy, stingy person is capable of anything. They do not care who or how they offend because of money. Everything bows to money in their darkened heart. It is a great darkness. The rich man lifted up his eyes in hell — tormented in the flame — only to look over at a poor beggar that he dissed on a continual basis. I wonder how many excuses he made to sear his conscience into stepping over the dear impoverished man as he laid there in his sores?
Nothing darkens Christian sensibilities quite the way that greed does. A greedy person is full of darkness no matter what their profession of faith. Darkness implies blindness, and when the blind lead the blind both fall into the ditch. Imagine being blinded by greed and trying to bring revelation to others. Moreover, understand that greed and the Holy Spirit cannot live in the same house — any more than could Jehovah and Baal. Many have set up a god to money in the temple of their own body and sacrifice their affections to it. They feel passionately about wealth in a way they ought only to feel for God. This is why we are told that covetousness is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5) Show me a professed believer who is serving money and I will show you a person who is bringing a reproach on the Kingdom of God.
Some Christians believe that their “Christianity” and their “business” are separate matters. They believe they can act unchristlike when it comes to money and not sin because it is “business.” If ever a lie came forth from the bowels of Hell, that is one of them. It is the excuse of one who would try to serve both God and mammon. It is impossible.
The slave of mammon will obey mammon while pretending to obey God. (A.T. Robertson) Whereas the Christian, born of His or Her Heavenly Father, views this worlds goods as a means of expressing love towards their fellow man, the idolaters see wealth as a means of comforting and exalting themselves. A rich man’s wealth is his strong defense; whereas for the Christian, as was with Abraham, God is our shield and our exceeding great reward. Many people are worshipping mammon (money and wealth) and do not see themselves as idolaters. Their allegiance is to their money and their stuff — even at the expense of right Christian behavior. This is why Jesus said plainly that we cannot serve God and mammon at the same time. You will hold to the one and treat the other as nothing. One may give lip service to the other, but in the darkness of greed one cannot tell road from ditch. Nevertheless, this has not stopped multitudes from trying to be slaves to both.
“I have heard thousands of confessions, but never one of covetousness.” (Francis Xavier)
Covetousness is Idolatry?
Most people in the civilized world would not think of bowing down to an manmade idol or dancing around a fire doing some native ritual; but at the same time they practice idolatry and have no idea the are doing it. Here we read from Colossians 3:5, 6:
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
Notice what we said earlier about greed and gluttony being sins “under the radar” — here is an example of how covetousness is on the same level with fornication and lust. In fact, fornication is bad enough, but covetousness is full-on idolatry. We know we are to flee fornication, but did we also know that we are to flee idolatry? (I Corinthians 10:14) That also means we are to flee covetousness. This is effectively adultery against God. I have to wonder, how could such a serious sin run under the radar like that? I mean, if a man was caught with a prostitute he would be tarred and feathered, but a man can be overtly covetous and suffer no reprimand whatsoever. This ought not so to be.
Can’t Make a Dime make a Nickel
John Blanchard once said that “Greed of gain is nothing less than the deification of self, and if our minds are set on hoarding wealth we are being idolatrous.” Preoccupation with making money is a serious sin. This bondage of Satan, not only ensnares the sinner, but effects all around the person. The mind is so fixed on money that their every decision is based on whether or not the pursuit will be profitable monetarily. In other words, if it doesn’t make money — it doesn’t make sense to them. John Calvin once said, “Greed and ambition are the two sources from which stems the corruption of the whole of the ministry.” He went on to say that, “a lack of faith is the source of greed.” When people don’t trust God they trust their wealth. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. (James 5:4 ESV) God hears the cries of the oppressed workmen even if the employers are deaf. (A.T. Robertson)
God sees greed as surely as He sees lust. He see the stinginess as surely as He sees the alcoholic. He sees believers that serve mammon and despise Him. He hears the excuses for why they don’t have compassion enough to give when they see a need. How awful! He sees those that live in a perpetual greediness. (Ephesians 4:17-20) He sees all the money spent on ‘self’ while shutting up the bowels of compassion on the ones who should have been loved like we would love ourselves. He saw the Corinthians suing one another for money. He saw Balaam running greedily after the reward of wickedness. He hears the ministers preaching things they ought not for filthy lucre sake. He has seen these things and much more. We must realize once and for all that we cannot serve God and money. We are either going to love our resources or express our love with our resources. We are either going to serve mammon or make mammon serve God.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:10, 11)