In this study we shall discuss about something that the world considers to be the most important thing of all, and that is money. What should our attitude be towards money, if we want to live for God?
Money is one area where we know it is easy for us to be deceived. The world is full of people who have cheated others through various clever tricks, in the area of money. So many people have discovered very, very clever ways in which to cheat others, but there is no one who has cheated man as much, in the area of money, as Satan. He has given man a false understanding of the value of money. He has made people feel that money is more important than God Himself. That is worse than somebody cheating me of a hundred thousand rupees. I would rather be cheated of a hundred thousand rupees than be cheated in this way, where I begin to think, in my life, that money is more important than God. It is not true. And yet there are very, very few people who have really seen this clearly. Satan deceives them. Jesus came and brought the clear light of heaven on this issue.
Let us turn to turn to Luke 16:13. Now this is a revolutionary verse. I don’t think many Christians have ever read this verse properly. I myself never read it properly for many, many years after I was born again, at least for 20 years. What does it say here? Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters.’’ He is talking about two masters here and immediately you begin to think that the two masters are God and Satan. But it is not God and Satan because everybody in the world knows that you can’t serve God and Satan. If I were to ask you, ‘do you love Satan,’ you will all say, no. Do you love God? Yes. Can you love God and Satan at the same time? No, you know that clearly. Can you serve God and Satan at the same time? – Certainly not. Are you holding on to God? Are you holding on to Satan? You say, ‘Sure I am holding on to God.’ Do you despise Satan and have nothing to do with him? You say, yes. So that is not an issue.
If the two masters were God and Satan, there is no need even to talk about it. But here Jesus said “No servant can serve two masters;’’ for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” The two masters here are God and mammon. Mammon means money and material riches or material things. And what did He say in relation of these two masters? Now read very carefully. You must hate the one and love the other. These are the words of Jesus! Jesus is bringing the light of heaven upon this area of God and money and He is pointing out here that money is a master, and God is a Master. You can’t serve two masters because both masters will call you to do something. God calls you to do something and money calls you to do something. Now you have to make a choice: which of the two would you obey.
First of all, you have to make a break with one of these masters. You have to decide which one you are going to serve. He is not talking about the use of money. Money is a good servant but a terrible master. Remember that. Just like fire; fire is a good servant but a terrible master. You use fire and you keep the fire under control in the kitchen, on the gas stove. That is okay. But if you let that fire go out of control, what happens? Your whole house will be burnt down. And if you can treat money like that, as a servant, and keep it under control like you keep the fire on the gas stove under control, then it is a wonderful servant; very, very useful.
How can you live in this world without money? It is useful for food, clothing, education, housing, and everything, even for God’s work! Money is required for God’s work. Money can help the poor. But when money takes over a person’s life, you know what it is like? It is like a house catching fire. It destroys the whole house. So we are not against money, just like we are not against fire. But we should be careful when you handle fire. Fire is very dangerous. Don’t be careless when you are handling fire. So many people have died by being burnt in the kitchen because they were carless with fire. Many more people have died because they were careless with money as well. Are you as careful in handling money as you are in handling fire? Actually you should be more careful, because money is more dangerous than fire.
So, we need to understand this in its proper perspective and proper balance. We are not preaching some kind of sanyasi type of life or being a hermit or a monk or a nun or any such thing. That is not what I am preaching. I am talking about living a normal life, earning your living, whatever profession you do for earning money. And by all means earn as much as you can without destroying your soul and without neglecting you family, putting God’s kingdom first. But, once you earn it, remember what you earn is like a fire. Keep it under control. Keep it as your servant.
Let me use another illustration. Supposing you have a servant in your house, and the servant becomes like a mistress or a master and starts running the house. You, who are the master of the house or the mistress of the house, have been reduced to the place of a servant. Your servant is bossing you, telling you to sit down and get up, and go here and go there. Ultimately, the servant has taken over the house. What a tragedy that is. The servant, who came in to help in the house, has now become the mistress. This is exactly what has happens to many Christians; money has not been kept in the place of a servant.
There are many unrealistic attitudes towards money among Christians. Some people have preached extreme things, which are unrealistic and impossible to live by. God has not called everybody to become a sanyasi or a hermit. God has not called everybody to become a full time worker to give up their job. Only one in a thousand is called to be a full time worker. The rest, 999 of them, must be in a secular job. But they must know how to handle money; to see the relationship that God should have and money should have.
Let us take an illustration from what I said earlier. Here is your husband in your home and here is a man who works as a servant, a gardener in your home, or a cook perhaps. Now, it is useful to have somebody doing the gardening or the cooking. But if you begin to love that cook more than your husband, something has gone wrong. That is the problem with many believers. Money is all right when it is kept in its place. But she starts loving the servant and has forgotten all about her husband. It is like the wife going and marrying the servant man or the gardener and forgetting all about her husband. This is an accurate picture of what has happened to many Christians and they have destroyed their lives. They have divorced their relationship with God.
So what am I saying? Get rid of the gardener, get rid of the servant? No. By all means keep the gardener, keep the servant, but keep them in their proper place and you be devoted to your husband. Be devoted to God. Be so devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ that money has no value for you and it is kept as a servant. You know, how you and your husband will go out together, and the servant he doesn’t come into the picture at all. No. He may work in the fields for you. But he doesn’t come into the picture when you and your husband go out. You are living with your husband, and not with your servant man. That is what Jesus said here.
We must hate the one and love the other. Can you say that your relationship with God and money is like that? – That you hate one and love the other. You love God so much that your interest for money can be compared to hatred. He said you must hold on to one, and despise the other. That means you value your husband so much, that you don’t care for that servant who works in the field. Your love for Jesus is so great that money has no value for you at all. Many people have not taken this verse seriously, and many so-called believers don’t realize that actually they hate God, that they despise Him. Because, according to this verse, if you love money and material things, you hate God and despise Him. Yeah it is true.
You know the Pharisees about whom Jesus said that they were doctrinally pure (we read that in Matthew 23:3). Their doctrines were all correct. They were extremely religious. But we read in Luke 16:14 that they loved money, which proved that they hated God. They were religious but they hated God, because they loved money so much. You can’t have a neutral attitude towards money. Just like you can’t have a neutral attitude towards Satan. You must either love Satan or hate him. You must either love money or hate it. You will either hold on to money or despise it.
God and mammon are like two opposites, like the North and South Pole of a magnet. If you are attracted by one pole, you are repelled by the other. You know anybody who has studied physics, knows that a magnet has a north pole and a south pole. If you bring another magnet to it, if you are attracted to one pole of that magnet, you will be repelled by the other one automatically.
So then how shall we learn to be detached from money or to hate money – in the way Jesus said? Jesus used some strong words. For example, He told us to hate our father and mother, wife and children. What did He mean? Here he says you have to hate money. We need to understand what He meant. He didn’t mean that we should kick our father and mother, and wife and children out of the house. That is not the meaning. Neither is He saying that you must get rid of your money and be a hermit or a monk, or a pastor or full-time worker or go and give all your money to some Christian work or faith home or any such thing. No! That is not the way.
Let me use an example. If you look at Jesus’ life, there is the perfect example of how to handle money. He worked as a carpenter and He earned His living. But He was not attached to it. That is the answer. Look at Jesus and say, ‘Lord I want to have the same attitude that You had to material things.’ That is the answer. We have a lot more to say about this subject which we shall continue in our next study.
This is part of the Basic Christian Teachings Series, a set of 72 short messages presented by Zac Poonen. You can download the audio mp3 files or listen to Basic Christian Teachings by clicking here.