You Cannot Serve Both God and Money

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JOSHUA 7:16-9:2 | LUKE 16:1-18 | PSALM 82:1-8 | PROVERBS 13:2-3

Achan’s sin is found out, and he pays for it with his life.  The “devoted things” turned out to be clothing and shekels of gold and silver:  plunder that was to be collected and set aside for the Lord’s service, but Achan thought he could stow away a little bit of it for himself.  The wealth was his idol, and he placed more trust in it than in the living God of his fathers.  And when his sin is found out, he and his entire family are rooted out completely and permanently.  Death by stoning was the mode of execution and we see it here again being carried out very effectively.

If the story of Achan’s sin and consequence is unsettling, well then, perhaps that is how it is supposed to make you feel, and the lesson is one that is learned quickly and not forgotten easily.  The sin of disobedience bears a heavy price, especially when it is intentional.  And in this case, for a people who were on the verge of establishing themselves in a new land as a new nation, perhaps it was imperative that certain basic ground rules be established at the outset; rules for a people to live by and to die by.  There was no in-between place. 

However, several thousand years later, there will come a man, nay, God incarnate, who will turn many of these precepts of the Law upside down.  The woman being stoned will be let go; the prodigal son will be embraced.  Strange things will soon come our way…

But returning to our story in Joshua, we see that Israel advances upon yet another city by the name of Ai, and by stealth, captures it.  This time they follow all instructions to the last detail in disposing of the people and the loot in the proper manner.  After what had happened to Achan, they weren’t taking any chances. 

And to further reiterate their commitment to stay on the straight and narrow, the children of Israel led by Joshua renew their covenant with their God.  On Mount Ebal, an altar is built and Moses’ law is written on the stones of the altar and fellowship offerings.  Let it not be said that Joshua didn’t remind them of the covenant of old.

Turning next to our study of the book of Luke, we encounter an interesting parable that Jesus offers to his audience.  Some context is needed in order to understand the moral of this parable although Jesus does go on to offer it himself when he says:  13 “No servant 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.” 

But in light of putting even more context around this:  the Mosaic Law forbade charging interest on a loan, and over time, the way around this was to overcharge or inflate the price of the item.  In this story, the shrewd manager who reduces the price is actually removing the overcharge that he must have initially marked up to each of the debtors.  So, he is essentially coming clean and showing some honesty although his ulterior motive is to gain favor with these debtors if he is fired by his own master. 

A little convoluted it might be, but it serves to make the point that this manager is shrewd to understand that it is ultimately better for himself when he forgoes his kickbacks.  So, if someone as dishonest as this manager can make wise decisions with money, how much more ought Christ-followers to be able to put their money to good use.

The wealthy Pharisees of the day must not have liked very much these views on money and its recommended use, especially when Jesus goes on to say: You cannot serve both God and Money.  Which is to say that the way to use money properly is to use it in God’s service, i.e., to do the things that David the Psalmist is actually pleading of God to do for his people, things such as defending the cause of the weak and the orphans, maintaining the rights of the poor and the oppressed, and rescuing the weak and the needy. 

Would that the Pharisees have put their money to such good use!  Would that we put our money to such good use!  That would be a most desirable way to serve God, indeed.

Jesus’ views on divorce in this passage are also to be put into the proper context of how the Mosaic Law had been practiced in the day where a ‘Bill of Divorcement’ was issued by the man on any pretext whatsoever.  Jesus is therefore making the point that the only acceptable reason for divorce is to be adultery, not a whimsical fancy to put away one’s wife and take up another.

The Psalm for the day is one that David must have written at a difficult time in the life of his people.  He calls out to God for help by saying this:

3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;
maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
Rescue the weak and needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Finally, from the book of Proverbs, here’s a verse to keep in mind:

3 He who guards his lips guards his life,
but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

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