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Seeking FIRST: God or Mammon?
By David A. DePra
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?Ö..Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Mat 6:24-25,31-33)
These familiar words of Jesus speak of two entirely different patterns for living. Jesus contrasts, "serving GOD," over and against, "serving MAMMON." He says, "You must do one or the other!" He contrasts, "seeking first all these things," with, "seeking first God." Jesus is really telling us the difference between living in the kingdom of God Ė living in a relationship with God Himself -- and living as one in this world.
If you read His words, you easily come to see that Jesus is NOT talking to unbelievers. He does mention unbelievers as, "the Gentiles." But his message is not addressed to them. His entire message is for Christians Ė for those who are able to address God as, "heavenly Father." Thus, we dare not assume that if we are saved that we are automatically serving God. No. It is entirely possible to be saved, but to seek first, not God, or His kingdom, but to seek first the things of this world. You can indeed be a Christian, and yet, be serving MAMMON.
Jesus is talking here about the REASON for which we are living. Are we living for the eternal, or for the temporal. What we DO will, of course, follow suit, but what is the inner drive that motivates us? Is it God Ė His will and His kingdom Ė Christ in us? Or do we say we are a Christian, yet live exactly like someone who isnít?
The fact is, if we would come to terms with the great Truth in this passage, we could no longer live the way we have lived before. The words of Christ are a challenge to our faith Ė right where we live, how we live, and why we live.
Mammon is not just money. Certainly money represents mammon the most, because in the end, it is money that is the material power of this world. It is money that enables you to live, move, and do as you please in this world. But mammon is more than money. Mammon is ANYTHING in which we might trust instead of God. Mammon is really anything this world, apart from God, offers. In other words, mammon is the TEMPORAL. Indeed, if you read the entire passage from Matthew 6, you can see that there is a line drawn by Jesus between the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of mammon. You serve, and live in, and are seeking first, either one or the other.
Now note that very carefully. Jesus does not say that it is evil to NEED mammon, or material things. No, He acknowledges that we have material NEEDS. Neither does Jesus say that it is wrong to WANT or to SEEK. No. He acknowledges that as well. Rather, Jesus is speaking to where our faith, motivation, and SEEKING is found. Jesus is addressing WHY we live, and what is BEHIND our words, actions, thoughts, and relationships. Are we seeking first the things of this world Ė and trying to fit God into the scheme where we can? Or are we seeking first God, and allowing God Himself to add to us all that we need, and even what we want?
I want to say this again, so that there can be no misunderstanding. Jesus is not condemning our desire to have, want, or seek the things of this world. Possessions are not wrong. But Jesus is speaking directly to what we SEEK FIRST. He is speaking to what we SERVE with our lives Ė to what drives us each day. Is it HIM? Or is it the temporal?
The promises of Jesus in this passage are astounding. He says, "If you seek first all of the things unbelievers seek, you may, in fact, end up wealthy. But you will never find the reality of the kingdom of God, or Godís will, because you never sought it FIRST. However, if you seek FIRST the kingdom of God, then all these things that unbelievers seek will be added to you. They will come with the package of Godís will for your life."
In a nutshell, Jesus is giving a principle that is found all through the Bible. He is saying, "The material things of this world are not safe for you unless they are received, and lived in, under MY kingdom over you." In short, the only way we can be trusted with possessions is if they wonít possess us. And the only way they wonít possess us is if God possesses us. Thus, give yourself to God. Then He can give much to you. It will be safe for Him to do so.
This teaching is actually quite foundational. One other place, Jesus said, "He that loses his life for My sake will find it, etc." Same principle. But if we donít get this right, and if we donít get our motivation adjusted in the way Jesus is describing, we are going to be greatly hindered in our walk with Christ. Why? Because if God tells us to seek first the kingdom, what does that tell us that HE is seeking first in our lives? Well, His kingdom! Therefore, if we are seeking first, "all these things," and actually serving mammon, we are going to be living at cross purposes with God! We will be completely off the track and have great difficulty.
Cannot Serve Two Masters
What does it mean to, "serve mammon?" Well, to, "serve mammon," means to do what mammon demands. To put it another way, "to serve mammon," means that I do what mammon dictates in order to get the results that mammon promises. But wait. We DO have live and earn money in this world, donít we? Yes. So how can do that without SERVING MAMMON?
By seeking first the kingdom of God in all we do, including in our earning a living. We earn a living unto Godís glory, seeking first His kingdom IN that living. In other words, seeking first the kingdom is more than an overall, generic principle. It needs to be brought down into every situation. I must seek first the kingdom and Godís will Ė I must seek the life of Christ Ė NOW, in this situation, whatever it is.
According to Jesus, if we seek first the kingdom, and seek first God Himself Ė in all things Ė then God will actually make mammon serve us. Sure. For if we are living under Godís rule and kingdom, then all of the issues of mammon will also be under Godís rule and order. And if that is the case, then such things will be used in our lives to serve Godís purposes. Thus, Jesus is able to say, "If you seek first the kingdom of God, then all these things Ė things that you would otherwise serve Ė will be added unto you; will serve you. Everything you need will be added to you as a part of the working out of Godís will and purpose."
It is a law of Godís universe. If you seek first God and serve Him, then because God rules everything, Godís rule over everything will be made manifest in your life. Everything will not only be used in your life to serve God, but all that you need will be provided. But if you seek first mammon, then God says that you are on your own. You have chosen your master. And make no question, mammon can be a very profitable master Ė totally outside of Godís will and purpose.
Jesus was so dogmatic about this that He stated, "You cannot serve God AND mammon." You cannot sit on the fence on this matter Ė you are eventually going to go one way or the other. The scary thing is that many Christians DO try to serve God and mammon. Indeed, this error is one of the things we seem to do best!
How so? Well, READ the words: Serve God AND mammon. Do we recognize what that means? To serve God AND mammon does not mean to serve mammon INSTEAD of God. No. Jesus did not say, "You cannot serve mammon instead of God." Rather, He warning against trying to do BOTH at once Ė against trying to have TWO masters. He is warning against serving mammon, but trying to incorporate your life in Christ within that.
Many Christians try to do this. We try to live for this world, this life, and for money, and then we turn around and say that it is Godís will. We SEEK FIRST material things Ė but think this is fine as long as we seek them first from God! This is a subtle deception, and frankly, is exactly what is taught in many of the prosperity teachings today. We are being told that we ought to GIVE TO GET, as long as we are giving to God. Well, where is our SEEKING in that case? It is not for GOD HIMSELF! It is for material things FROM God. Why canít people see this?
If we are GIVING TO GET, then by definition, our seeking is for what we are going to get through our giving. God says no. He says, "Give without any expectation of getting. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. And if you do, you will GET everything which comes with that kingdom and righteousness Ė in the way of material blessings."
If you and I do NOT seek first GOD HIMSELF, why would we expect to GET God Himself? We wonít. We cannot Ė although we might end up with material blessing and wealth outside of Godís highest for us. But if we seek first God, what we GET is God. And Jesus says that with God will come all that fits into His kingdom plan and purpose for our lives.
A God of Blessing
God is a God of blessing and provision. And there is everything right about going to God, even surrendering to God, FOR His blessings. God tells us to. In fact, He goes so far as to tell us that we are fools for not doing so. Yet there is something about all of this that we need to understand. God does rain His blessings down on the just and unjust alike. But in the end, God doesnít want us to merely seek Him for blessings, or to merely seek Him to avoid curses. God wants us to seek Him for Himself.
There is something about human nature that blinds us to this Truth Ė and I am talking about Christians. Godís own people often seek Him just for what we can, "get out of Him." To many, God is a blessing machine. Put in the right coin Ė good work Ė and out will pop what you want. Or we seek God because we are afraid of Him Ė afraid of NOT seeking Him Ė almost as if we feel like we are hostages to God. We know we need to surrender to God, so we do, because we fear that God may punish us if we donít. Yet there is something WRONG about these motives. I think God understands them, and understands us, and works with us, even if we have wrong motives. He does love us, and want to bring us INTO the Truth. But I think that when everything is said and done, God has to deal with these motives. I think that God wants to bring each one of us to the place where we seek FIRST God Himself, and to where we realize that it is only by coming into relationship with HIM that everything else finds itís proper place.
If you didnít notice, this is nothing more than another way of saying, "Seek you first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you." The kingdom of God is Godís rule or sovereignty over us, which is the life of Christ IN US. We are supposed to SEEK FIRST THAT Ė seek first Christ Himself. Seek first the eternal things. Seek first the full will and purpose of God Ė not just FOR US Ė but IN US. And if we do, this will not DEPRIVE us of temporal needs. In fact, according to Jesus, it will INSURE them from the hand of God Himself.
Yet the phrase, "Seek FIRST," can be tricky, canít it? Really, if you look at that, it speaks of motive, and the driving force in our lives. It speaks of what draws us, determines our choices and decisions. Jesus says that what ought to determines our choices is the Godís will, His kingdom in us, His purpose, i.e., the life of Christ in us. But unfortunately, what often determines the choices of Christians is the best deal Ė according to human reasoning and MONEY. But if that is the case, isnít that what it means to serve MAMMON? Sure. It is exactly what it means. When money, and the things of this world, govern what I do and how I live, but more importantly, when all these things are the driving force in my life, then I am serving mammon. I am not seeking first God Himself.
God WANTS to bless His people. But God is not going to finance our unbelief. He is not going to bless us as we serve mammon. He is not going to affirm a wrong path. In the end, God will bless HIS WILL. And His will is that we seek first HIMSELF.
The Christian life does not mean poverty and deprivation. It does not. But neither does it mean that Godís goal for you is automatic wealth. Rather, Godís goal for you and I is CHRIST HIMSELF. Not just for salvation. But in order that Christ may reign and rule in us Ė which is the kingdom of God, isnít it? Sure. God wants to completely adjust our inner constitution and inner motivation to the point where everything we do Ė attitude, business, relationships, money, church, and all that is in us Ė is seeking FIRST God Himself. Then, he says, all these other things that unbelievers seek first, will be given unto us automatically. If that means wealth, well, then great. But if it doesnít, well, then great. Either way, it will be the will of God.
Can we see here that wealth that is the result of seeking first God Himself is a SAFE wealth? But that a wealth that is the result of serving mammon will destroy us? And if a person is already wealthy when they are saved, then they must nevertheless start to seek first the kingdom, if what they have is to become safe?
But again Ė donít think of, "seeking first," as DOING THINGS. Seeking first the kingdom of God, or Christ Himself, is not simply a matter of donating money, or of pouring out my efforts at church, or in a ministry. You can actually do all of those things Ė and they may be GOOD things Ė but you can do them without seeking FIRST GOD HIMSELF. It is quite possible to do plenty and to be governed by self-serving. God wants us to seek HIM first in all that we do.
Now, the good news is that if we are NOT seeking God first, God is going to be busy trying to bring us around to the Truth. He may allow our seeking of other things to exhaust us, and bring us to nothing. Or He may allow consequences to come upon us, not to punish us, but to illuminate us to the right way. This is up to God, as to when, where, and how, He handles each individual. But for Christians, God is not going to forever cater to our seeking of Himself SECOND, or third. He wants us to seek Him FIRST.
Contrary to todayís gospel of self-esteem and prosperity, God does not offer anything apart from a relationship from Himself. EVERYTHING we need is provided within our relationship to Christ. Everything. But there is NOTHING God has for us outside of that. Nothing. The fact that people say otherwise, and even accumulate wealth, means nothing. In the end, the question will be what produced it: Serving God, or serving mammon.
The motivation of SEEKING FIRST is really that of FAITH. I seek first God if I truly believe that He will add to me the necessities of life. But if I donít believe that, then I am going to seek first those necessities, and more. In the end, it comes down to whether I believe.
The words of Christ are a great challenge because He says that Godís provision is so certain that I can afford to eliminate, "anxious thought," from my vocabulary. If you think about that, the only way in which refusing to worry is SANE, is if Godís provision is certain. There can be no other conclusion. For otherwise, we would have to worry, wouldnít we? Ė because things would depend on us.
But no. Jesus promises Godís provision is wrapped up in God Himself. Thus, if we seek first God Himself Ė His kingdom and His righteousness Ė everything else will be added. In short, if you want Godís provision, indeed, Godís blessing and abundance, there is only one way that Jesus says we can attain it: By seeking first God Himself.
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