Biblical Plumb-line For Life

Choose This Day Whom You Will Serve

(Biblical Plumb-line For Life)

Enoch Era

Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15.

You cannot serve God and Mammon.” Matthew 6:24.

As we come to the denouement of the ages and are on the brink of entering the promised heavenly Canaan, the call before us is to choose who we serve.

I think the Lord is not looking for large numbers. He is looking for a remnant. Those who followed him wholeheartedly. Those who have not defiled themselves with the world. “It is these who have not defiled themselves…. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.”

The choice is simple but clear. The first commandment and the call to follow Christ both make it very plain that we cannot serve anyone else or anything else.

But today Mammon or money seems to rule everywhere. If we say ‘Jesus is Lord’, Mammon seems to counter it and say ‘Even to serve Jesus, you need me’.

The whole world has gone behind Mammon. The terrorist, the fundamentalist, the liberal, the moralist, the immoral, the far right and the far left, the good, the bad everyone seems to be enslaved to money. The only thing that seems to unite us is money. In history religion, language, race, class, creed, colour, caste have always divided. We are all divided by many things but united in the need, the use and the control of money over us worldwide. We do not recognise it. We do not claim unity on the basis of money yet it is true we are one as long as money is concerned. There is no economic north or south. There is no first world or third world when it comes to the dominance of money. There is no poor, there is no rich as far as its control is concerned.

Christians and the church world wide are no different. They have simply capitulated to the power of money. Practically nothing happens in our lives and churches without money. Every one pays obeisance to it in the seeking, using, saving and cherishing of it. We are happy when we have it. We are sad, disappointed or fearful when we run out of it. Practically everyone of us, including our churches, ministries and leaders take decisions on the basis of availability of funds or the confidence of raising it. We have almost come to the stage where we think that the kingdom of God and missions cannot happen without money.

We say ‘Jesus is Lord’ and that living for Him is our priority. Yet we spend 10-12 hours a day in seeking, earning, spending and saving money. Any time that is left is divided between our time for sleep, recreation, shopping, eating, ministry and worship. We fight over it. We go to courts over it. The question is, ‘Who then is our Lord?’

Oh, the pernicious habit of boasting about our wealth, achievements and attainments, overtly many times but covertly often. Many derive their pride and glory in these. Of course with a parenthetical suffix that it is all ‘by the grace of God’. I am talking about even those who boast about their achievements in ministry. This includes many in the church hierarchies and Christian mission.

We express in very subtle ways, our confidence not only in money but in several things acquired from the pursuit of the world. When you look at many Christians you wonder how much of their confidence in life comes from Christ and how much from their money, education, designation, church affiliation, caste, class, creed, colour and other things. If you are pursuing goals of providing for yourself and your family – financial security. If your value and dignity comes from your pay-packet, bank balance, the house you live in, the car you drive, the degrees beside your name and the position you hold in your job and at the same time you claim to follow Christ, then the call is to you.

So the question is, ‘Who do you serve, my friend?’ Lord Jesus made it very clear that, “You cannot serve God and Mammon.”

If those who have rejected God’s general revelation and have never heard the gospel, are ‘without excuse’ according to Apostle Paul, how much more those of us who have read and learnt about the Word incarnate and have God’s written Word in our hands, shall we be held responsible? ‘To whomsoever much is given of him shall be much required’ the Lord said.

Judge for yourselves my friends, if what I am saying makes sense or not. Unfortunately we have learnt wrong habits in reading the Bible, especially the Old Testament. First it must be read as God’s word to a people and not to individuals. Even where individuals are addressed it is in the context of the corporate. Second, much of Old Testament must be read in the context of the Ten Commandments and especially in the context of understanding God as One. Seek the face of the Lord and search the scriptures regarding what I am saying and judge for yourselves, if I am crying wolf!

In closing, I must add what the word of God teaches regarding violation of the first commandment and by implication the terms of discipleship to Christ. Moses clearly taught the people of Israel, that any violation or disobedience to His commands brings down upon them the curses spoken in Deuteronomy 29. Read especially the verses from 9-28. And in Deuteronomy 13, Moses taught what must be done to anyone who misleads God’s people from following the Lord whole heartedly. When I look at the condition of the church today worldwide, I wonder if what’s spoken in Deuteronomy 29 has come true among us. In Hebrews 3, Paul picks up on the thought and tells us that many Israelites did not enter the promised land because of unbelief and disobedience.

I believe, we have mislead many God’s people by teaching them to pursue worldly careers and middle-class lifestyles. We have not only egged people on to do it, we prayed for them and gave them promises from scripture to encourage them to do it. It needs to be mentioned here that all the promises in the Old Testament which most Christians quote and claim for their lives were given to the people of Israel corporately and not for individuals to pursue their own dreams and desires in life. These promises are certainly not meant for our present career-driven, materialistic and middle-class lifestyles. The promises can be certainly claimed if we align our lives with the corporate goals and purposes of God for the Church. Even promises given individually to people in Old Testament were in the context of corporate life and for the fulfilling of corporate objectives. Those promises were never given to encourage people to pursue lifestyles which are totally against what is taught and demonstrated by Christ and His apostles. This guilt of misleading people, lies at the doors of parents and elders in families, pastors, teachers and leaders. Deuteronomy 13 applies to all such, if they do not repent. And Deuteronomy 29: 9-28 applies to all who have pursued the world and at the same time tried to follow Christ.

The first commandment, “I am the Lord your God…You shall have no other gods before me.” and the call to follow Christ are categorical and unequivocal. These two are the plumb-lines that any Christian can use at any time to see if their lives are aligned with God’s word.

Therefore, the call to you today, “Choose you this day whom you will serve”. Will you serve the gods of the surrounding people around you or the LORD JESUS CHRIST?

And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord. “See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.” Joshua 24: 26, 27.

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A Rival God

One such major stronghold1 today, which is much more insidious and sinister than many known religions of the world, which in modern times has become more ubiquitous is the stronghold of money. Interestingly in Matthew 6, Jesus talks about worshipping money or Mammon as a major and only alternative to worshipping God.

This is a very interesting, serious and revealing statement. Talking about riding two horses, Jesus pits serving or worshipping God over against serving or worshipping money or Mammon. This suggests that possibly the only thing that could be a serious rival to God in the life of man, is Mammon.

I wonder, if Jesus was talking about our times. For I do not know of any other issue or of any other time in the history of man, that money held such universal sway over his life and activity as much as it does today. No doubt it started a few centuries earlier. No other issue or cause receives the same universal devotion and allegiance as money does. No other cause – neither religion, language, nationality, race – holds such widespread appeal as money. All other causes and issues divide but money makes us one in our seeking of it. In fact we do not see it as a rival for God instead many see in it an opportunity to serve God, including many Christians! Certainly it can be used to serve God but often it becomes god in itself and demands our time and effort more than we give to God.

As God promises, money also promises us everything we need, especially our most basic needs of sustenance, security and identity. In today’s world more than ever before in our history as humans, it has become possible to meet almost all our needs and more with money. For all practical purposes, it appears that you just cannot do anything without money these days. A statement which is similar to what Jesus said, “You can do nothing without me”. On the other hand money seems to be an omnipresent and omnipotent force all around us, almost in supernatural and divine proportions.

Is it any wonder then that so many pay allegiance to it every day, at least for 10-12 hours of the best part of the day in seeking it. It is no wonder then, that just as there are temples for gods and goddesses at every street corner and in every neighbourhood, there are temples of Mammon everywhere, not just in the form of financial institutions (banks) but also as shop-fronts, businesses and money-making corporations. These temples are more widespread, ubiquitous yet unobtrusive and appear to be less sinister than the shrines and temples to gods and goddesses. We actually see them as necessary and convenient.

All other causes, issues, vices and even spiritual strongholds need to be sustained with money. But money itself feeds upon our need for security and identity therefore we do not see it as a stronghold. In fact money keeps our need for identity and security alive and burning stronger and stronger, so that we strive and seek for it more. There is possibly a symbiosis between money and our needs.

Richard Foster writes, “When Jesus uses the Aramaic term Mammon to refer to wealth, he is giving it a personal and spiritual character… he is personifying mammon as a rival God… Mammon is a power it seeks to dominate us.” He writes that money has the ability to inspire devotion and that it has spiritual power to win our hearts and seek our allegiance. “These strange facts make sense only as we come to understand the spiritual reality of money. Behind money are invisible spiritual powers, powers that are seductive and deceptive, powers that demand an all-embracing devotion.”

Today in many contexts it appears that churches and ministries seem to be thinking that money is essential for ministry. A sentiment which neither our Lord nor any of the 12 apostles would support. I believe, unless we show to the world that we DO NOT depend upon money by demonstrating that ministry or mission cannot be done by money alone, I wonder if our message carries any weight. We undercut our own authority when we think that Christ and money are necessary for missions. As I wrote earlier in a different context, “When has mammon become necessary for the building of the Kingdom of God?” Unless we come up with simpler and smaller ways of doing God’s work, we would be unwitting instruments in the hands of the enemy of our God2.

We must also remember that many things that we consider as essential or necessary are not necessarily so. St. August wrote in his ‘Confessions’, “Because my will was perverse it changed to lust. Lust yielded to became a habit. Habit not restrained became a necessity”. So possibly, many things that we think are necessary have their roots in a perverse will.

If you are one of those who thinks that you cannot live without money and that you are spending a major part of your life to acquiring it or you think that church, mission and ministry cannot be done without money, I think you are already sold out to Mammon! And whosoever you might claim to be, your position would be no different from that of Simon Magus in Acts 8. You have no part in the Kingdom of God. Unless you repent and repudiate the power of Mammon in your life, you will end up in the same place where Mammon is destined to. I would say, unless you go and sell all that you have and come and follow Christ, there is no hope for you, my friend!

1. This is part of a larger article on Spiritual Strongholds.

2 . For more on this read “Small is beautiful” at my blog: www.rupanthar.wordpress.com