THE REALLY BIG ISSUE
Mighty God, let me with singleness of heart, be stretched toward You. Draw me to You now.
Read MATTHEW 6:16–24
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Treasures in Heaven
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[a] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[b] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Help us to recognize the idolatry of Mammon, especially when it comes gift-wrapped and disguised.
At the climax of this passage we find one of the key statements in the entire Sermon on the Mount. Jesus warns of the sheer impossibility of spiritual compromise in the attempt to serve both God and Mammon (v 24). This term is sometimes translated ‘money’ but it represents something broader: ‘the principle of materialism’ which is ‘in direct conflict with loyalty to God’.1 The relevance of this in our globalized world is obvious, but we have to ask how this statement relates to the practice of fasting as this is described in the opening verses of today’s reading. Once again Jesus contrasts public displays of fasting, which occurred at particular seasons of the Jewish year, with the practice of disciples whose abstention from food was to be God-directed and therefore done in private. The spirituality of kingdom people is internal, a matter of the heart, and transcendent, in that it is directed ‘only to your Father … who sees what is done in secret’ (v 18). Here is the connection with the warning about Mammon: it is spirituality of the kind demanded by Christ which alone can sustain the disciples when faced with the overwhelming pressures of a materialistic world.
This results in an uncomfortable question for modern Christians – including this writer. ‘When you fast …’ (v 16) suggests that Jesus assumes that this practice will be a regular discipline of the spirituality of His new community. If fasting related to the ability to resist the lure of Mammon in the first century, what chance have we of living according to kingdom values if we think we can dispense with it in the twenty-first century?
Reread the last sentence above. How would you answer this question?
Dear Lord, I want to demonstrate to those around me, the difference You can make in a life. Guide and strengthen me to make those decisions in my daily living that will bring glory to Your name.
1 RT France, Matthew, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, IVP, 1985, p139
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