BATTLE BETWEEN TWO: GOOD AND EVIL
Good versus evil. You see this theme played out in comic books, video games, and movies. This idea of good and evil is seen in many religious traditions, including our own. The Bible is a book about destiny. It tells of the great plan God has for our lives. Just as He told Abraham He had a special place and plan for his life, God has a special place, a land of promise, and a plan for our lives. That’s a wonderful, hopeful truth; but we must also remember that Satan is intent on fighting us every inch of the way as we pursue the Lord’s destiny for our lives. Just as God has a plan for our lives, so does the devil. In Matthew 7, Jesus tells the disciples that they can know what is true from what is false by the fruits of their actions. “Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:17-18)If the fruits—our thoughts, words and actions—are good, then it is a good indication that the decision we made or will make is good.We must choose between God and Satan. We must choose between the two. Those who do not choose God are for Satan.
Are we prepared to take control of God’s plan for our lives? Are we ready to embrace the destiny that God has planned for us? Then take possession of what is rightfully ours (Joshua 21:43). We must claim our inheritance from God! If we feel that we are losing the battle or confused from our own destiny, use the examples below and take the right decision.
2.0 THE CHOICE BETWEEN TWO TREASURES
In Matthew 6:19-21 we read, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The ancient Greek more literally says do not treasure for yourself treasures on earth. The idea is that earthly treasure is temporary and fading away (where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal), but heavenly treasure is secure. The issue isn’t that earthly treasures are intrinsically bad, but they are of no ultimate value either. If this is the case, then it is wrong for the disciple of Jesus to dedicate his life to continually expanding his earthly treasures. To lay up our treasure on earth is also to doom ourselves to a life of frustration and emptiness. Regarding material things the secret to happiness is not more, it is contentment and the Apostle Paul had the right idea in 1 Timothy 6:6: Now godliness with contentment is great gain. The Master does not say it is wrong to possess earthly treasure. He does say it is wrong to lay it up for self. We are to hold it as stewards. In contrast, heavenly treasures are everlasting and incorruptible. Treasures in heaven give enjoyment now, in the contentment and sense of well-being that comes from being a giver. But their ultimate enjoyment comes on the other side of eternity. The pharaohs of Egypt were buried with gold and treasures to take into the afterlife, but they left it all behind. Even further, though gold is a precious thing on earth, God uses it to pave the streets of heaven. Our material treasures will not pass from this life to the next; but the good that has been done for the kingdom of God through the use of our treasures lasts for eternity, and the work God does in us through faithful giving will last for eternity. Jesus drew the conclusion that you can only have your treasure in one place; we can’t store up treasure on earth and on heaven at the same time. It is not so much the disciple’s wealth that Jesus is concerned with as his loyalty. As Matthew 6:24 makes explicit, materialism is in direct conflict with loyalty to God.
3.0 THE CHOICE BETWEEN TWO VISIONS
In Matthew 6:22-23 we read, “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Simply, the idea is that “light” comes into the body through the eye. If our eyes were blind, we would live in a “dark” world. The idea behind having a good eye is either being generous or being single minded. Both principles apply to the disciple’s attitude towards material things. There seems to be a deliberate double-entendre here, with haplous taking up not only the theme of undivided loyalty but also that of detachment from material concern, hence of generosity. Being generous brings light to our lives. We are happier and more content when we have God’s heart of generosity. But if we are not generous, it is as if our whole body will be full of darkness. Our selfish, miserly ways cast darkness over everything that we think or do. Being single minded brings light to our lives, and we are also happier and more content when we focus on the kingdom of God and His righteousness, knowing that all the material things will be added to us (Matthew 6:33). But when we are double-minded, it is as if our whole body is full of darkness. We try to live for two masters at the same time, and it puts a dark shadow over everything in our life. In any case, Jesus tells us that either our eye is directed at heavenly things (and therefore full of light) or it is directed at earthly things (and therefore full of darkness). An evil eye was a phrase in use, among the ancient Jews, to denote an envious, covetous man or disposition; a man who repined at his neighbour’s prosperity, loved his own money, and would do nothing in the way of charity for God’s sake. Building on the analogy of the eye, Jesus reminds us that if we are blind in our eyes, the whole body is blind. The darkness is then great in our whole body. In the same way, our attitude towards material treasure will either bring great light or great darkness to our lives. Often a materialistic, miserly, selfish Christian justifies their sin by saying, “It’s just one area of my life.” But even as the darkness of the eye affects everything in the body, so a wrong attitude towards material things brings darkness to our whole being.
4.0 THE CHOICE BETWEEN TWO MASTERS
In Matthew 6:24 we read, “No one 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.”Having two masters is not like working two jobs. Jesus had the master and slave relationship in mind, and no slave could serve two masters. Jesus states that serving two masters is a simple impossibility. If you think that you are successfully serving two masters, you are deceived. It can’t be done. As ancient Israel struggled with idolatry, they thought they could worship the Lord God and Baal. God constantly reminded them that to worship Baal was to forsake the Lord God. To be loyal to the one is to despise the other. In the natural sphere it is impossible for a slave to serve two masters, for each claims him as his property, and the slave must respond to one or other of the claims with entire devotion, either from love or from interest. It can be simply said: Don’t serve your money. Let your money serve the Lord and it will serve you. There are different opinions regarding the origin of the term mammon. Some think it was the name of a pagan god. Others think the name comes “From the Hebrew aman, to trust, confide; because men are apt to trust in riches.” Whatever its origin, the meaning is clear: mammon is materialism, or “wealth personified.” The word was used in some ancient Jewish texts that showed this, translating Proverbs 3:9 as Honor God with your mammon and Deuteronomy 6:5 as You shall love the Lord your God with…all your mammon. Therefore, mammon itself represents material things we possess or want, and those things can be used for God’s kingdom and glory or as idols. Certainly, Jesus is talking about the heart here. Many people would say they love God, but their service of money shows that in fact they do not. How can we tell who or what we are serving? One way is by remembering this principle: you will sacrifice for your God. If you will sacrifice for the sake of money, but will not sacrifice for the sake of Jesus, don’t deceive yourself: money is your God. We must remember that we don’t have to be rich to serve mammon (money and material things); the poor can be just as greedy and covetous as the rich can be.
5.0 KINGDOM OF GOD DESERVES OUR ATTENTION
In Matthew 6:25 we read, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” We should not get tangled up worrying about the things of this world, because our life is more than those things. We can be as unfaithful to God through care as well as through covetousness. These three inquiries engross the whole attention of those who are living without God in the world. The belly and back of a worldling are his compound god; and these he worships in the lust of the flesh, in the lust of the eye, and in the pride of life. There is a difference between a godly sense of responsibility and an ungodly, untrusting worry. However, an ungodly, untrusting sense of worry usually masquerades as responsibility. We cannot say that Jesus Christ ever troubled his head about what he should eat, or what he should drink; his meat and his drink consisted in doing his Father’s will. We are to be concerned with the right things; the ultimate issues of life – and we then leave the management (and the worry) over material things with our heavenly Father. The worry Jesus spoke of debases man to the level of an animal who is merely concerned with physical needs. Your life is more, and you have eternal matters to pursue.
6.0 EXAMPLE AND ARGUMENTS AGAINST WORRY
In Matthew 6:26-30 we read, “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” God provides for the birds, and He takes care of them. Therefore, we should expect that God would take care of us. Yet take careful note: the birds don’t worry, but they do work. Birds don’t just sit with open mouths, expecting God to fill them. This argument presupposed a biblical cosmology without which faith makes no sense. God is so sovereign over the universe that even the feeding of a wren falls within his concern. The worry many people have over the material things of life is rooted in a low understanding of their value before God. They don’t comprehend how much He loves and cares for them. Worry accomplishes nothing; we can add nothing to our lives by worrying. There may be greater sins than worry, but there are none more self-defeating and useless. The ancient Greek may mean adding to life instead of adding to height, but the thought is the same. Indeed, instead of adding to our life, we can actually harm ourselves through worry. Stress is one of the great contributors to disease and poor health. God even takes care of the grass of the field, so He will certainly take care of you. We are confident of the power and care of a loving heavenly Father. ‘Little faith’ is not a little fault; for it greatly wrongs the Lord, and sadly grieves the fretful mind. To think the Lord who clothes the lilies will leave his own children naked is shameful. O little faith learn better manners!
7.0 YOU HAVE A HEAVENLY FATHER THAT KNOWS YOUR NEEDS
In Matthew 6:31-32 we read, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” We are invited to know a freedom from the worry and anxiety that comes from undue concern about material things. We can reflect the same kind of heart that Matthew Henry showed when he said the following after being robbed: Lord, I thank You: That I have never been robbed before. That although they took my money, they spared my life. That although they took everything, it wasn’t very much. That it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed. Jesus contrasted the life of those who do not know God and are separated from Him with those who do know God and receive His loving care. Those who know God should seek after other things.
8.0 PUT GOD’S KINGDOM FIRST – HE WILL TAKE CARE OF THESE THINGS!
In Matthew 6:33 we read, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” This must be the rule of our life when ordering our priorities. Yet it is wrong to think that this is just another priority to fit onto our list of priorities – and to put at the top. Instead, in everything we do, we seek first the kingdom of God. For example, we rarely have to choose between honouring God and loving our wives or being good workers. We honour God and seek first the kingdom of God by being good husbands and good workers. We should also remember this statement in its immediate context. Jesus reminds us that our physical well-being is not a worthy object to devote our lives unto. If you think it is worthy that your god is mammon, then your life is cursed with worry, and you live life too much like an animal, concerned mostly with physical needs. Jesus didn’t just tell them to stop worrying; He told them to replace worry with a concern for the kingdom of God. A habit or a passion can only be given up for a greater habit or passion. What this verse demands is, therefore, a commitment to find and to do the will of God, to ally oneself totally with his purpose. And this commitment must come first. If you put God’s kingdom first, and do not think that your physical well-being is a worthy object to live your life for, you then may enjoy all these things. He promises heavenly treasure, rest in divine provision, and fulfilment of God’s highest purpose for man – fellowship with Him and being part of His kingdom. This choice – to seek first the kingdom of God – is the fundamental choice everyone makes when they first repent and are converted. Yet every day after that, our Christian life will either reinforce that decision or deny it.
9.0 A CONCLUSION WITH COMMON SENSE
In Matthew 6:34 we read, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” If you must worry, worry only for the things of today. Most of our worry is over things that we have absolutely no control over anyway and is therefore foolish as well as harmful. Jesus reminds us of the importance of living for the present day. It isn’t wrong to remember the past or plan for the future; to some degree both of those are good. Yet it is easy to become too focused on either the past or the future and to let the day and its own trouble be ignored. God wants us to remember the past, plan for the future, but live in the present.