Hard Teaching, Good News: More on the God or Money Gospel

Part 7 of the Living Waters Series

Dear brothers & sisters,

Last week, we began to uncover one of the least popular and least practiced teachings of Jesus. And yet, it is also so fundamental to our walk as Christians. So, we wanted to take a second week in order to address this very important subject.

What is this teaching that we’re talking about? If you read our previous Living Waters post, then you’ll know we’re referring to what is often called the “two masters” teaching, or the “God or money” teaching.

Jesus says, “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.”

Matthew 6:24

We explored many aspects of this teaching in our previous post: what it means for us, how it should impact and transform our lives, how this is all part of the Gospel (& repentance), and how it helps us show greater love to God, our neighbor, and each other.

But we want to take things a little further using cross-references to offer encouragement while we all continue to pray about how we can apply Jesus’ teachings to our own lives. The cross-references also show that this God or money teaching is not a proof-text, but that it is a consistent teaching all throughout Jesus’ ministry.

Parallel

The first of our cross-references is actually a perfect parallel in Luke’s account: “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” (Luke 16:13). The fact that this teaching has been recorded twice by two different authors reveals that it had been thoroughly circulated and preserved by oral tradition & the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) during the few decades in between the cross and the actual writing of the gospel accounts. For historical documents, this proves a high level of credibility to the God or money teaching.

Now, the verse that comes immediately after is one we have always found to be an insightful and even comical addition to the battle between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day: “The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at him” (Luke 16:14). There Jesus goes again, cutting right down to the root of things, and consequently, the religious people in charge get offended. Classic.

But perhaps another reason why we find this verse funny (in a not-so-funny kind of way), is because most people–especially Christians–respond to us with the same exact reaction as the Pharisees once gave to Jesus. Other translations say that the Pharisees (who loved money) ridiculed or sneered at Jesus for his teaching about the choice between working for God and working for money. Yep, that is exactly how most church-people respond even today, and that is a very scary thing, brothers and sisters.

Examine your own spirit. When you hear Jesus say that in order to show God our love, we must stop working for money (remember that “working for” is the same thing as “serving”), how do you respond? It’s okay if you don’t think you fully understand it yet or if you maybe even get a little nervous! (We as human beings often react in fear to revelation from God; e.g. Luke 2:10, Matthew 14:27) But what do you do with that fear? Do you try to overcome fear with faith in God and His Son? Or do you try to defend that fear with pride like the Pharisees did, mocking both the message and messenger–criticizing, dismissing, sneering, scoffing, ridiculing… Your reaction will reveal who your master really is.

We pray that you do not respond like the Pharisees to the divine teaching of our Lord, brothers and sisters. Let us sit humbly before Christ and let him speak into our lives, guiding us out of fear and into faith.

Eternal Sustenance

The next cross-reference to the God or money teaching is found in the Gospel according to John:

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.

John 6:27

Why do most of us work in jobs for pay? Isn’t it to provide food for ourselves and our families (among other things like clothing, shelter, and here in the first world, lots of “toys” to play with)? That’s why we often hear from people that the reason why they will not choose to work for God instead of money is because they are afraid that they (and their children) will starve.

While we can certainly understand the concerns that trigger this sort of response from people, we also know from personal experience that God’s will is to feed and clothe us while we work to build up His Kingdom on Earth:

Don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Matthew 6:31-33

We must not forget verses like these from Matthew 6 and John 6. Jesus promises us abundance… but probably not in the exact way that we usually think of abundance.

The Abundant Life

Jesus tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10

Other translations reveal that Jesus is talking about a “full” life, a “satisfying” life, life “in all its fullness.” So this is not the prosperity gospel, like some people would claim. This is about the true Gospel.

But the sad truth is that when people hear Christ talk about working for God instead of money, the way they react shows that they think Jesus is the one trying to “steal and kill and destroy!” They don’t hear the Gospel, the Good News.

But reading John 10:10 again, we realize that it isn’t Jesus who is trying to “steal and kill and destroy”… It’s “the thief” (aka Satan) who does that.

So who are we listening to when we respond in anger or fear to the teachings of Jesus?

Remember, Jesus is the one who wants to give us a full and satisfying life. So when he tells us how to live our lives (like working for God instead of money), then he’s telling us how we can live more abundantly!

I Will Give You Rest

The last cross-reference that we want to share with you today is from Matthew 11.

Jesus says to us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

What a perfect way to describe the transition from working for money to working for God… So many of us can relate to the feeling of stress that comes from overbearing bosses, difficult coworkers, rude clients, aggressive deadlines, long hours, and inadequate pay. But even if we love our jobs, most of us still feel that something is missing.

And that is where the offer that Jesus is giving to us comes in, to spend our time working for the Source of All Love, trusting that He will provide for our needs (Matthew 6:24-33).

We mentioned in our previous post that working for God instead of money gives us a life of complete freedom. God empowers us to design our own schedules, choose our own projects, and the benefits are incredible… and eternal! Talk about an easy yoke!


Jesus’ teachings are never bad news, and hopefully these cross-references have helped you to better understand how the God or money teaching is just another (important) piece of his Gospel.

But the question we must all ask ourselves is, Do I have the eyes to see and the ears to hear it?

Love & Prayers,

Luke & Allie

Faith Worker Ministries

2 thoughts

  1. I suggest a more compassionate tone toward the Pharisees. One must recall that these were men who who devoted their entire lives solely to their study of the Torah. Many, like Paul, had the entirety of Moses memorized.
    They considered money–yes–but in the main, they saw it, sadly, sometimes as a sign that they had most stringently kept the teachings of Talmud. They saw folks like Noah (who can take off from farm work for 100 years to build a boat in the desert), Abraham (who didn’t need spoil), Ya’akov–who walked away very rich from Laban’s household. There’s no crime in having money. It’s the reliance on it. It’s the dismissal of those who don’t have it. Their money allowed them to do nothing but study the Scriptures AT the synagogues as Torah scrolls were, as now, difficult and expensive to come by (to say nothing of literacy!).
    And so when Christians balk at their 15 minutes of devotions of a day or show up not having read the Sunday School teaching passage, you know none of them has loved the Word so much as they that they would read or study nothing else. And “unless your righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees” was a higher bar than one might presume.

    Like

    1. Hey there! We appreciate feedback, so thanks for writing.

      Did you think that we were not being compassionate to the Pharisees because we directly quoted what the Gospel According to Luke says about them? We hope that it is clear that we are not sharing our own opinions, but we are quoting from Scripture which reveals what our Lord Jesus (as well as the early Christians) thought about the Pharisees. Surely, you would not say that Jesus was in danger of not being compassionate when He accused the Pharisees of being hypocrites, among many other serious accusations (e.g. Matthew 23:2-36)?

      Of course, we do not think of ourselves as equal to Jesus, and we remember that it is important to show mercy if we would like to receive mercy (Matthew 5:7), but is it really un-compassionate or un-loving to simply quote from Scripture and agree with its wisdom?

      Anyway, we completely agree with you when you wrote that “There’s no crime in having money. It’s the reliance on it. It’s the dismissal of those who don’t have it.” Amen!

      Jesus used money (and so do we), but He did make it clear that we should not spend our time working for it—or, to use your words, relying on it (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13, Matthew 6:19-21, 31-33). Instead, we should spend our time serving God & His Kingdom, letting Him provide for our needs (see references)!

      You mentioned that the Pharisees saw money as blessing from God. But do you agree with Jesus when He reframed the situation to clarify that God is actually opposed to the rich and lifts up the poor (Luke 6:20, 24)? Money in itself is not bad, but when we hoard it or spend our time working for it, Jesus makes it clear that God is not pleased, don’t you think (see previous references)?

      You also said that the Pharisees’ money allowed them to spend lots of time studying the Scriptures. Yes, money does allow for luxuries such as that. And part of the Good News (i.e. Gospel) of what Jesus preached is that God wants to provide for all of our needs so that EVERYONE can participate in these luxuries (Matthew 6:33).

      However, you’ll notice that Jesus doesn’t think it’s enough to simply study Scripture. For example, He said of the Pharisees that what they taught the Jewish people was all spot-on, but that they were hypocrites because they didn’t practice what they preached (Matthew 23:2-3). And elsewhere, He said to His disciples that if we put His teachings into practice, then we are like a wise man who built his house on the rock, but if we hear His teachings and do not practice them, then we are like a foolish man who built his house on the sand (Matthew 7:24-27). As James wrote, “don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves” (James 1:22).

      What do you think of passages like these? Certainly, it is important to study the Scriptures, but wouldn’t you agree that it is more important to put the teachings of our Lord & Savior into practice?

      We think that this is the key to “exceeding the righteousness of the Pharisees”: Not just studying Scripture and preaching Scripture, but doing our best to make our lives conform to the Truth of Scripture (and letting God’s grace carry us when we fall short).

      Again, we hope that it is clear now if it wasn’t before that we are not stating our own opinions on these matters. We are simply inspired by God’s Spirit to share His wisdom and truth with others as it was so clearly expressed through His Son, the true Word of God (John 1:1, 14, Revelation 19:13). We are motivated by God’s Love to share these hard truths with those who continue to foster the spirit of the Pharisees today so that they may see their shortcomings and repent (never forgetting all the areas in which we fall short of God’s glorious standards, too).

      You’re free to follow whomever you wish, whether that’s the Pharisees or the one true Messiah, our Lord Jesus. As for us, we will follow the Lord.

      with Love & Prayers,
      Luke & Allie

      Liked by 1 person

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