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Lesson 3: God or Mammon? *

Introduction: In our first lesson of this series we learned that if we seek the Kingdom of God, He will give us all of the material things that the pagans run after ( Luke 12:30-31). If that is true, then is the title to this lesson misleading? Is being a servant of God incompatible with having money? If it is, how do we explain the heroes of the Old Testament who were generally very wealthy men? The heroes of the New Testament, on the other hand, were generally poor. So, is this a conflict between the two testaments of the Bible? Or, is there one unified message in the Bible about wealth? Let's jump into our study of the Bible and see if we can find God's message on wealth!

  1. Rich Young Ruler

    1. Read Matthew 19:16. Are you interested in Jesus' answer to this question? (This is the most important answer in the world! Jesus is about to give the key to eternal life.)

    2. Read Matthew 19:17. Why would Jesus ask this question? Jesus was God! How do you make any sense of Jesus' initial reaction to this critical question? (Let's just hold this problem in the back of our minds and discuss it later.)

    3. Look again at the last half of Matthew 19:17. What answer does Jesus give? (Keep the Ten Commandments.)

      1. We just got through studying Romans and Galatians. Would Paul have a heart attack over this answer? (Read Romans 3:28. We cannot rely one verse alone to form our theology, but Paul would have said, "I need to understand better what you are saying, Jesus.")

    4. Read Matthew 19:18-19. What do you think about the young man's question? Are just some of the commandments important? That seems to be a ridiculous question!

      1. If you thought the young man's question was troubling, what about Jesus' answer? He cites only four of the Ten Commandments (leaving out the one about the Sabbath, the one about coveting, and all of them about our duties to God - see Exodus 20:1-17), and then Jesus cites His executive summary of the second half of the Ten Commandments (see Matthew 22:36-40). If we achieve salvation by keeping the commandments, why this particular selection of the commandments?

    5. Read Matthew 19:20. Good news! The selection that Jesus recited are exactly what this young man has been keeping. Hand him his ticket to heaven, right?

    6. Read Matthew 19:21. Who said anything about being perfect? The young man just asked about what he had to do to obtain eternal life! Why would Jesus add the perfection requirement?

      1. Or, do you have to be perfect to follow Jesus?

      2. And, why is it fair for Jesus to modify His prior answer by adding a requirement (not stated anywhere in any of the commandments) that the young man must sell all his possessions and give them to the poor?

      3. Read Romans 3:19-20 and Galatians 3:10-11. Are the teachings of Jesus and Paul in direct contradiction? Or, is Jesus proving the truth of what Paul writes - that the purpose of the law is to shut the mouth of young guys who think that they are perfectly keeping the law? (Read Matthew 19:22. I vote that Jesus and Paul agree. Jesus is proving the point that the assumption in the young ruler's question (Matthew 19:16) that you could do something to get to heaven is wrong. This young man cannot do what Jesus says the law requires.)

    7. Let's get back to a problem we left hanging. Re-read Matthew 19:17. Does Jesus' question now make sense? What was Jesus trying to get the rich young man to acknowledge? (Read Galatians 3:21-24. Jesus wanted the rich young man to acknowledge that Jesus was God.)

      1. If the rich young man had caught the importance of Jesus' question, and answered it properly, do you think Jesus would have asked him to sell all of his possessions? (I don't think so. The point of the exchange between Jesus and the rich young man was not about money (although I believe this showed the young man relied on his money instead of God), but rather it was about how humans cannot save themselves by keeping the law.)

    8. So, let's look at the title to this lesson. Is God or Mammon a choice? (Certainly, if you want to understand how to get to heaven: believe that Jesus is God, and accept that He died for your sins, thus giving you a ticket to eternal life! Making money, giving away money, nothing concerned with money gives you a ticket to heaven. Works cannot save you.)

    9. Read Matthew 19:23-26. Does this contradict what we just concluded? That nothing concerned with money gives you a ticket to heaven? (The story shows that the young man was unwilling to give up his dependence on money and become dependent on Jesus. That is the challenge for those who are rich - not to depend on their money, but depend on God. Depending on money is just another form of righteousness by works, another form of idolatry. You depend not on God, but what you made with your own two hands.)

  2. The Gift of Mammon

    1. Read Luke 16:13. This is where in the Bible the title to our lesson is found. In the King James version it calls money "mammon." Does this text help you to better understand the story of the rich young ruler? (He was not seeking Jesus' Kingdom first. Jesus asked the young man to choose Him, rather than his money.)

      1. The following parable is Jesus' illustration of the saying that you cannot serve God and money. Let's see if we can make sense of it!

    2. Read Luke 16:1-4. What is the charge against the manager? (He is not looking out for the best financial interests of his rich master.)

      1. Does the manager fear about his future? (Yes. But, he has a plan.)

    3. Read Luke 16:5-7. What do you think about the manager's plan? (It is absolutely dishonest! He prefers himself over his master - even when it is the master's money. He should be fired, right?)

      1. Is the manager putting money before the Kingdom of God? (No doubt!)

    4. Read Luke 16:8. Wait, wait, wait! What is this? Is Jesus saying that embezzlers, like this manager, are smarter than Christians who obey God? (They are "shrewder." They show more common sense.)

    5. Read Luke 16:9. Who is speaking now? Is this still part of the story? (No. Our Lord Jesus is now explaining the story.)

      1. "Eternal dwellings" must be a reference to heaven. Should we shrewdly embezzle money in the name of God to be welcomed into heaven? And, how does this help us with the issue of choosing God or Mammon - which is supposed to be the main point of this story? (Jesus' point is that Christians should use common sense with money. They should use it to "gain friends" (convert pagans) so they all will be welcomed in heaven.)

      2. What does this say about the choice between God and money? (Money is not the goal. However, money is an important, common sense tool for advancing the Kingdom of God.)

    6. Read Luke 16:10-12. Shouldn't we conclude that the dishonest, embezzling master should never be trusted with more money? Yet, Jesus commends him. What is Jesus' point here? (If you don't use common sense with your money, if you don't use it to "make friends" for the Kingdom in some smart way, God is not going to trust you with more money!)

      1. Notice that verse 11 refers to "true riches." What do you think Jesus means by true riches? (Perhaps Jesus means that if we do not use our money to promote the Kingdom of God, He will not trust us with spiritual gifts for promoting the kingdom. Certainly, Jesus is referring to more than money.)

    7. Re-read Luke 16:13. Now that we have studied the story for which this is the summary, how do you think this verse should be understood?

    8. Friend, what is your attitude towards money and possessions? Jesus asks us to put our trust for eternal life in Him, rather than in our money. Money is not bad, but trusting in it is a serious problem. Instead of trusting in money, we need to use common sense and money as tools to win friends for eternal life! Why not commit to that right now?

  3. Next week: Escape From the World's Ways.
* Copr. 2018, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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