This is a recap of the latest sermon in our series on Jesus on Money.
When our world speaks of financial freedom, it usually means financial independence. The goal is having choices, obtaining enough money so that we aren't stopped from pursuing our desires by financial limitations.
In Matthew 6:24-34, Jesus shows that this kind of financial freedom is a myth. Real freedom, spiritual freedom is not about independence, but dependence. Rather than variety of choice, Jesus invites us to singularity of purpose. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
1. The Reality of Financial Slavery
Say you were on "Let's Make a Deal." Behind Door #1 was a massive pile of cash. Behind Door #2 was Jesus. If you were asked, "What door would you choose to go through to find your object of worship," you would likely choose Door #2. (Why would you bow down to a bunch of paper?) But what if you were asked instead, "What door would you choose to find happiness and freedom in this life?"
We tend to think the first question is spiritual, and the second, material. But Jesus teaches something different in Matthew 6:24-25. He shows that these are both worship questions. Our answer to the second question is our answer to the first. And if we answer the second question by choosing money over Christ, we fall into financial slavery, serving money, not God.
We fall into financial slavery when we…
…listen to our background
Your culture, family upbringing, and socio-economic status all heavily influence the ways we think about money. If we aren't conscious of these influences, we are liable to default to thinking about money in the ways our family did. And this is likely to lead to financial slavery.
…listen to the world
Commercials tell us we will be happy, joyful and free if we would only purchase this car, beer or vacation. But if I get spiritual peace from them, they become objects of worship for me, and I am financially enslaved.
…listen to ourselves
Money gives me power to choose in this life. And there are few things I want more than control of myself and my circumstances. If I listen to myself in financial matters, I will default to seek freedom and control, rather than seeking Christ.
2. The Nature of Christian Freedom
Rather than financial freedom, Jesus offers Christian freedom in Matthew 6:25-32. Christian freedom faith that frees us from fear.
Christian freedom makes us truly free.
You see, he is making the birds our schoolmasters and teachers. It is a great and abiding disgrace to us that in the Gospel a helpless sparrow should become a theologian and a preacher to the wisest of men … Whenever you listen to a nightingale, therefore, you are listening to an excellent preacher … It is as if he were saying “I prefer to be in the Lord’s kitchen. He has made heaven and earth, and he himself is the cook and the host. Every day he feeds and nourishes innumerable little birds out of his hand.”
– Martin Luther
True freedom is not about having choices. True freedom is having the liberty to do what we were created to do. Caged birds aren’t free because they can’t fly. Anxious humans aren’t free because they can’t love.
Christian freedom makes us truly human.
When someone asked Jesus “How can I be truly happy and free as a human being?” do you know what He said?
[L]ove the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.… And…love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37, 39)
Anxious humans aren’t free because they can’t love. Christian freedom makes us truly human. It sets our hearts free from self-focused worry so we can focus on what makes us human. Love is what makes us truly human. Love for God with our whole being, and love for others.
Christian freedom makes us truly God's.
When we are free from material anxiety; from fear about food and drink and clothing; from worry about health or wealth, finances or future—that’s when our faith is rightly placed. It’s when we truly belong to our Father. It’s how we "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matt. 6:33).
Focus on material necessities is not worth of Christian ambition. Our call is higher; our destiny more exalted; our King infinitely more glorious. The passing cares of this material world should have no claim on our ambition, anxiety or hope. To live with these things primarily in view is to live life enslaved. Christ came, not so we could be enslaved to anxiety. He came to set us free.
Reflection & Application Questions
- What do you think Jesus means when he says, "You cannot serve God and money" (Matt. 6:24)?
- What makes money so tempting as a master? Why do we often choose to serve money instead of Jesus?
- In what ways do you see yourself enslaved to money? Here are a few indicators that we are serving money instead of Jesus:
- Obsessively checking the market, our investments, or bank statements.
- Fantasizing about our next big or exciting purchase.
- Making major life or career choices because we have the financial ability to do so, without seeking the wisdom of Christian community and prayer to discern God's will.
- Worry and fretting about how to make ends meet.
- If the first response to solving a problem is spending money (hiring someone, buying something, etc.).
- When it comes to money, we listen to our background, the world, and ourselves, rather than listen to Christ. Where do you see yourself listening to these things instead of Jesus?
- In what ways do you see yourself walking right now in Christian freedom, in faith that frees you from fear? In what ways are you walking in anxiety?
- "Anxious humans aren't free because they can't love." How does worrying about money prevent you from loving God? How does it prevent you from loving others?
- Do you believe what Jesus says in Matt. 6:33? That "all these things will be added to you?" How does faith in Christ set us free from worry?