Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:1-17
Because our lives and identities as followers of Christ are now wrapped up in our relationship with Christ (v. 3), we must set our minds on spiritual matters and let our attitudes be determined by things above. Our greatest affections and priorities should center on things that will last forever, and our greatest efforts should be to store up “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-20). We must value, judge and consider everything from an enteral and heavenly perspective. Our goals and pursuits should be to seek spiritual things (vv. 1-4), resist sin (vv. 5-11) and develop Christ’s character (vv. 12-17). In our pursuit of eternal goals, Christ has made available to us the resources of heaven, which he will provide for those who earnestly ask, seek and continue to knock (Luke 11:1-13; 1 Corinthians 12:11; Ephesians 1:3 and 4:7-8). If we remain true to Christ, we can be confident of our glory, honor and reward with him heaven (Matthew 25:21 and 2 Timothy 2:12).
And what is the biggest hinderance to our seeking spiritual things, to our resisting sin and to our developing of Christ’s character? Paul tells us that it is greed, which he also calls idolatry. However, it is not just Paul who spoke of greed, or our love for earthly things as being our biggest hinderance in seeking spiritual things, resisting sin and developing Christ’s character. Jesus himself spoke of the problem of “storing” our “treasures” in the wrong place in Matthew 6:19-24. But before we take a closer look at that passage we need to understand what idolatry actually is.
Throughout the Bible, idolatry refers to worshipping false gods, images of gods or anything else in place of the one true God. It represents open, unashamed rejection of God and defiance toward him, and it is worthy of severe judgment. So what does idolatry mean in practical terms for us today?
- It means giving priority to anything in place of God. It is allowing things to become the focus of one’s desires, values and dependence, taking the place of reliance on and faith in God himself (Exodus 20:3-6; Deuteronomy 7:25-26 and Isaiah 40:18-23). For this reason, greed, or the love possessions, is called idolatry.
- Idolatry can involve people claiming to be loyal to God and his Word while at the same time giving equal or greater loyalty to persons, institutions, traditions or earthly authorities. Nothing may be given higher priority in life than one’s relationship to God and his Word as revealed in the Bible.
Now that we know what idolatry looks like and how it relates to greed. We can now turn our attention to what Jesus taught concerning greed. In Matthew 6:19-24 Jesus deals directly with both idolatry and greed. And here is what Jesus had to say directly about both greed and idolatry:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
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 6:19-24
Material wealth was often seen in Israel as a sign of God’s blessing and a reward for obedience. And the same is true in today’s society. When we see someone who is materially wealthy we automatically assume that God has blessed them and has rewarded them for their obedience. But there is a catch that comes with material wealth. And that catch is: with material wealth comes the danger of having a false sense of security or an erroneous assessment of spiritual standing before God.
Jesus then shifts to talking about the heart. Why? Because the heart represents the core a person’s being, the real inner person. What is Jesus is saying in verses 19-21 is: What a person values is driven by the nature of their heart. The material possessions that some people value are subject to the destructive effects of this world. But those who are truly righteous value the greatest treasure in heaven: God himself. Those who set their hearts on God set a healthy trajectory for discipleship.
In verses 22-23 Jesus moves from talking about the heart to talking about the eye. But when Jesus is talking the eye he is talking about the eye in terms of it being a conduit to the heart. Because when the eye focuses on something of value, it becomes the conduit that fills the heart with what is being focus on. If the eye is fixed on what is good, the heart is filled with the light of God’s treasure. But if the eye covets earthly treasure, then the heart is fulled with darkness.
Jesus ends his teaching here on idolatry and greed with these words, “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). What we must remember is that material possessions are neither good nor bad by themselves. However, Satan uses greed and covetousness to ensnare people in idolatry, so Jesus calls those of us who are his disciples to make a choice: either love, serve and devote ourselves complete to God or be mastered by Satan. Because there is no middle ground. In fact Jesus would instruct John to write these words to the church in Laodicea about their attitude towards material possessions:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Revelation 3:14-18
We like the church of Laodicea have a choice to make and there is no sitting on the fence when it comes to this choice. And that choice is simply this: we can either set our minds “on the things above” or we can set our minds “on earthly things.” What choice will you make?
Today’s Bible Readings:
Ezekiel 24-26, Hebrews 11:1-16, Psalm 110:1-7 and Proverbs 27:14
Make a one-time donation
Make a monthly donation
Make a yearly donation
Choose an amount
Or enter a custom amount
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly