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Remember the show, “To Tell the Truth?” There would be one person who did something strange or different perhaps for a living while two others would try to pretend to be that person. The object was to try and fool the panel of stars and the audience. Sometimes the person would be something strange like a “professional nose picker.” At the end the real person would stand up.
As I thought about this passage from Matthew 6:24, I thought about loving one master and hating another. And I thought about some alcoholics that I know both practicing and recovered. I thought about the effect that addictions have upon people. They end of hating this “master” because they are enslaved and can’t get out. Usually end up hating themselves and everyone around them.
Jesus talks about the master of Mammon. I like the word “mammon” as a translation rather than money. For mammon is more than just money. It is greed. It is desire. In fact, the connotation is that this greed for money goes beyond just money but includes the power and privilege. It gives us the sense that this mammon is almost alive. That this particular sin because alive and begins to devour us. Paul uses the same type of imagery. Thus the darkness within us because exceedingly great! Just a little more. Gambling has that affect. Deal or No Deal is a great example. The show is about gambling. How far can you push it and what is the most that you can walk away with.
Runaway desires. Tithing and fasting are ways to work against these desires. To train them. Tame them! Tithing, fasting, and even baptism act out a different reality. A new reality of God’s Kingdom. Baptism is a symbolic way to act out the new reality of being a follower of Jesus--that God is now the Lord and King of our lives not mammon. By being baptized we align our lives toward the Kingdom life and Kingdom values, which are opposed to the values of mammon. The memory of one’s baptism (one Lord, one baptism) can then become a marker to "tame" our struggles with rampant materialism. It can become a sort of litmus test.
All these actions are revealing a change of masters.
Alcoholics know that one of the most effective way to maintain sobriety and recovery is to tell on their disease. Take ownership of their difficulties, their character defects, their sins. To tell the truth.
To Tell the Truth
• On our masters
Who are your masters? Jesus says we can only have one. Anything but God will consume you. Job, business (e-myth), health care system, money, shopping, gambling, drugs (prescription and illegal). Tell on the truth. This is what I struggle with.
• On ourselves
This is me. I’m not perfect. This is who I want to be. In terms of the specifics of the passage, admitting that I am not as generous as I should be. There can be only one.
In one of readings for today from Luke 12:13-21, Jesus is first asked to make a judgment. It is a cry for justice. Tell the story.
Generosity towards others is generosity towards God.
As much as some of us struggle to please two masters and we try, we cannot. “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.”
Col. 3 talks about putting to death things that want to rule us and as I translate can become or are our masters: fornication, impurity, evil desires, greed, anger wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth, lying. Put on these clothes: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, forbearance, love, gratitude.
How? Daily examination. Teaching others. Admonish which means to encourage while gently correcting. Being thankful not condemnation. To tell the truth of first ourselves. Confession.
Van Gogh. The use of yellow in his later paintings were a sign of hope: of starting over with a new master. We can start over with a new master. We all need that hope. We need that assurance that we can start over.
This is what worship is about. A new start. To a new creation. To a new week. To a new life. No matter who or what is your old master: stress at work, conflict with a boss, conflict with a family member, divorce and struggling to glue pieces back together, overwhelming bills maybe because of overspending, illness that never seems to end, the joys and trials of raising children, death of a friend or family member, houses and cars and other stuffs that “never end,” a family member that is in the throes of addiction. To tell the truth is to say I don’t have the answers so I resolve to start afresh in trusting God. Some of us constantly need that hope that I can start again today and that these trials and such will not last forever (even when we can see no end in sight). God can.
Do you remember the Incredible Hulk? If you do you either remember the big green monster from the comics or the television show. Dr. Banner had a serious problem. In an experiment he had unleashed a terrible monster. In times of stress he would turn into this huge raging monster. One of the classic lines from the television program was "Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry." In the comics his destruction was much more vivid and much larger-than-life. This monster would pick up armored tanks and toss them at his enemies. He could stomp one his big green feet on the ground and cause a mini-earthquake that would knock his opponents to the ground. He could survive almost anything short of a nuclear blast all the time bellowing catch words like "Hulk strong! Hulk smash puny soldiers!" When the rampage was over, however, Dr. Banner was left to live with the results of the Hulk’s actions. His clothing was ripped to shreds so that he was exposed to the elements. His life was shattered into little pieces, and he had to move to a new location where he would attempt to start a new life.
Each of us has a raging Hulk in us. The sin nature that dwells within us attempts to bring about mass destruction in our lives. If we allow it to rule over us we will find ourselves like Dr. Banner, searching for some shred of our lives that we can cling to. Sin will destroy...
In the film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, we are introduced to a frightening creature named Gollum. He lives in the area known as Middle Earth and goes about with a croaking throat muttering. At one time he possessed the ring of power and it corrupted him with its evil.
As the film, and the book, progresses we discover that Gollum is not so frightening as he is pathetic. It turns out that he once was a Hobbit named Smeagol, much like Bilbo Baggins, one of the heroes of the story. But the ring corrupted him in mind, spirit and body. Now he is a little, slimy, twisted animal-like creature with haunted eyes and frog-like shape. His greed and sin have done this to him.
But through the friendship and grace shown to him by Frodo, whom he now calls “Master,” a change begins to take place. At one point in the film Gollum becomes two persons arguing with himself: the old Gollum telling him that he is worthless and unlovable, and the new Gollum who refutes those arguments and refuses to believe them.
It is a struggle, but Gollum finally says, “Go away! We don’t need you!” “What?” asks the old Gollum in disbelief. “Leave, and don’t come back!” the new Gollum says firmly. Suddenly the old Gollum is gone. He is free of his bondage. Gollum begins to jump and dance. “Gone! Gone! We told him to go...
HOLINESS AND RED BUTTONS
In studying holiness as a prayer key, I got bogged down with trying to understand it. I had an even harder time trying to explain it. I felt like the Red Buttons character in the movie, "Hatari."
In that movie, John Wayne led a team of hunters in Africa capturing wild animals for zoos. Red Buttons was a member of his team, but he was scared of wild animals. He would drive a truck through a herd of charging rhinos, as long as he was inside the truck and the rhinos were outside the truck. He would hold a rope with a wildebeast on the other end, as long as he was outside the pen and the wildebeast was inside the pen. He would design a rocket to carry a net over a tree filled with hundreds of monkeys, as long as he stayed outside the net and someone else went inside the net to grab the monkeys.
At one point, John Wayne needed help, but Red Buttons was on the far side of the pens. He was afraid of wild animals, but he was more afraid of John Wayne. He climbed the fence, then walked carefully along the top rail separating two pens. Beasts watched him from both sides.
Trying to explain holiness makes me feel like Red Buttons trying to walk that rail, with beasts on either side.
Trying to describe a holy life can degenerate into a pharisaical list of do's and don'ts like those criticized earlier. It can sound like a belief in our own sinless perfection, our own divine virtue. God would not command us to be holy if it was not possible. Explaining holiness can fall one way and be devoured by a beast named "Legalism."
I have read that after John 3:16 and John 11:35, the verse which the most Christians can quote is 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us o...