Summary: How can I tell if money has become my "god?" What is the tell-tale sign of this kind of idolatry, and what can this idolatry do to me that Jesus is warning me against?
(Comments before the scripture reading and prayer): This sermon series has been entitled “The Guardrails of Life” with the intention of exploring the guardrails God has set up for our lives to keep us from going off the road in our faith and crashing our lives and relationships. Today’s sermon addresses one of the most prominent of God’s guardrails.
OPEN: In 1980, a man named Kevin Hillier of Australia lived in a trailer park. But he had just gotten a new metal detector and wanted to go out and try it out.
How many of you own metal detectors? (A few raised their hands).
Well, as Mr. Hillier swept the ground looking for signs of hidden metal, he found something he never expected to find in his backyard. In fact the readings on his metal detector were so unusual that he almost didn't pick up his shovel to investigate. But he did.
He dug down a mere foot underground and pulled out a 61-pound… let me repeat a 61 pound … a 61 POUND nugget of pure gold.
Did I say that he’d been living in a trailer park? Not anymore. Sometime after he and his family discovered the golden rock, they sold it to a casino in Las Vegas, NV called (appropriately) the “Golden Nugget” for a little over a million dollars
Now, this nugget was huge. But it’s not been the biggest one ever found.
There have been larger gold nuggets dug out of the ground in the past, they've all been melted down for the gold that was in them. For example…
• There was the nugget they called the MATRIX which contained about 187 lbs. of gold
• The WELCOME STRANGER weighing in at about 148 lbs.
• The 'GOLDEN EAGLE that was 71 lbs.
If you’ll notice… each of these nuggets was given a special name. And the nugget purchased by the Golden Nugget Casino was also given a unique name.
(Showed a close up of the nugget on the screen)
If you look at it just right, you can see it looks about like a hand. It looks like a hand with the index and middle finger raised, while the ring and little fingers are tucked down into the palm. And so this famous rock was named (by someone) the “Hand of Faith.”
When I first read the article about this particular piece of rock, I was struck by the irony of the name. You don’t often think about gold and faith in the same sentence. And yet, that would seem to be a logical concept for a gambling house.
For the owners of the Golden Nugget - and their patrons - gold represents their faith.
Gold is the coin of the realm there.
Gold is what they gamble for.
Gold is the measure of their success.
Thus, the nugget known as the “Hand of Faith” is literally an idol to their GOD.
But you don’t have to go to Atlantic City or Las Vegas to bow down to that idol - and that is what Jesus is warning us about in our text today.
In Matthew 6:24 Jesus says “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
As I was working on this sermon a logical question came to mind: why would we WANT to serve both masters? Why would anyone want to have a god made of gold???
Then it occurred to me that one of the first gods of Israel was made of gold.
Shortly after Israel had just left the slavery of Egypt, they were camped out at the base of Mt. Sinai. Exodus 19:16 tells us before Moses went up to get 10 commandments, God came down.
“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled.”
And for the next few minutes God declared to everyone the commandments He expected them to keep. These weren't suggestions. These were laws God was giving to the people He had claimed as His own.
And the very first commandment was “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…” Exodus 20:3-5
So God spoke His commandments to His people and then had Moses go up on Mt. Sinai to receive His Law.
Moses is gone for about 40 days. That’s a little over a month. And eventually the people begin to get a little uncomfortable with the situation. They go to Aaron and say "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him." Exodus 32:1b