“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them.”
“And He was saying, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear'.”
Non-Catholic Non-Protestant Non-Ecumenical
Page Five revised on 1-22-16
The commandments of Jesus concerning God and Mammon
Next in Mark, after revealing the truth that possessing the receptive and submissive nature of humble children is indispensable for obedience to Himself, Jesus proceeded to deal with what is, in reality, the greatest of all of His teachings concerning sin. It is the subject of money and possessions, specifically, of all material goods and humanity’s adherence to these. In the New Covenant Scripture, it is given the name of a deity that victoriously vies with the Gospel of Jesus for the souls of men. Its name is Mammon. In revealing the utter gravity of this subject that is prominently dealt with by all the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus made crystal clear early in Matthew that the loyalty of all men was to either God or Mammon. Everyone, without exception, comes down on one side or the other. Jesus declared that it is impossible to stand in the middle, that is, that there is no middle ground to stand on. He said that no one can serve both God and Mammon. By serving, He meant that one cannot give allegiance or deference to both God and possessions. He said that “you will either love the one and hate the other or you will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon.”
That this subject is the greatest topic of iniquity that He taught on is abundantly clear in the New Covenant Scriptures. This fact is underscored in several ways. Its many occurrences with the length and detail of doctrine committed to it make it the subject most taught about by Jesus – more than heaven and hell, more than God and Satan, and more than any other subject! This fact is remarkable! In fact, this web site could be voluminously filled with the topic – so much so that all other subjects dealt with on its pages could be considered as briefly handled. The subject is so vast that there are literally many ways of approach and consideration. And just as this is the case, indeed, the doctrinal unity of the Scripture about Mammon is so strong that all ways to approach and all ways of consideration lead to the same inescapable conclusion: "It is -- absolutely -- with the greatest difficulty that they who have an abundance of possessions enter the kingdom of God." It is nearly impossible! It is almost impractical! "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for one who has an abundance of money and/or things to enter the kingdom of God." These statements are, indeed, staggering! They should work the greatest fear in all who hear them. They do just that in all who comprehend them! They immediately say far more about one's relationship to possessions than is taught by the churches.
For the sake of clarity about the will of God and Mammon, the Scriptural terms must be made clear from the outset. The doctrine of Jesus concerning Mammon, that is, money and/or acquirements and/or possessions is vastly different than that put forth by the churches. Here in Mark and in the parallels of Matthew and Luke, these words are used: "possessions", meaning acquirements; "riches", meaning monies or useful or needful things -- with the emphasis on the plurality of things; "one who is rich", which means one who has an abundance, one who has more than enough. These are concrete terms, not abstract ones. They are words that define material reality and not the figurative condition of things. These words mean simply and precisely what they say -- no more and no less! They have nothing at all to do with only one's attitude towards money and possessions and have everything to do with one's actual handling of material possession of money and things. At this very point the Catholic and Protestant churches universally depart from Jesus. They depart from His teaching in a catastrophic way. Just here, as exactly with their doctrines of divorce and remarriage, they have invented and perpetuate another jesus as head of another gospel. This teaching is not that of the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles. The result is that it, like their doctrine that perpetuates adultery, guarantees the eternal doom of all who hold to and practice it.
As previously stated, the subject of this page is vast and I will continue to use Mark, the great emphasizing summarizer, as the starting place. The teachings of Jesus as taken up by Matthew and Luke will also be put forth. Also, as stated earlier, many, many things can be declared from God’s Word about the doctrine of God and Mammon. However, on this fundamental page I will handle some salient declarations of the Holy Spirit found in different places throughout the New Covenant Scriptures. Later, because the subject is, indeed, so vast and far reaching, it will be taken up on the alphabetized pages as related to and bearing upon different subjects.
Before continuing, as an illustration of the extreme reach of the power of money over the existence of humanity, consider this generalization -- every human being that has ever lived (even those who were conceived but never born) has been, in one degree or another, the subject or object in the transactions of monies or things of value. Money is spent in many different ways in preparation for children not yet born. It is acquired and spent for and by these same people throughout their entire lives in innumerable ways and for innumerable endeavors. Finally, it is spent after they die in the disposal of their bodies and in the maintenance of their remains. Furthermore, money is the great do all. It can make a hard life easy and a sad life happy. It can get the voice heard and its holder recognized. It can build houses, communities, even domains. The possession and use of it can remove obstacles and accomplish goals. Conversely, in these same areas of its powers of accomplishment, the very lack or loss of it causes these things not to be realized. Because of its abilities and allurements, it promises security for the present and future. It is here that it contends with God for the security or bodily salvation of humanity. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness to turn his allegiance from God to himself, he promised this same security in the form of material possessions and power. Lastly, before I continue, consider this extremely deceitful long reach of Mammon. There are sweet old ladies who have been faithful members of the churches for nearly their entire lives, who are not married to other people's spouses but have remained married to their original spouses, who have benign and kindly thoughts and don't ever utter or give place to words of abuse. These same ones are often in the lethal clutches of the idolatry of Mammon. Jesus dealt with all of the deadly forms of the worship of Mammon -- the outright and the subtle. We must hear Jesus!
After dealing with the subjects of divorce-remarriage and true humility, by God's providence, Jesus immediately proclaimed God's will concerning Mammon, which, like the two issues before it, is paramount to Christianity! The episode in which this doctrine is proclaimed has come to be known as "Jesus and the rich young ruler". This latter term is taken from two of the Synoptics in which the man is called young by Matthew and a ruler by Luke. While the declarations of Jesus take their established position in this episode with this man, the truths here revealed must no more be restricted to his particular situation than the truths previously established about divorce and remarriage should be restricted to the Herodian household. Likewise, it would be false to conclude that His specific teaching regarding greed, repentance and salvation must only be restricted to people who abuse governmental authority because Jesus used the episode of Zaccheus the tax gatherer to declare God's will about greed and repentance to humanity. The episodes in which Jesus declares His doctrines are often simply the vehicles used to reveal His truths, as they are here. As authoritatively proclaimed throughout the Scriptures, the will of God about paramount truth is also established elsewhere. Mark states that Jesus was setting out on a journey just after making His declaration that only those who receive the kingdom like a child shall be able to enter it. At that point, a man ran up to Him, paid homage to Him, and asked this extremely important question. "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus' answer was that he keep the person-oriented commandments of the very heart of God’s Law, that is, that he observe the commandments that regulate conduct among people. These commandments were part of the famous 10 commandments of the Mosaic Law. Two things are at once made known. First, of the six commandments that Jesus declared, four have to do with the proper disposition of one's money and possessions. "Do not murder", includes despising the physical needs of your fellow man and not meeting those needs, as is revealed elsewhere in the Scripture. "Do not steal" is obvious. But it also covers inactive theft, stealing that keeps back that substance which belongs to another because of his needs. "Honor your father and mother" not only applies to the correct attitude and proper words spoken regarding one's parents, but also applies in the primary way to the monetary care of one's parents. This fact, which was part of the fabric of the ancient world, was well established in ancient Israel. The Jewish Korban Law previously spoken about was invented in order to circumvent this duty that was specifically upheld by this commandment. Secondly, Jesus enlarged upon the Mosaic Law with the commandment not found in Matthew or Luke when He said, "Do not defraud." This command both underscores and highlights all of these among which it stands. It means, do not cheat a person out of that which is due to him, and do not deprive someone of what he needs by holding it back from him! Like the many before and after him, the man was completely blind to his own failure regarding these laws of love. This was revealed in his response to Jesus. He said, "Teacher, I have kept all these commandments from the time I was a child." To this statement Jesus responded, "One thing you lack." This statement which seems enigmatic is, in reality, not so at all. What it means is this -- nothing more and nothing less -- "You are deficient in the one thing that matters." "You have failed in the one bedrock issue of love from which all of these commandments spring." Jesus gave the remedy to the man. "Go and sell whatever you possess and give the money that you make to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and come follow Me." Another way to say this is, "Go and sell all of your acquirements and possessions and distribute the proceeds to the needy and you shall have the life that you seek. Then abide in that life by following Me -- for these are the things of love and life that I do." Upon hearing the answer to his question the man departed from Jesus in a state of sadness and grief because he had "many possessions". The pleasures, the acquirements, and the security that his possessions granted him, and to which he devotedly held fast, were too much to give up for the ways of Jesus. Because of these pleasures and this security, he would not shift his allegiance from Mammon to God, or more precisely, from possessions to Jesus. Had this man been correspondingly rich in love, that is, had he used his possessions to be rich in good works to the needy, he would not have received this devastating word of rebuke from Jesus. There is no actual discrepancy among Luke, Matthew and Mark in their accounts of the status of this man and his reaction to Jesus. Whereas Luke states that the man had "much abundance", both Matthew and Mark state he had "many acquirements". Matthew and Mark declare that his reaction to Jesus was gloom and sadness, but Luke declares that he was much grieved, that is, he was intensely grieved. The purpose of Luke in declaring that the man had much abundance, which various translations translate as "very rich", was to juxtapose his reaction of grief to his possessions. Luke is signifying that the degree of his grief corresponded to the amount of the possessions that he realized he would have to relinquish in order to follow Jesus. Luke hereby highlights the grip that the things of Mammon had on him. The amount to give up was great and the corresponding degree of grief was very high. The synoptic Gospels state his case this way: he had many possessions, many acquirements; he had much abundance of things, more than enough than was truly useful, more than enough for his needs - and he did not use this abundance in love to relieve the needs of the needy. This is the teaching of Jesus!
Corresponding to this, Jesus' fundamental and categorical proclamation is that it is the abject poor who are the Blessed and to whom the Kingdom of God belongs. This message underscores that it is this class of people who are constant objects of God's care and attention - with that care and attention being administered to by His people. Contrarily, the churches' interpretation has mainly been that it is not the materially poor that Jesus is speaking about but it is the spiritually poor that He refers to and that Matthew proves this. This is the key departure point from Jesus. Furthermore, it is maintained that Matthew must always interpret Luke about this important subject because his handling is both larger and "higher" than Luke’s. As part of hearing Jesus according to the Scriptures, it is highly needful to expose the doctrine of the churches in this matter. Like other lethal and man-made doctrines which circumvent God's Word, this one had an early start. It was propagated by influential leaders of the Catholic Church in the latter second century. Circumvention becomes particularly deadly when it is cloaked by being spiritualized.
As stated previously, each Gospel writer maintains his own purpose in proclaiming the message of eternal life. Matthew was written primarily for Jewish readers. Because of this, Matthew used some rabbinical techniques in the overall design of his Gospel. This fact is seldom given appropriate attention by "teachers", "preachers", and "scholars". In fact, Matthew's presentation of the Gospel is so remarkable in this regard that he can be compared in his own right to Paul. These facts indicate that, like Paul, earlier in his life Matthew may have prepared to lead the life of a devout Pharisee. Nevertheless, Matthew understood and had a keen insight into rabbinical methods and used some of those in a sweeping way in his writing of the Gospel of Jesus.
Matthew begins the message of Jesus concerning the proclamation of the Kingdom of God as the unspoken fulfillment of old covenant prophecies which prophesied that Jahveh (God’s covenant Name in His relation to ancient Israel) would come to His people upon His mountains in Israel. Such was the starting place of the message of Jesus. By God's design, this event occurred on an unnamed mountain. This monumental proclamation has come to be known in the churches as the Sermon on the Mount. According to Matthew's design, not only did the paramount words of eternal life begin on the mountains of Jahveh, but they also fundamentally ended there. This is no insignificant thing! This fact incorporates on a large scale an ancient rabbinical technique called bracketing, wherein the proclamations made at the beginning of the "bracket" and those made at the end of the "bracket" are absolutely important -- they are indispensable! Additionally, everything stated between these brackets is seen as a consistent whole, with everything deriving due importance accordingly. Now, these first words of Jesus upon this mountain were not the first words that He spoke about repentance, discipleship, or life. Earlier than this event He had spoken to those who would become His inner circle of disciples about matters related to these things. But what Matthew drives home, what he emphasizes is that according to the prophets, the first words of Jesus to the masses, the first words of Jesus to the people of Israel were proclaimed upon the mountain of Jahveh, the foretold place of His provision and healing.
These first words on the mountain enlarge upon words spoken previously by Jesus when He said to some of His earliest disciples, "Follow Me and you will catch men." As His apostles, it would especially be with these words that they would forever catch men. These are the words of repentance and faith. This is the message of love of the Kingdom of God. These are the first words of the Kingdom of God! Not only are they so according to Matthew's individual structure, but they are also first in priority because the Gospel of Matthew was both written first among the Gospels and received first in the assemblies of God. The most ancient testimony indicates that the first canon of New Covenant Gospel Scripture that circulated among the apostolic assemblies was known as "The Lord" and was solely comprised of the same four Gospels that are contained in our modern canon and that Matthew always held first place. Accordingly, the Scriptures themselves emphasize that the first words of Jesus to the masses about the message of life are absolutely important!
However, these very words were robbed of their power by the ancient Catholic Church. In doing so, they not only deprived these particular words of God, but they helped fix the course for the way that much of the Word of God would largely be interpreted, from their day until ours. It must be remembered that this false teaching does not belong to the Catholic Church alone, but is also held fast by the great majority of Protestantism. During the latter part of the second century, the Catholic leaders of Alexandria, Egypt solidified and confirmed the doctrine that these first words of Jesus -- and all Scripture related to them -- were not to be taken in their literal sense, but must be understood as "spiritual" or figurative. The school of thought that was epitomized in Alexandria, Egypt was headed up by the extremely influential church fathers, Clement and his disciple Origen. This school was the first thoroughgoing intellectual school in Catholicism. It profoundly affected the way that the Scriptures were interpreted. It monumentally contributed to the new way that the Scriptures would henceforth be interpreted. This new way of thought, this new way to interpret the Scriptures was nothing less than the old philosophy of Stoicism fused with Christianity. The result was something new. It resulted in a neo-Christianity, more accurately described as Christianized Stoicism. This was not the first appearance of Christianized Stoicism, though. Approximately one generation before Clement, an influential teacher called Justin Martyr interpreted Christianity as the fulfillment of the noblest teachings of philosophy, including Stoicism. Justin, who preferred to be known by the title Justin the Philosopher, taught that Christianity was the one true philosophy. But it was with Clement and Origen that the deepest and most influential changes were made. These two teachers were very highly influenced by the prominent Jewish teacher Philo, who was also from Alexandria. Philo taught that the entire Mosaic Law was the epitome and embodiment of philosophy, being the only true and real philosophy. He taught that Plato borrowed his main ideas from Moses, whom he said received the true philosophy directly from God. He believed that Plato did grasp the higher meaning of Moses although he understood that meaning in the Greek mind-set. Accordingly, Philo was greatly influenced by and used Plato. He was singularly influenced by the same thought processes that were found in the prominent philosophers of Stoicism, such as Seneca. Philo believed that those thought processes faithfully revealed the deeper meaning of higher truth. This truth that was allegedly given in its purest form to Moses was also supposedly disseminated in other forms throughout the philosophical schools of men because of the all-inclusive goodness of God. The same kernel of thought – this essential thread of philosophy – in all reality ran in a line through Plato and Seneca and Philo to Clement and Origen. So, instead of comprising Christian assemblies which derived their teaching from Jesus their head, Catholicism strongly became a Christianized Stoicism, which derived its essential and ultimate teachings from Plato and especially Seneca. Jesus became a different Jesus, the divine being who proclaimed this true philosophy -- the truth that would set free the souls of mankind. Now, the fundamental doctrine of Stoicism, upon which the entire philosophy stood, was the doctrine of detachment. He who was detached from the influence of all things, that is, the sway or power of all things was the happy and true philosopher. Such a person could be the master of all things. He could have and keep many things and be unaffected by them or have nothing and be unaffected by that state, for he was truly detached or separated from the mastery that things held over the happiness of men. His happiness came from his knowledge that reality transcended all temporal things. This very doctrine was applied to the poverty that Jesus pointed towards. It pointed away from His emphasis on the truly physically poor to the new "spiritual" poor - those who maintained this liberating attitude. The Catholic teachers who taught the new Christianized Stoicism maintained that since one truly understood the lowly and transient nature of possessions, one could have them as his own. More precisely, one could have possessions because, supposedly, his heart was not in them -- he was not mastered by having them or not having them. He did not put his trust in them, but rather, his trust was in God. This church teaching diverted the teaching of Jesus away from His message of love that the possessions of men were to be in service of the needs of one's fellow man epitomized in the poor. This very diverted teaching is at home in the churches today. It is often put in terms like this: God does not care if you maintain your possessions as your own. He does not care if you are wealthy or not. What matters to Him is that you are not given to wealth, that is, what matters is that you do not pursue a love of wealth. The same Alexandrian church leaders that gave rise to this teaching also taught that Jesus supplied the higher meanings of His words by his Spirit to all of His "spiritual followers", His truly enlightened disciples. They taught that all professing disciples who did not apprehend the deeper, hidden meaning contained in His words were simply "natural, fleshly disciples". While the churches today may not hold to this last part of their teaching by using the Alexandrians’ exact terms, they absolutely hold the essential doctrine of Stoicism that they taught, that is, that what truly matters is that a person not be overcome by the things that he possesses - that he remained detached from them while he holds on to them. It does not really matter whether one keeps possessions or not. At this point their real concern is that a person not be overcome according to the doctrine of Seneca, not according to that of Jesus. Although some churches of today may not necessarily connect themselves with the Alexandrian church fathers, the position that they have taken is precisely that of those fathers. This outcome has been guaranteed by human nature itself and really does not need any formal church articulation. The formal church articulation simply focused and fixed the Stoic outlook. (It should be noted here that the doctrine of detachment is really a self-contradictory teaching. For how can one really be detached from what he holds on to? He cannot!)
Now, having established their doctrine that one may have and keep possessions as long as he is not "under their influence", the churches went on to define the kind of poverty that Jesus required when He said, "Blessed are the poor, for the kingdom of God belongs to them." The kind of poverty that He spoke of, they say, is a reflection of the nature that people should possess which enables them to maintain their possessions intact. They teach that the poverty is a "spiritual poverty". It is a true humility of the soul. It is not thinking more highly of oneself than one ought to think, but it is regarding oneself as not righteous according to one's own works but, in all lowliness, relying only upon the righteousness of God for one's own righteousness. They declare that Matthew himself states this when he says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." According to the churches, it is a poverty of man's spirit or attitude that Jesus is concerned with. This teaching is a colossal failure. It completely misses the mark twice. Both of these points of failure are interrelated. The first one has to do with the words of Jesus that Matthew related. The second point of failure has to do with the fact that the churches have not comprehended Matthew’s audience.
First of all, the translation given above is, indeed, the overwhelmingly supplied translation by the many versions of the Bible that are available. In fact, of the many translations that I know about, only one properly translates these words. In Matthew, the first half of the statement of Jesus consists of five words only. They are, "Blessed the poor the spirit". Bible translators have consistently supplied two words to these five. They are the words "are" and "in". They have also consistently removed one word of these five. They consistently remove the last "the". The result is that instead of Matthew declaring, "Blessed the poor the spirit", the translators constantly portray him as saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit". These renditions occur because at this powerful word of Jesus Christ men immediately stand at the crossroads of the great dilemma. Straightaway, Jesus gave the great remedy for one of the principal perils of men. At this very first juncture men will either hear Jesus and serve God or disbelieve and serve Mammon. The way men react to these first powerful words of Jesus to the first crowd of people that gathered to hear Him is in fact the way that they will orient themselves for the rest of their lives. If men spiritualize this poverty as applying to themselves, as in fact the masses within the churches have done, they will forever spiritualize other crucial demands of God's will so as to delude themselves and ensure for themselves a misguided conscience that wrongly assures them that they will live with God in His kingdom. Conversely, if they hear Jesus, they will begin the journey of life upon the proper ground, following Him in His way in the victory over the love of self and Mammon. Returning to Matthew, there are legitimate times when men should supply words in Scripture which are implied by the Greek language. The syntax of the mother tongue legitimates these occurrences. In fact, one such construction appears in this very place in Matthew. I will return to that occurrence after the second point of concern mentioned above is covered -- Matthew's audience. Just as the churches misunderstand Matthew's Jewish application about divorce and remarriage to their peril, they do the very same thing concerning poverty. Just as Matthew's words about divorce and remarriage applied only to the situation that was found in ancient Israel, so also the very structure of his rendition of the words of Jesus about poverty applied specifically and uniquely to ancient Israel. There was and is a divine reason why Luke said, "Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" and Matthew said, "Blessed the poor the spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Here we are not concerned with the ancient Jewish reverential deference concerning speaking the Divine Name and, therefore, substituting the word “kingdom” for “God”, as was done by Matthew.) The revelation of the coming of the Kingdom of God was, in the main, something altogether new among the Gentile nations of the earth. This was not so among Israel. The revelation of the coming of the Kingdom of God among Israel was the fulfillment of The Law and The Prophets of Israel. It was the fulfillment of the whole old covenant Scriptures. It was the fulfillment of everything that had gone before in the history of Israel. As such, ancient Israel had developed certain expectations regarding the nature of this fulfillment. They believed that when the Messiah came he would come in the spirit of the warrior King David and that he would vanquish the oppressive foes of Israel, in this case, the Roman Empire, and that he would set up the throne of David in Jerusalem and would forever reign from there in his literal kingdom of righteousness and prosperity over the whole world. Even the followers of Jesus had a hard time fully developing a messianic expectation without notions from this one. After his profound ministry of declaring to Israel that Jesus was the Messiah of God, at one point even John the Baptist himself also doubted that Jesus was the Messiah because He was teaching and doing things altogether differently from the things expected of the militant Messiah. Ancient Israel expected physical military dominion over the earth through the Chosen One. Through this Messiah they also expected the fulfillment of all physical blessing and prosperity for Israel. Indeed, Jesus fulfilled all blessing and prosperity, yet He did so in a way completely different from the way that they expected. They expected the fulfillment of the Scriptures as they understood them and in the natural realm of life. Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures according to God in the spiritual realm. It must be said here that the spiritual realm in which Jesus fulfilled all things is altogether different from the spiritualizing of things according to the teaching of men. The spiritualizing of God's will is holding His word in a hyper view. It is going beyond God's will. It is going beyond God's will in the deceptive cloak of keeping His will. This cloak falsely mimics the will of God through the substitution of the hyper-spiritual teachings of men for the spiritual Commandments of God. This is not something that is new. It was done throughout the history of Israel. Israel went beyond and substituted their own man-made laws for the laws of God, all the while maintaining that their teaching was the interpretation of the word of God. Whereas ancient Israel substituted their teachings for those of Moses, the churches have done the very same thing with the Commandments of Jesus, substituting theirs for His. The spiritualizing of the Word of God believes things in contradistinction to the spiritual fulfillment of the Word of God. It is deadly precisely because in spiritualizing the will of God it destroys His very will. It must also be said that while the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God is not a mundane, natural, or crass fulfillment, it is the very real, literal and physical fulfillment of the spiritual things of God. It is nothing more and nothing less! For example, the spiritual (real) fulfillment of the second commandment of God in Christ, that is, love towards men in Jesus’ Name is only realized in the complete operation of the love of God to men manifested in meeting the real needs of man's spiritual soul and physical body. All who are spiritual walk in this love.
Having said these things, it is imperative to establish that in fulfilling the entire old covenant Scriptures Jesus fulfilled all of the righteous requirements of God. In fulfilling all of the righteousness of God Jesus transcended the mundane and natural expectations of men. But beyond transcending these inaccurate expectations of men, Jesus filled to the fullness the eternal purpose of God. God's purpose necessitated that all that was shadowy under Moses would be fulfilled in the substance of Christ. It demanded that all that was weak and immature under the old covenant would be fulfilled in the strength and maturity of Christ. It required that all signs, pointers, and indicators of righteousness from the old covenant Law of Moses would be forever fulfilled and made new in the essence of the spiritual nature of the glory of Christ. This meant a complete change from the things of righteousness under the Mosaic Law to the things of righteousness of the Law of Christ. This is the pivotal issue revealed in Matthew's rendition of the words of Jesus about the poor. Early in the Gospels, Jesus declared that the coming and function of the Kingdom of God in Himself was completely new. The nature and ways of the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ are completely and absolutely different from the nature and ways of God's rule under Moses. Jesus took great pains to teach men the truth about these things. He used this illustration to make the contrast. He said that you cannot put new wine into old wineskins. In the ancient Mediterranean world, wine, the staple drink, was often processed and stored in skins of goats or sheep. These skins were known as wineskins. The process involved the following: a winemaker would put freshly pressed grape juice and additives into a wineskin that had never been used. The final opening would be sewn closed. During the process of fermentation, the wineskins would stretch. After fermentation, the skin would continue to be used as a container for the wine. After all the wine was consumed, the skin was used to store already processed wine, or it was used for a completely different purpose, or it was discarded. If someone tried to use a previously used wineskin to process a new batch of wine, the skin would fail or burst because of its loss of elasticity due to its prior use for fermentation. At that point, the skin would become no good for use as a wine container and, of course, the wine within it would be lost. Jesus used these facts to declare that the nature of the Kingdom of God in Himself could not be contained within the ways of the Law of Moses. The way of His Kingdom is altogether different from the nature of things under Moses. His law is vastly superior to that of Moses. These facts were not merely relevant. They were absolute! He declared that His ways could no more be realized through the forms and administration of the Law of Moses than new wine could be processed with the use of old wineskins. Just as the wine would be lost through such a process, His teachings would be lost by clothing them with the Law of Moses. The Spirit of God was and is declaring that in Jesus Christ something entirely new was manifested. All the old was both superseded and transcended by the new. God's great fulfillment had arrived! This meant several things. It meant that not only was the inferior superseded by the superior, but also the dim was transcended by the clear. This fulfillment was also a great reversal of what had gone before. One of the many colossal failures of the churches is that the facts just stated are not understood by them. Instead of understanding that the ways and teachings of Jesus are truly above those of Moses, they rather see them as a grand enlargement of Moses. They errantly teach that the law of Jesus is an extenuation and completion of the Law of Moses. Some factions of the churches see the standing of Jesus to Moses in such an intrinsic way that they proclaim that the new covenant in Christ should really be viewed as a newer covenant in Christ, that is, a renewal and vindication under Jesus of the older covenant under Moses. Others teach that there is a third use of the Mosaic Law -- the use in which many of the very Commandments of Moses are submitted to in order to make the followers of Jesus righteous and holy. Nothing could be further from the truth! These groups have totally failed to comprehend the truth declared by Jesus and His apostle Paul that the new way of life in the Son of God has set all of His followers free from the old, inadequate way -- now proclaimed by them as bondage leading to death -- under the Law of Moses.
This very same shortsighted and confused understanding regarding the new and superior things of Jesus over Moses is that which many first century Jews had about the Messiah in contradistinction to Moses. Under Moses when a man was righteous, he was materially blessed by God. According to the Mosaic Law, he would lend money and not borrow it. Also, all of his fields and vineyards would produce abundantly and his wife and his son's wives would never miscarry, nor would even his livestock. Neither he nor his animals would experience disease and his crops would never experience blight or pestilence. In all material things, he would be the head and not the tail. In all physical things, he would be blessed and rich and not oppressed and poor. This was the unfailing and perpetual mindset regarding the righteous under the law of Moses in Israel. With Jesus all this changed. With Him the poor, rather than the rich, would be the righteous subjects and objects of the Kingdom of God. With Jesus the blessings did not rest substantially upon the righteous, but rather substantially moved through them to the needy who were themselves made righteous by their faith in Jesus. This fully orbed movement of His love through them constituted the righteous as truly being righteous while the objects of this love, the poor, were no longer marginalized but were also now righteous and blessed! Jesus was manifested as the righteousness of God and was revealed as God's pattern of righteousness for and in all of His people. His righteousness was their righteousness. His love and ways became their love and ways. From henceforth all the righteous would follow Him and live and walk just like He did in this world. This was the essence of the new covenant in Jesus Christ. He took away the old and failing weak things of the flesh and replaced them with the new and powerful things of His Holy Spirit. Until Jesus, under Moses, the sign that a man was righteous was indicated in the material blessing that filled his life. At the coming of the complete rule of the fullness of God, that is, at the coming of the Kingdom of God in Jesus, the reality that a man was righteous was revealed in the material blessings that fundamentally passed through his life to the needy who were, indeed, themselves righteous sons and daughters of God's kingdom. This was exactly because all of the followers of Jesus - both those having possessions and those who did not - were now in Him by God's Spirit and were expected to imitate Him according to their faith and ability. The love of God now is God's complete self-emptying love. It is the love that sacrifices itself for the needs of others. This is both its absolute means and end! This love is the love that God is. This love is the love that Jesus is. And this love is the love that all who love Jesus manifestly walk in. The Jews that Matthew wrote to had a very hard time comprehending this love -- they had a very hard time comprehending this new covenant righteousness as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. It was absolutely deeper and extended far beyond their knowledge and experience under the realm of the Mosaic Law. Jesus, therefore, reversed all that went before. He reversed their very expectations of righteousness and blessedness. Now, in Jesus, a person was constituted righteous precisely because instead of keeping the majority of the things that he possessed for himself, he gave away according to the abundance of the things that he possessed to those who were in need of them. This was the fulfillment of love and it was wrought by the purpose and power of the Holy Spirit. The poor believers in Christ were chosen as such in God's Spirit! This is exactly Mathew’s meaning. He said, "Blessed are the poor in the Holy Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Remember, his five exact words are, "Blessed the poor the spirit". The absolute intention and structure of the meaning of the words of the Lord Jesus allow that only two or three words be supplied to these five for the proper syntax of this declaration. They also require that no word be removed from this declaration, as the churches have done. The words "are" and "in" and perhaps "Holy" are they that simply verify and facilitate the meaning -- "Blessed are the poor in the Spirit (or the last two words can be accurately translated "the Holy Spirit" since the Spirit is the Holy Spirit) for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Alternately, the words "because of" can accurately be substituted for the word in, rendering the translation, "Blessed are the poor because of the Spirit". Any of these renditions properly translate Matthew's five words, "Blessed the poor the Spirit". Now this translation, which faithfully renders the words of Jesus through Matthew, is a universe away from the translation upheld by the tradition of the Catholic and Protestant churches.
These words of Jesus are the first impulse, definition, and thrust of Christianity. They are all powerful and all-inclusive. They immediately demand that everyone who would be blessed, everyone that names the name of Christ, sacrifice from his possessions in the sacrificial love of God. Here there is no ambiguity. Here there is no dilution. Everything else that follows in the immediate words of Christ, the so-called Beatitudes, underscores this very thing.
Before turning to those remaining words, the word “poor” that is used to describe the fundamental character of certain believers of Jesus' times must be made fully known. There were different words used in the first century to describe poor people. There was the word used by Jesus to describe a significant group of His followers and there was the more intensive word used to describe the status of people who made up the last segment of the society, the indigent poor. The indigent poor typically were day laborers or ignoble job occupiers and their families who did not own houses or land and were also sometimes homeless. For all practical purposes they were subsistence livers. They had some things in common with the poor that characterized some Christians. First, they stood very close to them in the culture. While the indigent poor constituted the last rung of the society and were destitute, the poor of Jesus’ description were only one cut above them, barely having little in the way of honor and goods. Also, the two groups shared the aspect of begging in common. Generally, in the first century begging did not have the thoroughgoing shame that attaches to it in modern culture. It was actually an expected and accepted part of the fabric of ancient society. Sometimes it was simply a matter of personal pride that hindered a needy person from begging. By the time of the first century, the patron-client system was entrenched all over the Greco-Roman world. Begging was part of the warp-and-woof of that system. Begging was simply a needy person regularly asking someone who had means for something of need. In that society, generally the Patron was the person of means, the person with acquirements, and he had a regular clientele of people who depended on him in one way or another each day for at least a part of their daily needs. His patronage usually took the form of money or food doled out at the beginning of each day to each individual under him. What he got out of the transaction was societal support for his pursuits and interests. This particular kind of support was huge in the ancient world. It guaranteed that his voice get heard and his interests get realized. This nature of reliant asking is the very thing that characterizes the poor according to Jesus. He taught that His poor followers should turn to their Heavenly Father and brethren in order for their needs to be met. He taught the asking of God and others for the fulfillment of daily needs at the fundamental level and perpetually. This is exactly what is required and revealed in the title “the Poor” that Jesus used to describe certain of His followers – nothing more and nothing less! It has nothing to do with laziness – a modern connotation of poverty -- and everything to do with a person's relationship to God and to others. Jesus declared that His followers would walk in His love with this outcome – they who possessed goods would give of their own substance, their own money and acquirements so that other people who needed them could have them. They would put themselves in the place of the poor. They would love their neighbors as themselves. This is loving God. This is serving God and not Mammon!
Now, as indicated previously, everything that Jesus said after His declaration about poverty both defined and emphasized the nature of the love that He demanded of His followers. He said further, “Blessed are the ones who grieve, for they will be comforted.” The grieving ones are they who hurt and are saddened for the needy because of their real and besetting needs. In all reality, they feel their pain. “Blessed are the humble, for they will inherit the land.” The humble here are they who act because of the sadness that they have for the needy. Instead of the word indicating (according to the false teaching of Christianized-Stoicism) those who possess a lowly attitude of life, the word humble is a paramount characteristic of Christianity which describes one who does not think of himself as occupying the first place and, therefore, does not think of oneself more highly than he ought to think but rather thinks of others according to their needs first and acts upon that disposition in the real relief of the needy! "Blessed are the ones hungering and thirsting because of righteousness, for they shall be satisfied with food." This declaration, like the one previously about poverty, has undergone major alteration by the churches. Typically, the churches receive and give out the following translation, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." They teach that this saying means that all those who yearn for (or are hungry for) the things of God are blessed now and shall be satisfied with those things later. This is another one of their consistently hyper interpretations of these words of Jesus. This interpretation completely fails regarding Jesus’ demands concerning the one dominant issue of love proclaimed here upon the mountain. Rather than these words teaching that the blessed person is one who desires the righteousness of God, Matthew declares that the blessed person is one who sacrifices his very substance -- his food and his drink -- for his co-needy poor brethren because of the righteousness of God! This reveals that all, including the poor, are those through whom the love of God flows. The poor not only receive blessings from others, but sacrifice of themselves, and that significantly, to relieve the needs of others. What love! These words also apply to those who have possessions - it this case, foodstuffs - and in any given situation empty themselves of it for the needs of others. This was more easily done in the ancient world wherein people did not have access to food and money conveniences like we do today. This is a very large difference from the churches’ interpretation, indeed! This fact about the blessed is another attribute of the blessed, righteous poor who Jesus previously spoke about. The actual words spoken by Jesus are given by Matthew accordingly: "Blessed the ones hungering and thirsting the righteousness, for they will be satisfied with food." Catholicism and Protestantism consistently rob these words of their power by translating them, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled (with that righteousness)." Because of their colossal failure to hear the declaration of Jesus, they add the word “for” in keeping with their philosophical interests and thereby shore up Christianized-Stoicism. Not only so, but some of them erroneously substitute another meaning of righteousness and also teach that the particular righteousness realized later is the reward for that same righteousness yearned for now. In the Scriptures, the fundamental meaning of the word righteousness is doing right to other people and showing mercy upon others. This was its primary meaning in the old covenant scriptures and this is its fundamental usage by the Gospel writers. It was mainly through Paul that the word righteousness was developed another way in its forensic sense as the objective and right standing before God regarding eternal justification. Both meanings are very important, and both meanings must receive their due weight according to the will of God as set forth in the Scriptures. As often happens according to men, one of these truths is wrongly established, albeit in a partial way, at the expense of the other. Here, regarding these words of Jesus, the churches have imposed either of two fatal errors. They either emphasize a philosophical yearning for the things of God, including His ethical things, at the expense of actual righteous sacrificial action, or they emphasize the forensic meaning of righteousness at the expense of and detriment to the Scriptures’ primary ethical meaning inherent in righteousness. The words of here Jesus are ethical. They define the power and extent of God's love to the needy. In Matthew, Jesus has not suddenly taken up a different meaning of righteousness but is declaring the way of the goodness and mercies of God that operates through His people upon the needy. He is contextually declaring the definition of God's love and the characteristics of all those who must walk in it, they who are of the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew’s “because of righteousness” is a clarifying enlargement concerning the hungry, in exactly the same way that his “because of the Spirit” is a clarification concerning the poor. Luke said simply and directly that “they who are hungry shall be satisfied with food” just as he previously said that is was “the poor” to whom the Kingdom of God belonged. Unlike Matthew, Luke has no need to clarify the way of the Spirit for his Gentile audience. The Gentiles had no preconceptions about God’s Messiah revealing God’s rule and ways. It must be remembered that one of the chief burdens of Matthew is to reveal to the Jews that the new ways of the Spirit of Christ are altogether superior to and different from the old ways of Moses. His thrust was to teach Israel that the Law of Christ superseded that of Moses because it was vastly greater than and comprehensively different from that Law. Its ways transcended the former ways and could no more be known through them than new wine could be processed through the use of old wineskins! The old ways of partiality and weakness in Moses had passed, and the new ways of fullness and power in Jesus had come.
I will give two more instances from this context in Matthew wherein he used enlarging, clarifying words for the Jews where Luke had no need for such use regarding the same words of Jesus to the Gentiles. The first is in the constantly misunderstood disciples' prayer. Concerning that prayer, Jesus declared through Luke, “When you pray say, ‘Father, hallowed be Your Name! Your Kingdom come! Give us each day our daily food and forgive our sins of withholding from the needy for, indeed, we forgive everyone who is withholding the debt of love to us…’” In Matthew, Jesus said, “Pray this way: ‘Our Father Who is in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name! Your Kingdom come! Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven! (These words in bold are the enlargement.) Give us today the daily food that we need and forgive us of our withheld debts of love to others just as we have forgiven them for withholding their debts of love to us…” In the second instance, after declaring that everyone must give their substance to the needy, Jesus said through Luke to His disciples, "For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat; nor for your body, as to what you shall wear. For life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; and they have neither storeroom nor barn; and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his lifespan? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why are you anxious about other matters? Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you, you of puny faith! And do not seek what you shall eat and what you shall drink and do not keep worrying. For all these things, the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give benefactions to the poor; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." This is an extremely powerful declaration revealing both the absolute authority that all believers perpetually stand under and one of the major characteristics of all who are Christians. (I will return to the power and reach of this declaration later.) In Matthew's parallel rendition of these august words, he adds this about seeking God's kingdom: "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." The three words "and His righteousness" is Matthew's enlargement in exactly the same way that "Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven!" is. Now, what does this mean? Why did Matthew add these words for the Jews while Luke did not give them for the Gentiles? The Jews needed to throw off the fading ways of the former partial faith and partial love. They also needed to be rid of their particular misconceptions about the Messiah and God’s rule and righteousness. Their conceptions of God’s Messianic Kingdom were partial and limited. They were also antiquated because of the incarnation and ministry of Jesus. Matthew's purpose is exactly the same as was another Jewish author's to a like Jewish audience. The entire burden of the letter to the Hebrew Christians, known in the Bible as "Hebrews", was to enable them to comprehend that Jesus, His atonement, His Law, and His administration were all vastly superior to and different from those things of the Mosaic Law. In keeping with this, he declared that whereas the Levitical priesthood was according to the order of Aaron, the priesthood of Jesus was according to a greater one, that of Melchizedek. Then he made this profound statement, "For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of Law also" and "For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand, there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God." Furthermore, this author stated, "When He said, ‘A new covenant’, He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete is growing old and ready to disappear." Matthew faced the very same obstacles in his hearers that the author of the letter to the Hebrew Christians faced in his. They needed to understand that the righteousness - the acts of mercy - and ways of the Spirit of Jesus were new and completely superior to these things under Moses. Matthew was building and aiding the faith and love of the Jews. He was revealing to them that in the things of Jesus they must look higher than the faith and love that was engendered through Moses.
At this point, I will interject a statement of fact. Naturally speaking, I am a Gentile. Most readers of this website are natural Gentiles. In this specific sense, according to the ground just covered, these words as rendered by Luke are applicable to us rather than the parallel ones rendered by Matthew. However, because pseudo-Christianity is the inheritance of the day, it would be best for everyone to think in terms of Matthew's usage. The reason for this is because people today are in a dilemma of faith akin to that of Matthew's hearers. The Jews of Matthew's day inherited notions of faith based on the limited Mosaic mindset. Today, people inherit notions of faith based on the erroneous premises of Christianized-Stoicism. Today, Christianized-Stoicism presents divergent, limited, and contrasting concepts of faith and love which are obstacles to those of Jesus just as the short-sighted and erroneous mind-set of ancient Judaism did in Matthew’s day.
Next, Jesus said, "Blessed are the compassionate, for they will be shown compassion." These are the actively compassionate who are full of acts of benevolence and charity. They act according to the bowels of Jesus in deeds of sacrificial love towards the needy. "Blessed are the clean in heart, for they will see God." In the mother tongue the word “heart” means “the thoughts”. Here Jesus declares that it is they who are pure or clean in their thoughts concerning the needy who will see God. Their thoughts are not corrupted by any kind of selfishness which causes dullness issuing into blindness concerning the mercies of God. Also, they are not hindered from righteous acts of compassion because they judge the needy as guilty of sin and, therefore, under the displeasure of God. Rather, their thoughts are God's thoughts, filled with compassion towards the needy, irrespective of the worthiness or merit of the needy. Precisely because their thoughts are thus clean in God, they see the needs of the needy according to the mercies of God. And precisely because of these pure thoughts issuing in love now, they will see God in Paradise later. It commands attention in the highest degree that this is the only place in all of the new covenant scriptures where seeing the Father is named as a reward of righteousness. Then He said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." In our culture, we define peacemakers as those who bring about peace on behalf of contending parties. This is based on our understanding of peace as being the cessation or absence of hostilities. This is not how peacemakers or the term peace was primarily known and used in the Semitic mindset of the ancient world. In that world, both of these terms included the definitions just given. However, in the first place, to be at peace meant to have a positively blessed life or to not have any needs. It is precisely in this second sense that the word peacemakers is used by Jesus. The peacemakers are those who relieve the needy of their needs. In so doing, they relieve them of their burden and cause them to have positive contentment through God's will. Jesus declared that it is the peacemakers who will be called sons of God in Paradise. In the new covenant mother tongue, there are several words that translate as our words "child", "son", "descendent". In that language some of these words can be used synonymously, yet they often carry particular differences of meaning. The word “sons” used here is synonymous with another word that translates as sons or children in the sense of "of particular parentage". The difference is that whereas the other word tends to emphasize the physical and outward aspects of descent, the word that Jesus used here emphasizes the idea of relationship between the parent and the son, especially concerning full maturity. What Jesus said at this point is another way of saying what He said concerning the reward of seeing God. He said that they who meet the needs of people are under God's blessings now and shall -- because of this peacemaking -- be brought into the absolute relationship of sonship with Him later. Next He said, "Blessed are those who been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." These words constitute a case of rabbinical bracketing as discussed previously. Instead of the bracketing being established through the use of emphasized like settings and subject matter as discussed previously, in this case, the very terms used establish the bracketing. (Remember, the purpose of bracketing is to emphasize the first words and the last words spoken with everything in between those words constituting a unified whole.) In a case of short bracketing, as here, all the words contained within the bracket serve to restate the case considered in synonymous illustrations or like characteristics. At the beginning of these words Jesus said, "theirs is the kingdom of heaven" about those who are poor. At the end of these words He said, "theirs is the kingdom of heaven" about those who've been persecuted for the sake of righteousness. How are these declarations synonymous? It is exactly because all believers - those who have possessions and those who do not have possessions - have given away their substance to the needy instead of keeping it for themselves, that they have become hated and persecuted by mankind. For in the very nature of the case, their righteous lives of light and love reprove everyone else who lives in darkness and selfishness. Their lives of love to God and the needy manifestly reprove all who instead love Mammon and themselves. Because of these facts, they are resisted, hated and persecuted by Mammonists. This last declaration of being persecuted is enlarged by Jesus Who also said that these blessed ones stand in league with the prophets of Israel, the men who lived before them and represented God's Spirit. He said, "Blessed are you when people cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." According to these sober words, all followers of Jesus receive persecutions now as they did then because their righteous lives of sacrificial love for others in need witness against all who do not likewise follow Jesus in His righteous life of sacrificial love for others in need. To use the terminology of the apostle John, the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness hates the Light! As is clearly revealed by Jesus, these words have nothing to do with the hyper-spiritualized and philosophical interpretations which have been given to them by Christianized-Stoicism, the actual religion which comprises Catholicism and Protestantism at all their levels. Rather, these words only reveal and legitimate the singular lives of sacrificial love to the needy that all of the followers of Jesus possess. Again, they do not characterize a select few disciples, such as Catholicism’s monks and nuns and Protestantism’s “spiritual” believers. These words describe ALL WHO ARE TRULY CHRISTIANS!
To sum up this paramount declaration of Jesus Christ which He made about the real nature of all who are truly Christian, I will render a legitimate interpretive translation of these words. -- "And when He saw the multitudes, He went up on the mountain and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And He taught them saying,
‘Blessed are those who are poor in God's Holy Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who feel the pain of the needy, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are those who think more of others than of themselves, for they shall inherit the land. Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty because they give the needy their very food and drink because of God's righteous mercy, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are those who are deeply moved by My bowels toward the needy, for they shall receive compassion. Blessed are those who exercise pure, unmerited relief plans for the needy, for they shall behold the very face of God. Blessed are those who in reality accomplish their purpose in relieving the needy, for they shall be brought into absolute sonship with God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of this very sacrificial and righteous love to the needy, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when selfish and hateful people cast insults at you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you, slandering you on account of this love of Mine and these teachings of Mine. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is magnanimous, for in the very same way they hated the men of the Spirit who lived before you.’ "
As indicated earlier, much, much more can be said from the Scriptures about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit concerning God and Mammon. However, I will give three more instances. Since the page of this subject is already quite lengthy, I will treat these three instances in less detail than heretofore has been used. Also, at the end of these three, I will give some practical considerations and then sum up everything that has been stated on these initial pages.
Previously, when considering the teaching of Jesus about remarriage and adultery through Luke, I stated that upon entering Perea, Jesus makes the great divide between loving God and loving Mammon a supreme issue of life. He makes this one of the two paramount and pivotal issues that defines whether or not a person shall, indeed, partake of the kingdom of God. We saw that one of the issues was marital purity, specifically, avoidance of divorce and remarriage which constitutes adultery. Now I return in more detail to that other pivotal issue according to Luke. At this point, Luke states that "all the tax gatherers and the sinners were coming to Him and listening to Him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’" Then Jesus told them two parables. In the first He declared that if a man has 100 sheep and loses one of them, he leaves the 99 and searches for the one sheep until he finds it. At that point he rejoices greatly because he found his lost sheep. In the second parable, He declared that if a woman has 10 coins and loses one of them, she lights a lamp and sweeps the house and searches carefully until she finds it. Then she also greatly rejoices because she found her lost coin. Then He made the powerful application. He said that in the same way there is great rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents. Then, that is, immediately, He told the well-known story that has come to be known as the parable of the prodigal son. This story has two main facts that Jesus emphasized. The first one further illustrates the beauty of the great joy over a repentant sinner that He just revealed in the two previous parables. This is Jesus' answer to the grumbling Pharisees and scribes. The Divine intention of heaven is the joyous recovery of lost sinners from the power of sin and not turning away from them as did the Pharisees and scribes. This goal is so prominent in heaven that it breaks out into joy when even one such sinner repents and is reconciled to God. This truth is revealed in what He taught about the younger of the two sons. But Jesus did not stop there. He proclaimed the second main fact of the story. He declared that the joy over repentance is quenched by the love of Mammon. For it blinds and produces jealousy in those who have it. And this truth is revealed in what He taught about the older of the two sons. Furthermore, He declared that the love of Mammon also produces guile, deceit, and robbery in those who have it. For immediately after telling the story of the so-called prodigal son, Jesus told the story of the shrewd and dishonest steward. All of these stories are often treated as disconnected parables or gathered maxim type sayings of Jesus. The exact opposite is the case. They all with one voice declare the utterly corrupting power of Mammon. And not only so, but they also proceed to unequivocally declare that whether one lives eternally or dies eternally is directly determined by his relationship to Mammon. For in the story of the shrewd steward, Jesus taught that when he realized that he would lose his job because of his unfaithfulness to the stewardship, the steward set in motion a plan that was calculated to endear him to his master’s debtors. He hoped that after he was terminated from his job he could benefit from them through their benefaction. His plan was another extension of his dishonesty. Simply put, he promised his master's debtors to relieve them of their debts if they would immediately pay a sizable portion of the total due. After relating these things, Jesus declared that the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light are to theirs. This statement clearly reveals the following. The sons of the age of darkness shrewdly used Mammon for their own unrighteous ends, while the sons of the age of the kingdom did not shrewdly use Mammon for their own righteous ends. For Jesus went on to say, "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the Mammon of unrighteousness; that when it fails, they may receive you into the dwellings of the age." This means that the “shrewdness” of the righteous was defined as their using Mammon for the blessing of all needy men with the outcome that at the end of the Mosaic age, when great calamity and tribulation would be visited upon doomed Israel, the sons of light could escape from that terrible judgment because of the aid of people that they had formerly materially blessed, receiving them into their spared homes for shelter. Then Jesus said, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. If, therefore, you have not been faithful in the unrighteous Mammon, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's (meaning, you have not met the needs of the needy by giving to them that which is materially due to them), who will give you that which is your own (meaning, how would you receive eternal life)? Then He made a most powerful declaration. It is one of the most powerful declarations in the entire Gospel of Luke. As already stated, it is one of the two pivotal points that determine whether a person shall live eternally with God or perish eternally without God. It is paramount and sums up all things. It begins with the same affirmation that He made through Matthew when He taught upon God’s mountain about the utter corruption of having and keeping for one's self one's possessions. There He declared that he who held on to possessions lived a life full of darkness. Here He also said, "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon!" Then Luke declares the following. Now the Pharisees who were lovers of money were listening to all these things, and they were scoffing at Him. And Jesus said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts. For that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God." Here Jesus unambiguously declares that both Mammon - self-possessed wealth - and the desire for Mammon are absolutely detestable to God! Then came the apex of the pivotal statement. "The Law and The Prophets were proclaimed until John (the Baptist). Since then, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is pressing into it. But it is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for one distinguishing stroke of a letter of the Law to fail. Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery. And he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery. Now there was a certain rich man and he dressed in purple and fine linen, being merry every day in a splendid fashion. And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores. He desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs would come and lick his sores. Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's Bosom. And the rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things and Lazarus bad things. But now he is being comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to pass over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, Father, that you send him to my father's house -- for I have five brothers -- that he may warn them, lest they come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them listen to them.’ But he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’ ” The churches do not teach the power of this message from the mouth of Jesus!! This is the power of the message of the love of Christianity which neither Catholicism nor Protestantism prioritizes or even understands!
The summary of the apex of this pivotal declaration is this: The old order of things, the Mosaic age, was God's will until the forerunner of Jesus -- John the Baptist. In the days of John -- without delay and manifesting in Jesus -- the good news of the Kingdom of God is preached and aggressive believers aggressively take it! In keeping with this, it is easier for God's Provident power to pass away and fail than it is for the Mosaic Law as testimony to His righteous plan to fall. Accordingly, in Jesus all righteousness is fulfilled! In Jesus, marriage, the first act of God between the first people is restored and fulfilled as the rule for all people. Likewise, pure sharing and giving, the regular acts of love between the first people, are restored and fulfilled as God’s rule for everyone. Upon declaring that Moses’ Law as witness to God's righteous plan can never fail, Jesus immediately declared that marriage and brotherly love are restored to complete preeminence in God's will. They are thusly preeminent in the new and eternal order of God’s Kingdom of His Son, and they are thus fulfilled according to the commandments of His Son!
The churches believe (practically, if not formally) that these two declarations of Jesus: (1) divorce and remarriage is adultery and (2) the story of the rich man and Lazarus - are both disconnected sayings appended by Luke to the proclamation about the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law. They are not! Rather, they are essential to its fulfillment as submission to God and His Kingdom. This is the fulfilled life of the Kingdom that the people of Jesus radically apprehend! These two stated issues of marriage and Mammon and the responses of people to them are pivotal issues; that is, they are paramount issues that reveal whether or not a person is, indeed, in the Kingdom of God! Unless you submit to Jesus here, nothing else matters! He declared that the fulfillment of the Mosaic order and the truth that a person is a believer are both absolutely contingent upon submitting to God regarding marriage and Mammon as revealed in these precise teachings!
Before moving to the last place in Luke that I am going to use, I need to make a clarifying statement. Jesus declared that the rich man was habitually dressed in purple and finery and lived splendidly this way. No one is to conclude from these things that the only kind of wealth that Jesus condemns is a significant degree of wealth such as this rich man had. Corresponding to this, it should not be concluded that the only kind of poverty that Jesus commands the alleviation of is that kind which Lazarus experienced, that is, indigent poverty. The fact that these two men are presented in the way that they are is simply a Semitic trait of teaching. In this mindset, extreme cases are used in order to emphasize the weightiness of the subject being considered. The rich man's stated articles of clothing and his constant way of material happiness simply and powerfully corresponded to (contrasted with) Lazarus’ misery revealed in his indigent begging while he longed for scraps from the rich man's table and in his humiliation because dogs licked his sores. Earlier we saw Luke use the same method of contrast when he juxtaposed the rich young ruler's large degree of wealth with his large degree of sadness. As he did then, Luke here uses striking contrasts to drive home the point of the utter importance of the commandments of Jesus. These declarations are an enlargement of Luke's earlier rendition of Jesus' declaration upon Javeh's mountain. There, Jesus said, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh…But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep." In the pivotal story, the rich man occupies the place of the rich, the well fed, and the laughing, and Lazarus occupies a place of the poor, the hungry, and the weeping.
At a certain point, upon hearing Jesus’ instructions to His disciples to trust the Holy Spirit for defense before the synagogues, rulers, and authorities, someone in the large crowd that was following Jesus spoke up and said, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” This was not a disconnected request. Disputes and contended points of law were often settled by the leadership of the synagogues in Israel. Therefore, it is highly likely that the man’s request arose because he thought about his situation in light of Jesus’ statement about appearing before the synagogues. The family inheritance was a major concern provided for in the Mosaic Law in ancient Israel. In keeping with the Law, the request was not evidently amiss per se. The implication is that the person who made the request was wronged by his brother regarding the family inheritance. Yet this event is one of the salient episodes in all of the Scriptures regarding the love of Mammon juxtaposed to the love of God. It also, with equal force, drives home the reality, nature, and degree with which the Grace and Truth of Jesus Christ transcend and supersede the Law of Moses. Instead of dealing with the implied greed and/or negligence of the offending brother, Jesus immediately declared that legislating according to the Mosaic precepts was not His duty. Rather, He went straight to the heart of the real issue of the matter! He turned to the crowd and said, "Beware, and be on your guard against all greediness. For not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions." And He told them this parable. "The land of a certain rich man produced a good crop. And he began reasoning to himself saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘This is what I will do. I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years. Take your ease. Eat, drink and be merry." ’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you. And who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God!" This is a staggering parable! In response to the seemingly innocent statement of the man, Jesus said to beware and be on guard against all greediness. He fixed attention to this matter with a double command. He said to beware and to be on guard! Then He declared the scope of the vigilance. He said to be on all alert against all greediness, that is, against every kind, type, and degree of greed. Then, in all clarity, He dealt with the occurrence and result of greed. The parable reveals a man who was regarded as blessed under the Mosaic Law. The churches also pronounce this man as blessed. The land of this man produced a good crop. His crop did not suffer from disease, drought, or pestilence. The yield was abundant. It was so great that he needed to build larger storehouses in order to safely store it. The outward conclusion would be that this man was blessed by God because of the fulfillment of the promises of the Mosaic Law concerning his situation. Furthermore, according to the point of view of the Law, there is no fault to be found in the reaction of the man to his good situation. His statement, "Take your ease. Eat, drink, and be merry" simply means, "Be at rest. Eat, drink, and rejoice." There is nothing wrong with any of these statements -- again, from the viewpoint of the Mosaic Law. The phrase, "Be at rest", simply means to find rest from prior labor. In the case of this man, it means to be at rest from farming or to be out from under the necessity of farming. It in no way implies laziness or the desire to become lazy. “Eat, drink, and rejoice” does not mean to be excessive, but is simply defined according to its obvious meaning. Be all this as it may, the long anticipated and new ways of the Spirit of God came with Jesus Christ. These formerly acceptable and approved things of the Mosaic Law are now unacceptable and disapproved, being weak and insufficient! The things under Moses now fall short of the glory and love of God in Jesus Christ. Indeed, the partial righteousness that was under Moses is now made complete and new in the full righteousness of God in His Son. Therefore, Jesus made manifest and declared that the condition of this man, irrespective of his laborious and fruitful work, was sinful in the sight of God. And not only so, it was fatally sinful under the judgment of God! His sin was revealed in the fact that he kept his goods safe for himself. According to the ancient way of things, keeping his goods for himself included keeping them for his family and his household. Jesus declared that this is iniquity in the sight of God. This sin is revealed in two categories. First, it fails in the love of God towards one's neighbor, which Jesus declared was physically relieving by full material aid anyone and everyone who stood in need! Jesus made clear here in this parable, as He did later through His apostles, that a primary reason for earning income is to use it for the relief of the oppressed, that is, to give money and possessions to the poor and needy according to the love of God. Instead, this man did what most people have always done, right down to our day. He kept it for himself.
The churches do and teach the same thing, whether wholly or mainly. Their doing is obvious. The tree is revealed according to the fruit that it bears. Their teaching is in keeping with their standard way of going beyond the commands of Jesus and establishing a different doctrine and then purporting that their doctrine is the interpretation of the words of Jesus. This particular church doctrine is a mixture of holding these commands of Jesus in a hyper-spiritualized way with an anachronistic standing on the Mosaic Law. Furthermore, there is really only one New Covenant scripture that is used as the major support for their place to stand, and it is a complete misinterpretation of a statement made by the apostle John in one of his letters. -- This is noteworthy: aside from the fact that they stand on this one misinterpreted statement, they do so in the face of the entire burden and warning of the message of Jesus about God’s love and the poor. -- When John wrote to Gaius (the letter that is known as “Third John” in the Bible) he opened with this salutation: "Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may do well (prosper) and be in good health, just as your soul does well (prospers)." Gaius was a host of the ancient assembly who help missionaries along on their ways. He was, accordingly, gifted by God for this very purpose. He used his wealth for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. The greeting does not mean, "I wish that in everything you would become financially self-sufficient by holding on to your wealth." As previously stated, aside from this one misinterpreted greeting from the New Covenant Scriptures, they who hold that God would have His people independently financially prosperous and rich take their stand exclusively from the Old Covenant Scriptures, especially summed up in the Mosaic Law. Most, if not all, of the Old Covenant Scriptures that are used as proof texts are from the ancient Hebrew Wisdom Literature and The Torah. But this is not the only issue of concern. Standing behind this fact is that in holding to their doctrine, the churches operate in a mind-set completely foreign to the New Covenant of Jesus Christ!
Returning to the parable, the man tore down his insufficient storehouses and built larger ones in order to contain his goods. There are two things to see here. He increased his capacity for holding, and he held or secured his goods. The many who constitute the churches and those who hold to their ways do the same things, although in modern times they do it with more variety and sophistication. Rather than only retaining their wealth through a simple, first century agrarian method like the man of the parable did, they use various avenues for the same exact ends! In addition to larger storehouses, in modern times people use various means including real estate, savings accounts, certificates of deposit, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, different kinds of retirement plans, various commodities, etc. These are all places to not only keep and preserve their wealth, but, unlike the situation of man in the parable, these financial instruments enable their wealth to actually grow into greater wealth primarily for one's own use! All of this is completely contrary to Jesus Christ and Christianity! It stands against the face of and denies the love of God, whose primary goal is both full and complete deeds of mercy upon the needy, both spiritual and physical! All of these places of security for one’s own self-sufficient wealth are the mechanisms of Mammon! And the concluding word of Jesus to the man in the parable is made crystal clear for everyone! "But God said to him, ‘You fool! This night your soul is required of you. Who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God!" The richness towards God which the Spirit commands is the richness of practicing good deeds to the needy. It is divesting oneself of possessions in order that they who stand in need of those possessions can find relief through them. Only by walking in this love of Jesus can one know God and become rich toward Him. These are the ones who will live with Him in Paradise. These are they who are the blessed compassionate. The world teaches: watch out for yourself and your family, plan ahead for your future, and do not put yourself at financial risk - be self-sufficient. The world teaches that fools do not make “wise” financial plans for their futures. Jesus teaches that they are fools who forfeit their lives with God by making such self-centered plans. In this process of reasoning, the churches follow the world and not Jesus. All of these worldly thought processes are in the service of Mammon because those who reason this way disobey the direct commandments of Jesus about loving your fellow man and trusting in the Heavenly Father. Those who put their faith in God by obeying His Son’s commands to give to the needy have a sure and faithful word from Him that He shall be their complete salvation -- spiritual and physical -- both in the present and future of their earthly existence. This faithful word is not believed by the Mammonists who inhabit the churches. They do not trust God to provide for them in their future earthly lives any more than they obey Him in their present earthly lives in giving and sacrificing their possessions to the needy. This failure to believe, specifically, to trust God for the future, is the second category of the sin of the materialistic man of the parable that I previously spoke about. Jesus made provision for the faith of His people immediately after declaring that all are fools who keep their possessions for themselves rather than giving them to those who need them. -- Previously, these words of Jesus were considered when comparing Luke with Matthew when paying attention to Matthew’s Scriptural enlargements for his Jewish hearers. At that place I said, “This is an extremely powerful declaration revealing both the absolute authority that all believers perpetually stand under and one of the major characteristics of all who are Christians. I will return to the power and reach of this declaration later.” In now returning to this declaration it will be proper and wise to repeat it because it belongs to this chronology of the commandments/provisions of Jesus. -- Luke went on to say, “And He said to His disciples, ‘For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat; nor for your body, as to what you shall wear. For life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; and they have neither storeroom nor barn; and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his lifespan? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why are you anxious about other matters? Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you, you of puny faith! And do not seek what you shall eat and what you shall drink and do not keep worrying. For all these things, the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give benefactions to the poor; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’ ” The sons of the world and the churches preserve their wealth for themselves, either wholly or mainly, while the sons of God give away their wealth to others. The sons of the world and the churches worry, plan, and trust in themselves for their own future earthly salvation, while the sons of God wholly trust in God for theirs. The sons of the world and the churches are the greedy worshippers of Mammon, while the sons of God are the benefactors of the poor who thus offer up their worship to God. Jesus made this crystal clear!! “You cannot serve both God and Mammon.” Jesus also made this last statement crystal clear!!
The last Scripture to hear at this time is taken primarily from Mark. It is taken from one of the highest points of his Gospel, where Jesus teaches the parable about the sower, the seed, and the soils. While people are quite familiar with the narrative of this parable, it is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted parables in all of the Scriptures. Its utter importance is revealed not only by its content but also by the way that it is rendered by all the synoptic Gospel authors. I will handle this last feature first and then observe the meaning of the parable.
Like Matthew and Luke, Mark places great weight upon this parable. He does so according to the way that he renders Jesus teaching it. Matthew emphasized its utter importance by placing it first among all the parables in his Gospel. Matthew's writing structure gathers the message of his Gospel in great literary blocks in order to emphasize the utter importance of the subjects being dealt with in these gathered topics. Intrinsic to this rabbinic feature is the fact that the words that begin each block stand out as supremely important among the topics at hand. So among Matthew's parables, this one stands out as the parable. Luke's emphasis of this parable was the same as Mark's first emphasis. In his Gospel, this was the first parable that was spoken to the masses. This characteristic has the same effect as intended by Matthew when he placed the great teaching of Jesus upon Javeh's mountain (known as the Sermon on the Mount) as the first commandments of Jesus to the crowds. These words are of first importance! In addition to his method of emphasis which he shares with Luke, Mark has another and greater emphasis in his teaching. Of all the parables that Mark writes, this is the only one that Jesus interprets for His disciples. This is absolutely monumental! Understanding that Mark primarily wrote his Gospel in order to emphasize and summarize the teachings of Jesus, the fact that this is the only parable that is explained is of the greatest importance! These words must be heard! This teaching must be obeyed! Now regarding the content and meaning of the parable: Mark declares, "And He began to teach again by the sea. And such a very great multitude gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down. And the whole multitude was by the sea and on the land. And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching, ‘Listen! Behold, the sower went out to sow. And it came about that as he was going, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. And other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil. And immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And after the sun had risen, it was scorched. And because it had no root it withered away. And other seed fell among the thorns and the thorns came up and choked it and it yielded no fruit. And other seeds fell into the good soil and as they grew up and increased they yielded fruit and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.’ And He was saying, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’ And as soon as He was alone the ones around Him, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. And He was saying to them, ‘To you has been given the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, in order that while seeing they may see and not perceive, and while hearing they may hear and not understand, lest they return and be forgiven.’ And He said to them, ‘Do you not understand this parable? And how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones who are beside the road, where the word is sown. And when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. And in a similar way, these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary. Then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns. These are the ones who have heard the word, and the worries of the age, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word and it becomes unfruitful. And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil. And they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.’ " Jesus makes clear through the high emphasis of Mark (with Matthew and Luke) that there are four kinds of people in the world who make up two separate groups. The first group is summed up in three categories and constitutes all unbelievers. The second group consists of the Christians. There is no regard for the word of God among the first category of unbelievers. They give no heed at all to the commandments of Jesus. The old saying, that what passes into one ear goes out of the other applies to them. Jesus said that the second category is similar to the first. The similarity is in the fact that they quickly fall away. The difference is that they are somewhat moved by the word of God. They are moved in a shallow way. They happily receive the message of Jesus, but as soon as it significantly costs them they fall away. The third kind is strikingly different from the previous two. Whereas they are short-lived, this group remains. This group is classed as the tares that grow up with the wheat in another parable of Jesus. They remain in some relationship with the Word and this relationship lasts throughout their lives. Even though they stand in some sort of relationship with the Word, Jesus revealed them as thoroughly lacking and abiding in a deadly condition. He said that these are the ones who do not walk in the love of God and serve their fellow man, which are the primary objectives of the Word. He said this in the following way: He said that after hearing the Word of God, these do not go on to produce the fruit of the Word. He said that they allow the worries and cares of the age to enter into their lives and suffocate the Word of God. We saw one major way that this is done according to Luke in the previous section. Unbelievers disobediently and selfishly care about their present and future financial situation and, accordingly, keep their possessions for themselves to assure themselves against hardship. This places their present and future salvation fundamentally in their own hands while it usurps the will and love of God. Next, He said that the deceitfulness and seduction of possessions also enter into their lives and choke the Word of God. This statement does not need further elaboration here, for the burden of all of these pages under this subject heading of God and Mammon has been to expose this deadly condition. Then Jesus said that the desires for other things have also entered into their lives and stifled the Word of God. This phrase, the desires for other things, includes everything else engendered by the service of Mammon that is not covered under the prior two phrases. Some of these other things that are longed for include luxurious living conditions, pampered living conditions, refined living conditions, easy and convenient living conditions, fine foods, fine wines, fine and abundant clothing, indulgence in comfort, indulgence in entertainment, and things such as these. In short, the phrase includes everything that the world offers which entices to self-gratification and indulgence and stands contrary to the purpose of the Word of God. Instead of listing the characteristics of this third category of unbelievers in the full way that Mark does, Luke pointedly states that because of cares, possessions, and pleasures, the Word is choked in them and they do not bear fruit to maturity. Finally, Jesus reveals the nature of the last group -- His disciples. He said that they are the ones who both hear the Word of God and fully accept it. Matthew states that they hear the Word of God and understand it and Luke states that they have a good and beautiful heart and hearing the Word of God they hold it fast and bear fruit in endurance. This last fact about holding fast the Word of God and bearing fruit in endurance indicates the battle that occurs between God and Mammon. For endurance underscores bearing up under stressful conditions and the strife of men. Jesus also said that His followers produce fruit, that is, an abundant crop which yields thirty times, sixty times, and one hundred times the amount of the seed sown in them. They are thoroughly productive in God's Word with all that they are and have. They sacrifice from their possessions so that the needy can have them. They walk in this life just as Jesus also walked in this life. Now the sons of Mammon are not this way. They “serve” in a measured way with a small portion of what they are and have. They enrich themselves while neglecting the needy whose needs cry out against them. They do not walk in this life just as Jesus also walked in this life; for if they have not heard Him, how can they follow Him? The churches of Catholicism and Protestantism and their offspring are filled with the children of Mammon.
Finally, I will take in hand two rather common objections put forth by some in the churches. The two issues are related. Then I will sum up everything stated on these important introductory pages that deal with the recovery of Scriptural Christianity. The summary will have its own page.
First, there is a modern school of thought that acknowledges that the teaching of Jesus that is held forth on this page is true, but at the same time it avoids submission to His requirements. This is accomplished through a man-made evolution of doctrine. This school maintains that the rise of the economic middle class has caused this teaching of Jesus that is written down in the New Covenant Scriptures to be obsolete. It is taught that because society at large has become significantly prosperous, the necessity of submitting to the teachings of Jesus regarding the poor, love, and possessions does not now apply. In fact, it is held that it is virtually impossible to submit to the particular demands of Jesus about God and Mammon because of the socio-economic condition of modern man. They say that what was true and applicable in the times of Jesus is not so today. In short, it is taught that there is no substantially poor social class that must be the focal point of the love of Christians. This position is as arrogant and blind as it is flatly erroneous. It fails to fundamentally understand the nature and ways of Jesus Himself as the pattern son for all of the people of God! It fails to understand that as God's pattern son, Jesus is unchangeable and perpetual! It fails to comprehend that the call of God is primarily to the poor and needy of the world. It also grossly fails geographically. While it is true today that there are places in regions that are economically well-off, there are also places in regions that are economically deprived. It is also true that the New Covenant Scriptures reveal fluidity and mobility as a characteristic of the people of God. To submit to this erroneous doctrine which fundamentally denies the teachings of Jesus, one must live in a place of wealth with no intention of leaving it. Movement is a large part of obedience in the Word of God. Actual physical mobility towards righteousness is just as vital and true with God as physical departure from sin is. In the story that Jesus told, which is known as the teaching about the "Good Samaritan" and which absolutely defined love to one's neighbor, "Go and do likewise" has an essential standing. While the rise of the middle class makes the poor and needy of the world less concentrated than they were in the times of Jesus and the apostles, it does not alter the Word and will of God about the poor and needy in any way. There still are and there always will be many places both at home and abroad were the poor and needy are found and are even concentrated. Christianity of the apostolic assemblies was known as The Way or The Road. This life with God is one of real and complete movement with Jesus in His teachings, deeds, and goings of mercy and redemption. Jesus Himself is held forth by the Spirit through the apostle John as The Road, The Truth, and The Life!
Secondly, the following statement has merit and carries weight: The times that we live in are economically different from the times of Jesus and His apostles. However, the following statement is without merit: Because of the higher and more successful economic conditions of our times, the stringent words of Jesus do not apply to us. We fulfill His will today in less demanding ways. These meritless conclusions are easily cleared away. From the beginning of history until recent times, the world was based on an agricultural society. It was not really until the rise of the Cottage Industry that the ancient and valid agrarian ways and economies began to change. From then on, economic ways and realities themselves robustly changed -- first, with the appearance and development of the mechanized Industrial Age and then with the appearance and ongoing development of the Technological Age. In the very nature of the case, these developments have changed the economic conditions and standards of very many people in the world. Indeed, The Age of Technology in which we now live is causing rapid development and change even in regions which were always until this age subject to widespread poverty. The result is that the standard of living of many people in different regions has dramatically risen when compared to ancient times, and the tools of the trade of many occupations are more sophisticated, numerous, and costly. For instance, the rise of mass production, refrigeration, and rapid transportation has made the standard of living of the low class of our day better than even that of the upper-middle-class of the American Colonial Period of more recent history. Also, things in earlier times that had relatively high value because of individualized production and craftsmanship today very often have relatively low value because of mass-mechanized and standardized production. Because of the growth of the production of goods and services of these modern times, the residue and trash of our day would be considered luxury by those in earlier times. Furthermore, all that is involved today in the tools of one’s trade very often require a greater economic expense than in pre-Industrial Age times. For example, it is indisputable that the tools of the trade of canvas awning production in apostolic times were by no means as varied and costly as they are of electronic durable goods are in our times. Or, to stay on kind, the tools of the trade of someone in the fishing industry today are more numerous, varied, sophisticated, and expensive than they were in the same industry in the days of Jesus. In short, the normal standards of living and working in our day are broader and cost more than they did in the days of Jesus. Be all this as it may, no one is excused from obedience to the direct and distinct words of Jesus Christ. For, as stated earlier, the poor are always with us. They can be found in many places in the world and are concentrated in some of those places. Even though the general standard of living and the standard ways of conducting business in many of our societies are more elaborate and expensive than they were in the days of Jesus, the standard of the obligation to obey His commandments has not diminished one iota. The New Covenant Scriptures teach that the people of God work for two results only. First, we earn income in order that we may supply our daily needs and not be a burden to anyone and secondly, we earn income in order that we may have money and possessions to supply to those who do not have them and are in need of them. We do not earn income for our own selfish enlargement, pleasures, or luxuries. Nor do we earn income to self-sufficiently garantee our future security and enjoyment. These standards and only these standards are they which are established in the New Covenant Scriptures for Christians. Even though modern societies are more economically sophisticated and robust than ancient societies were, all believers are still obligated to walk in the same standard of love to the needy of our day that was held forth to the needy in the days of Jesus and His apostles. The poor still need food, clothing, and concrete relief of suffering, concrete relief of adverse living conditions, and concrete debt relief.The summary of all these things.