The following story appeared in a recent edition of Leadership Journal.
“A traveler, between flights at an airport, went to a lounge and bought a small package of cookies and a newspaper. The woman found an empty seat in the gate area and sat down next to a man reading a magazine. After a couple of minutes she became aware of a rustling noise. From behind her paper she peeked to see the man sitting next to her helping himself to her cookies. After the initial shock she decided not to make a scene so she reached over and took a cookie for herself.
A minute or two passed and then came more rustling. The woman peeked from behind her paper and sure enough, the man was helping himself to another cookie. Again the woman decided not to make a scene and instead reached over and took two cookies for herself. This same process occurred several more times until there was one cookie left. The man broke the cookie in two pieces, ate half, and slid half over to the woman, got up and left.
The woman couldn’t believe the audacity of the man and was still fuming over the whole affair when she boarded her flight. After takeoff the woman needed something in her purse and when she opened it up the first thing she saw was her package of unopened cookies.”
Our assumptions can be misleading more often than we want to admit!
In our previous study we learned about the deadly disease of affluenza or materialism. The reason that this is so deadly for the Christian is because it results in an unbiblical focus on the acquisition of things.
Materialism causes people to lose their ability to achieve contentment and leads instead to compromise and coveting.
Jesus tells us in verses 19-24 of chapter 6 to beware of the trap of thinking that possessions satisfy the soul because not only do they not satisfy but they cannot satisfy. We are not designed by God to be satisfied by material possessions.
Notice that verse 24 serves as Jesus’ summary of the result of disregarding this spiritual truth – you will be mastered by things.
I want to consider two questions and their answers this morning in light of what Jesus says –
Over the last several weeks we’ve been learning the difference between authentic Christianity as presented by our Lord Jesus and religious formalism demonstrated by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day and many who profess faith today.
The apostle Paul would refer to this latter group as people who held “a form of godliness although they have denied its power.” Paul’s exhortation concluded with the warning to “avoid such men as these.”
Jesus simply called them what they were – hypocrites.
As we look back at this great teaching that started in chapter 5, we come to understand more and more why Jesus says what He says. For example, “You have heard it said, but I say to you” can be seen as Jesus saying “Your religious formalism demanded (such and such) but authentic Christianity, true righteousness is demonstrated by (such and such).”
Most of you know this but it bears remembering that chapter and verse designations are man-made. They were placed throughout the text of the Bible as a means to navigate through the Bible. In many cases they do make a clean break in the thoughts of the authors. In the Sermon on the Mount however, this is not the case.
Chapter 6 continues the explanation of Jesus on what constitutes true righteousness. He has contrasted true righteousness from false righteousness by using the religious leaders of His day.
Jesus makes the point in this chapter that what people do is a direct result of the righteousness they possess – whether their own, or the righteousness God gives us through faith in Jesus Christ.
That was certainly the intent behind what He said in 5:17-20. Up till that point Jesus had taught the people how godly righteousness was first of all apprehended and secondly how it was manifested. In that passage verse 20 is a pivotal verse in helping us understand exactly what Jesus was saying.