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God or Money

Pastoral Reflections

God or Money

Ps. Leslie & Adeline Chua

Matthew 6:24 (ESV) - No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Some modern scholars are sceptical that Matthew is the author of the Gospel of Matthew. Their objection stems from the fact that the Gospel of Matthew is a superb piece of literature. It is polished and rich in Greek prose. Whoever writes it also displays a high level of understanding of the Old Testament Scripture as well as the Jewish cultural background.

More Old Testament passages and verses are quoted in the Gospel of Matthew than the other three Gospels or any other books in the New Testament, except for the book of Revelation. In other words, it would take someone who is learned as well as well-educated in the Scripture to write the Gospel of Matthew whereas Matthew is a tax-collector. The common assumption is that the tax-collectors at that time are not educated. Besides, it is also common knowledge that the twelve apostles are unschooled.  

But we must bear in mind that tax-collectors are shrewd people with good business minds. Otherwise, they cannot succeed at doing this trade. Tax-collection is a franchise business in the Roman times. The chief tax-collector would have to pay the Roman authorities all the monies upfront before he and his network of tax-collection franchisees collect taxes from the people. It is a lucrative business, but it is not without risks. It is certainly not a business for the dim-witted. So, the traditional assumptions cannot be necessarily correct. 

Money has a way of luring even the most pious people away from God.

 

My contention is Matthew is educated and he is well-versed with the Old Testament Scripture for the reasons cited above. If that is the case, why does he become a tax-collector? Surely, he knows that tax-collectors are despised and shunned. It is ranked together with the prostitutes (Matthew 21:31). The prostitutes betray their own bodies and families while the tax-collectors their own people. They collect taxes for the oppressive Roman authorities. Usually, these tax-collectors hedge their business risks and line their own pockets by collecting more taxes than are required. So, it is an inappropriate and unethical profession. Matthew is in this business for only one reason and it cannot be a good reason. What is the reason? Money!

For a pious person who knows the Scripture deeply to turn to tax collection, something must have happened to Matthew along the way. There are many possible reasons. But the most plausible explanation is greed. Tax collection during the Roman time is a lucrative business. For the love of money, he is willing to trade his faith in God for worldly wealth. 

No one should be surprised. This is not uncommon in our time. Probably, we have encountered such kind of people. Maybe, you also have been tempted before. Money has a way of luring even the most pious people away from God. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus warns of the deceitfulness of riches. Its potency cannot be underestimated. It can potentially choke the Word of God rendering it ineffective in a person’s life and making him unfruitfully spiritually (Matthew 13:22).

The love of money drives people to do the most stupid and unthinkable things. 

Because of money issues, many marriages have broken down and families destroyed. People compromise their integrity and morality for the sake of money. The love of money drives people to do the most stupid and unthinkable things. 

Paul warns, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

Jesus likens money to a personality. It seeks to control whoever gives in to its allure and rival God as the master over one’s life. If given a free reign, money is a poor master. Throughout the ages, many people who have been enslaved by an unhealthy love for money suffer destructive consequences as a result.

Jesus is clear. You cannot serve two masters. Either you serve God or money. The choice is clear. It is one or the other. There is no third option. 

Matthew finally came to his senses. He must have been struggling with his guilt for some time. So, when Jesus came to his tax booth and called him to follow Him, he seized the opportunity without any hesitation. He dropped everything and followed Jesus. Previously, he chose money. Then, he chose God.

Pastors Les & Adeline Chua