Americans don't much like kings. Kings cramp our "live free or die" attitude. We do not need anybody to tell us what to do, where and when we can do something, and how to do it. That is not how free people live.

But, Jesus uses kings and kingdoms to explain the reality of our life (Matt. 6:24). We are caught up in a battle between two kings and two kingdoms. And, whether we like it or not, we are ruled by one king or the other. We live in one kingdom or the other. King Money or, Mammon, is a war-monger, cruel and vicious. He rules by force. He makes laws about which emotions are good and which are a crime. He taxes everyone and everything. He sends our sons and daughters to fight and die to expand his kingdom.

King Jesus is a peace-maker, gentle and merciful. He is faithful, loving, and kind. He cries and laughs, mourns and celebrates with us. Everyone and everything comes to us from Him is a gift. He calls our sons and daughters "friend." He comes to us to fight and die, to set us free from King Mammon.

Two kings, two kingdoms. One kingdom is governed by sin and death. In the other, forgiveness and life govern the people.

What bothers us though is that we do not get to choose a king. We imagine we can move back and forth between the two kingdoms. But that is just not true. We do not get to enjoy dual citizenship. Our personal preference does not matter. We are not a king. We are ruled by a king. We serve one king or the other.

King Mammon will work us to death. In his kingdom, we will bleed to live. Every day is a grind. Everybody gets used up. In King Mammon's kingdom, money talks. The goal of life is to get stuff that makes us feel happier, sexier, and more important. It is a kingdom of worry and want. Enough is never enough. There is always another job that needs to get done. There is always more chores. We always need more of everything because there is never enough of anything.

Worst of all, under King Mammon, we will never enjoy true love. Mammon is the king of cravings, cold hard cash, and death. He has no time for love since it is such an unproductive emotion. Mammon expects us to serve him, and he does not care how that makes us feel. There are more important things to worry about than feelings.

King Mammon lectures us that we would not struggle to pay the bills if we just worked harder. We would not be so unattractive to other people if we just spent more time on our appearance. We would not be so unhappy if we just had more stuff.

That is King Mammon. Our work is never good enough for him. He always demands that we do more, more of everything, because we are never finished serving him. He grinds us down and bleeds us dry. Cruel and vicious Mammon makes us serve him until we die, buries us, then replaces us with someone else.

But there is another king and a different kingdom. King Jesus does not drive us to worry and want. He does not grind us down. He does not bleed us dry. He does not make us serve Him until we die. He does turn His back on our grave as He searches for our replacement. Instead, He goes and fights King Mammon for us, to rescue us from his kingdom. He does not kill us; He is killed instead of us. He is ground down and bled dry instead of us. He gets laid down stone-cold dead in our grave by King Mammon. King Jesus goes up against King Mammon and loses.

In His kingdom, Jesus gives us all we need for this body and life, and the life to come. That is our gift-giver King.

That is our King. He comes to set us free, goes up against Mammon, and loses. But by losing, Jesus wins. Mammon throws everything in his power at Jesus, even death, and it is not enough. Nothing Mammon throws at Jesus is enough to defeat Him. He will be our King, and not even death will stop Him from freeing us to live under Him in His kingdom.

Do we have cravings? With King Jesus, we will want for nothing. Are our clothes worn out? Jesus clothes us with baptismal garments that never wear out. Do we go to bed hungry? King Jesus feeds us on the Bread of Life. He feeds us His body and blood, and they will satisfy us today and always. Do we feel empty inside? He fills us with His life and love which is given to us for free. It is Jesus' gift to us. With King Jesus, everything and everyone is a gift.

We can trust His gifts too because He is a faithful, loving, and kind king. Nothing of Jesus or His gifts will bleed us dry or grind us down. In His kingdom, Jesus gives us all we need for this body and life, and the life to come. That is our gift-giver King. That is life in His kingdom. Jesus died so we can live free. We are free to serve Him and each other with the same self-giving, self-sacrificing love with which He has served us, without worry or want, without cruelty or viciousness, forgiving each other and living with each other in King Jesus' grace and peace today and always.