Serving One Master Alone

No one can serve two masters, for he will either 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” (v. 24).  

- Matthew 6:19–24

Christ’s teaching is profoundly counter-cultural on many occasions, not in the sense that He calls us to despise all state authorities, but in the sense that His instruction goes completely against the natural, sinful inclinations of mankind. Jesus gives us this very kind of teaching in Matthew 6:19–24.

The Lord’s Sermon on the Mount has thus far emphasized our need to serve God with whole-hearted devotion. Only those who are committed to Jesus in heart, soul, and mind can live the life depicted in this sermon, from enduring persecution for righteousness’ sake (5:10) to being so focused on our Creator that we care not if others ever notice our fervent piety (6:1–18).

The love of money “competes” with the Lord for our allegiance in the United States today. We are surrounded by a culture that worships goods, which calls us to sacrifice our families and our faith on the altar of bigger and better homes, cars, and so on. As such, Christ’s words in today’s passage have a special bearing upon us. In the first place, striving after treasures on earth is foolish because these things do not last (vv. 19–21). Even if not destroyed by vermin, earthly goods can be stolen, and we cannot take them with us when we die. Only treasures in heaven, which we earn by our good deeds done before the Father, endure (1 Cor. 3:10–15). Our good works do not save us, but they are graciously given to us by God in order that we might have greater blessings in heaven.

Our Savior’s warning against the love of money brackets His teaching on good eyes and bad ones (Matt. 6:22–23). This shows us that an unhealthy eye, one full of darkness, is a metaphor for an attitude of greed and covetousness. In fact, in Jesus’ day, the rabbis described those who love money more than God as those with bad eyes. A healthy eye would then refer to one who is generous with his resources. Such persons reflect the Lord’s own generosity and have light. By the Holy Spirit they see rightly and follow the straight path of righteousness.

Driving home His point that we must serve the Father alone, Christ tells us we “cannot serve God and money” (v. 24). If we try to follow both, we can do justice to neither. In fact, if we try to serve both, we are not serving God at all.  

Coram Deo

Money itself is not evil, for it is possible to be wealthy and serve God. However, it is all too easy for us to think we are serving God when we are really serving the “stuff” of this world. The Lord gives us possessions to enjoy, but the first and best of all that we own belongs to Him. Make sure that you are offering up the first and best of all you have and not giving unto God only after you have first blessed yourself.

Passages for Further Study

Proverbs 28:25
Luke 12:13–21
1 Timothy 6:2b–10
Hebrews 13:5

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