You cannot serve two masters
By now each one of us is getting a good idea of whether the foundation of our faith is on rock or sand. If on rock, we praise God for his grace. If on sand, we praise him for his mercy in showing us while we still have time to change.
This reading is really self-explanatory, isn’t it? There’s really nothing difficult to understand about it. Can I encourage you to read it over and over and over? It is truth and it is truth spoken by the one who said, “I am the truth.” Meditate on this reading, on the truths it contains and on the commands that it contains.
There’s an interesting little bit of history tucked away in 2 Kings 17, from vs 33. We are going to look at it in the bible study. I won’t read it, but it speaks of people who settle in Israel. In vs 33 it says, “They worshipped the Lord but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.” And in vs 41, “Even while these people had been worshipping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did.”
Wesley, in commenting on that verse, says this: “The practice of most modern Christians closely resembles the practice of these ancient heathens. They perform outward acts of service to God but they divide their service between God and the gods of this world – money, pleasure and praise. In other words, the god Mammon. And they teach their children to do the same.”
That described what he saw in 18th century Christianity. Do you think 21st century Christianity is much different?
Jesus says you can’t serve two masters and He mentions God, and in the older translations, Mammon, the god of money, possessions and treasure, in a sense the god of all the things that many of us hold dear in the world.
What does it mean to serve God?
Let’s look at that in some detail. How do we serve God?
Well, we serve God first of all by believing in him.
We serve God by trusting in him.
We serve God by looking to him for our joy and our happiness.
We serve God by loving him.
We serve God by resembling him, becoming like him. Someone has said that the best form of service is to imitate the one who you worship. The apostle Paul calls us to imitate Christ.
We also serve God by obeying him.
That’s what it means to serve God: to believe in him, to trust in him, to look to him for our joy and happiness, to become like him, to imitate him, to obey him.
What does it mean to serve mammon or money?
Well, it means trusting in money or the things money can buy for security or strength or pleasure.
It means looking to the world and the things money can provide for joy, for happiness and for contentment.
Serving mammon means loving the things of this world, desiring them, hungering and thirsting for them. “I must have that”, is the prayerful refrain of someone who serves mammon.
Serving mammon means becoming like the world and its way of doing things, imitating the world and its ways. The servant of mammon will say things like, “That’s the way it’s always been done, that’s the way it’s done in the world.”
And this leads to the final way of serving, obedience. Serving mammon means to obey the world and its ways, to conform to its customs, to follow the multitude, to be in fashion, to imitate our neighbours and the people around us.
Friends, can you see how it is impossible to serve both God and mammon, to serve God and the world, to serve God and money. You cannot serve the one without denying the other and they are opposites. For example, God says serve me by turning the other cheek. The world says you donder the one who hits you.
Trying to walk between God and the world will result in your being disappointed in both. You will find no rest in one or the other and no peace, either in God or in the world.
Jesus goes on in vs 25, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, about food or drink, about your body or about clothes.”
Now, let’s be clear on this: This does not mean that you must not plan things, that you must not provide for you and your family, that you must not choose a career, find work, run a business. You might remember that we looked at all of these things in the last talk. But, do not worry, do not become anxious about these things. Remember from last week – keep your eye on God.
Jesus reinforces his teaching about money and possessions by pointing out that we spend far too much energy worrying about what we cannot change and worrying about things that God will provide. He says that such worry is not only pointless but it is also faithless. By worrying about our personal appearance or our health, we say something negative about our relationship with God. By worrying we declare that God is not to be trusted so Jesus invites us to look at nature and to see God’s faithfulness displayed there. In fact, we are told that we could learn a lesson or two from the birds and the flowers, who never worry and yet are always provided for.
Finally, Jesus gives an antidote to worry and to wrong priorities.
Here it is: by seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness, not only will what we really need become clear to us, it will also be provided.
Isn’t that good news? Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. That’s really good news. Can you see why the gospel is called good news, especially to the poor? Mr Wesley calls this the infallible way of being constantly supplied with our needs. Seek ye first the kingdom of God.
Let your concern be that God, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, reigns in your heart.
Seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Seek his righteousness. That is another way of saying the beatitude, you remember it – blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they will be satisfied. Therefore, no need to worry.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. So don’t worry.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Remember righteousness can be summed up by one word – love. Love of God, love of neighbour. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these other things will be added unto you.
I’ll end where I began. This is a beautiful piece of Scripture. It is the truth spoken by the one who said, “I am the truth.” Read it, meditate on it, believe it, obey it.