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Not only is it unwise, Jesus said it is impossible to serve two masters.
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Matthew 6:24 NKJV
Two Masters--Which One Will Set You Free?
Mammon is an Aramaic word for wealth, money, possessions. Mammon was not always a pejorative word. Originally it meant to entrust items of value to someone else for safe-keeping. But over time, mammon came to mean the treasure itself and that in which a person put their trust.In America, "In God we trust" is engraved on our currency. Whether that statement is valid could certainly be debated, but in reality when we have money, we usually don't feel the need to trust in God. How ironic that we spend our "In God we trust" money on things or investments which rival and take the place of God! The issue of where we place our trust--in God or in our money--is the flashpoint for Jesus.
Fast money, mad money, never enough or always wanting a little more--everyone has something to say about money. Just today in a 30-minute conversation I heard sentiments like these: "Why do you give your stuff to a thrift store when you could consign it and put some smart change in your pocket!" "If I had charged people I could have made a few bucks, enough to pay for dinner!" "These are really good, you should go into business and sell these things. You could turn that batter into real dough!" Since working on the current passage, I've been listening and what I have heard is that people, everywhere, are very mercenary. We seem to eat and sleep, work and play with money on our minds. By far, the emphasis is more on getting than giving.
This is not a new phenomenon. Jesus recognized the problem 2000 years ago. The poor who envy the rich are just as guilty as those in the billionaire club. We have a consuming passion for wealth and think money spells freedom; Jesus called it something else--slavery to the wrong master. We cannot serve God and mammon at the same time. If we love one, we will avoid the other. We can not be loyal to competing values.
Did Jesus have us in mind? We are the super people of the 21st century. We can do it all. Don't tell us we can't serve two masters. Just watch. Multi-tasking is a great new word. With inserts and bylines we can view several TV shows at the same time. We use split computer screens and any information we need is at our fingertips, just a click away. We are free to live in divided family arrangements because our wireless devices keep us in constant touch. We juggle all our priorities at breakneck speed. Our lives are ruled by many forces, not just two! Jobs, relationships, parents, children, health needs, fitness, sports, volunteerism, religion, education, the arts, leisure, hobbies, doing our duty--we balance it all.
Or so we think. But Jesus kept it simple and declared two opposing forces. The Bible consistently presents two choices. Light and darkness. Goodness and evil. Salvation and destruction. The narrow road and the wide road. The house built on the rock and the house built on sand. While we routinely blend all the colors of the spectrum into gray, Jesus speaks to us in black and white.
So who has time to dig through all the layers to find some level of existence where there are only two paths and we must determine which one to take. At what point does stepping out one direction close the door behind us? We have all met the fork in the road: career choices, marriage, where to live, who to believe. These are judgments which changed our lives forever and we will never know what would have happened if we had chosen differently. Jesus presents us with such a decision. And as with many basic resolves, it must be re-confirmed periodically, sometimes daily.
Two masters! Which is the one that will really set us free? When I close my hand tightly around my money and possessions, they control my actions. When I grab and snitch and clutch my way through life, I am not free. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus said he came to proclaim liberty. In this case, freedom from the evils that accompany our love of money, as much money as we can get our hands on.
The master Mammon says, "Whatever it is, grab more." And his cords of greed and selfishness block out the light of life. The master God says, "No matter how much or how little you have, open up your hand in simple faith." This is the liberty which Jesus proclaimed. The way to be set free, as Jesus will tell us next, is through carefree trust in God. God does not force us; we do have a choice. We will be God's servant only if we chose to be.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Describe a stereotypical "material girl" or boy.
What effect does materialism have on your life? Are you a spender or a saver? How do you determine what to spend, what to save, and what to give away? How do you know when something you own, "owns" you?
What does it mean to "trust in God, not in your money?" Did you ever lack the money to buy what you needed? Did God ever supply your need? If so, how did God supply what you needed?If someone told you that you don't have to save for the future because God will supply what you need, how would you respond to them?
John Wesley believed that money was a good servant but a bad master. Money can serve you, or it can rule your life. Describe some instances in which money is a positive or a negative force, a servant or a master.
Do you believe that God and mammon/money are adversaries? Explain your answer. Do they pull you in different directions? In what ways are they not compatible? Do you ever wish you could be free from one to enjoy the other?
How do we balance the words of Jesus with our need to be responsible in preparing for our financial security? You can't resign your job and expect God to provide for your family, can you? Why do we thank God for the meal after we have worked to provide, prepare and serve the food?
Try to be aware of the influence money has on your every-day living. How often do you think or talk about financial matters? What messages about money do you get from those around you?
I Timothy 6:10 says: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." What thoughts come to your mind when you read that verse?