Who will I serve? It is a stunning question. Jesus now explains that behind the choice between two treasures (where I lay them up) and two visions (where I fix my eyes) there lies the still more basic choice between two masters (whom I am going to serve).
It is a choice between God and mammon, that is between the living Creator himself and any object of our my creation I term ‘money’ (‘mammon’ being the transliteration of an Aramaic word for wealth). For I cannot serve both.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
“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 wealth.“ | Matthew 6:19-24
Am I hearing Jesus correctly? Yes, I am. And, Jesus is serious. I can disagree with this saying of Jesus but that seems to be useless. I can refuse to be confronted with such a stark and outright choice, and see no necessity for it. I can blandly assure myself that it is perfectly possible to serve two masters simultaneously, for I can manage it very nicely. Several possible arrangements and adjustments appeal to me. Either I serve God on Sundays and wealth on weekdays, or God with my lips and wealth with me heart, or God in appearance and wealth in reality, or God with half my being and wealth with the other half.
Can I compromise? Nope! It is this popular compromise solution which Jesus declares to be impossible: No one can serve two masters … I cannot serve God and wealth (notice the ‘can’ and the ‘cannot’). Would-be compromisers misunderstand his teaching, for they miss the picture of slave and slave-owner which lies behind his words. This is simply because God is God: ‘I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other.’ To try to share Jesus with other loyalties is to have opted for idolatry.
What is my choice? And when the choice is seen for what it is—a choice between Creator and creature, between the glorious personal God and a miserable thing called money, between worship and idolatry—it seems inconceivable that I could make the wrong choice. For now it is a question not just of comparative durability and comparative benefit, but of comparative worth: the intrinsic worth of the One and the intrinsic worthlessness of the other. Will I choose Jesus or will I choose wealth?
Want to know more? Everything Jesus had to say about the homeless, wealth, prosperity, poverty, riches, the poor, the needy and giving.