Allen Raynor Weblog: “Who is Your Master?”
(Jan. 31, 2019)
There was a farmer who reported very happily to his wife that his best cow had just given birth to twin calves, one red and one white. He said, ‘I have been led of the Lord to dedicate one of the calves to Him. We will raise them together. Then when the time comes to sell them we will keep the money from one calf and give the money from the other to the Lord.’ His wife asked which one he was going to keep and which one he was going to dedicate to the Lord. He answered ‘No need to decide right now,’ since he was planning to treat both the same. Several months went by and one day he walked into the kitchen with a long, sad face. His wife asked what was wrong and he answered ‘I have bad news, the Lord’s calf is dead.’ His wife said “But you had not decided which was to be the Lord’s calf and which one was yours.’ ‘Oh yes,’ he said. ‘I had always determined that it was to be the white one, and it is the white one that has died.’ Sadly, it seems to always be “the Lord’s calf” that dies. It is something of a metaphor for our lives and our stewardship unless we make a conscious decision, at the beginning that we will put God’s interests first. We cannot put God first and ourselves first. We have to make a decision.
In Matthew 6:24 Jesus taught “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.” There is an old saying which goes “Money is a wonderful slave, but a lousy master.” The ancients came to see that money is like sea water. “The more you drink, the thirstier you get.” In the day in which Jesus spoke, slavery was a common practice and a slave had absolutely no individual rights of his own. People in prison today have far more rights and privileges than slaves did back then. The slaves’ master had absolute authority over him, including every single moment of the slave’s time. The slave was on duty at all hours. In our society we may say someone is “moonlighting” meaning they have two jobs at once. Someone could work a full-time job during the day and then have a part-time job in the evening. The two do not really conflict. But a slave in Jesus’ day had no off hours. He belonged entirely to one master.
Many have thought they could love both God and money, or at least like both, but Jesus says “No – it does not work that way.” Jesus can always see a lot further down the road than we can and He knows where everything is leading. With that knowledge of where the road leads, He tells them bluntly, “You cannot serve two masters.” It is just that simple. Both “masters” make total demands on us. Yet, we are so prone to compromise. Time after time, in my work as a pastor, I have seen people who were serving God start to love something more than God and it quickly took the place of God in their lives. Invariably their love for God diminished in equal proportion to their love for something else increasing.
We cannot serve both God and wealth/money. Commentator James Montgomery Boice writes “In the original text of Mat. 6:24 the word translated ‘money’ is mammon (KJV). Mammon came from a Hebrew word meaning ‘to entrust’ or ‘to place in someone’s keeping.’ The noun, therefore, referred to the wealth one entrusted to another for safekeeping. At this stage the word did not have any bad connotations. If something bad was meant, it was necessary to put another word with it, as in ‘mammon of unrighteousness.’ Yet as time went by, the meaning of ‘mammon’ shifted from the passive sense of ‘that which is entrusted’ to the active sense of ‘that in which one trusts.’ When that happened, the word originally spelled with a small ‘m’ came to be spelled with a capital “M,’ as designating a god, which is why, for instance the NIV capitalizes the word Money!” (James Montgomery Boice; The Gospel of Matthew; The King and His Kingdom; Vol. 1; 105) “Mammon,” “money,” “wealth,” has been, and continues to be, a “god” to a great many people. In Luke 12:15 Jesus warns “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15)
Believers, of all people, should know better than to trust in money. It might be something we do in the immaturity of youth, or perhaps when we are a new Christian; but there is no excuse for the longer-term Christian. In Mat. 6:24 Jesus is essentially admonishing them to get their priorities straight and to get on down the road toward maturity. This love of money/wealth is essentially bringing down our society. Commentator Craig Blomberg writes “Many perceptive observers have sensed that the greatest danger to Western Christianity is not, as is sometimes alleged, prevailing ideologies such as Marxism, Islam, the New Age movement, or humanism but rather the all-pervasive materialism of our culture. We try so hard to create heaven on earth and to throw in Christianity when convenient as another small addition to the so-called good life. Jesus proclaims that unless we are willing to serve him wholeheartedly in every area of life, but particularly with our material resources, we cannot claim to be serving him at all.” (Craig L. Blomberg; Matthew; NAC; 124) Every person has got to decide who their “God” really is. It is not just who they say it is.
In 1 Kings 18 we read of Elijah’s dealings with the Prophets of Baal. Elijah lays out the truth for them. In vs. 21 it says “And Elijah came to all the people and said, How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” (1 Kgs. 18:21) If money is god, then follow it. If sex is god, then follow it; if some particular possession of yours is god, then by all means follow it. But, if the God of the Bible is God, then follow Him! God does not like, nor does He deserve, divided loyalties. In Luke 17:32 Jesus warns His followers to “Remember Lot’s wife.” God told Lot and his wife to flee the wicked, perverse city of Sodom and “Do not look back,” but she did look back and consequently she was turned into a pillar of salt. Forever and always she would be an example of “divided loyalties.”
When a marriage ceremony is performed and two people make their vows to “forsake all others;” and to be loyal to the other person only; suppose the groom said in his vows, “Yes I will love my new bride, but I also have 3 other girlfriends and they mean a great deal to me and I am just not willing to give them up. I will make my new wife a good husband, but I am not willing to sever the relationships I have with my other girlfriends. I think it is only fair that I should be able to spend time with them and enjoy them also. We would say of such a person, he is no where near ready for marriage, because he does not seem to know the first thing about it! Does God deserve any less from us who claim to be Christians? Our faithful God deserves our undivided loyalty and utmost faithfulness. He deserves to be our only Master!
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor