October 1, 2012: God and Wealth

October 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. ~ Matthew 6.24 ~

By this point, we can clearly see that Christ speaks against the pursuit of wealth in this section. He cautioned against hoarding corruptible treasure in v. 19 and warned his audience of the danger of allowing ourselves to be filled with darkness in v. 23. He tells his followers that they should stock up heavenly treasure (v. 20) and also makes a strong case for us to allow ourselves to be filled with light (v. 22, 23). Jesus draws a clear distinction between things of Heaven and things of Earth.

In this verse, Christ goes one step further, drawing a distinction between God and Wealth. The key here lies in the word that gets translated, “serve” (δουλεύειν, from δοῦλος). This word-family often speaks of slaves and slavery. What makes one a slave? One becomes a slave when she or he lives under the authority and power of something or someone else. Slaves during this time did not have a say in what they did; they simply did what their master commanded.

In this context, can you imagine being enslaved to not just one, but two masters? (You may have an idea if you’ve ever found yourself working two jobs at once!) Each master has the authority to command your actions. Christ says that, inevitably, one master will become favored and the other will become hated. The slave will wind up picking a favorite; that’s just how it will work.

A couple of points emerge from this comparison. First, we can develop relationships with things that border on slavery. We can become engrossed and consumed by things that compete for our time, attention, and devotion. Our society gives us countless examples – beauty, status, possessions, and the one that Christ mentions – wealth. It is important to recognize that we can become enslaved to such things to the degree that the pursuit is what gives our lives meaning. Our pursuit becomes our identity, our master.

Second, such enslavements challenge our relationship with Christ and our ability to live in His Kingdom. Christ has drawn a line in the sand and called us to pick a side. If we are consumed with our petty pursuits, how can we devote ourselves to greater things? Our obsessions with a nicer car, a bigger house, a sexier body, and a larger income stand directly opposed to our devotion to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Problem is, we often fail to recognize our own state of enslavement. The good news is that the Holy Spirit opens our lamp-eyes and our eye-windows to see ourselves as we are – and then the Spirit gives us grace to escape from slavery to devotion.

Lord, I confess that I try to serve many masters. So many things are trying to stake their claim on my heart, in spite of my best efforts to surrender completely to you. Lord, cut the ties that chain me to petty pursuits of worthless things. Day by day, bring me into a life that serves you and you alone. Amen. 

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