No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.Matt. 6:24
Serving God or Riches
This passage of scripture about no one can serve two masters highlights the predicament that comes in serving God and something else. In this case, it is serving personal riches while at the same time trying to serve God. It is quite interesting how both of them are described as masters. Serving two opposing interests are illustrated in this verse with polarizing descriptions such as loving one and hating the other, or holding onto one and despising the other. While mammon refers to riches and wealth, it could really be anything in someone’s life that is standing in the place of God, including false gods.
The futility of serving two opposing interests was illustrated by the apostle Paul as he contrasted sacrifices to God with sacrifices to devils, “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.” [1 Cor. 10:21] James also highlighted the notion of this type of double mindedness by emphasizing how it creates a sense of instability in his letter, “A double minded man [is] unstable in all his ways.” [Jam. 1:8]
James wrote further about this duplicitous issue by chastising people who pursued sin while trying to be godly at the same time, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [ye] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [ye] double minded.” [Jam. 4:8] In short, this pursuit of duplicity just doesn’t work when it comes to growing your faith in God since one will suffer at the pursuit of the other.
Double Minded Life
This double minded dilemma of no one can serve two masters also prevailed historically back in the Old Testament in at least four cases noted in this study. The first was described in the book of Kings, “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD [be] God, follow him: but if Baal, [then] follow him.” [1 Kings 18:21a] Historically, following multiple gods at the same time never bode well for people or society. Not surprisingly, this is why God declared himself in the manner described, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God [is] one LORD:” [Deut. 6:4-5] and echoed by the ancient prophet, “I [am] the LORD, and [there is] none else, [there is] no God beside me.” [Is. 45:5]
Joshua’s most notable proclamation also gives evidence of the prevailing divided loyalty among people, “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” [Josh. 24:15] Here, Joshua makes the decisive statement of who he and his house will serve!
Further evidence of this duality took place in the book of Samuel as shared in this passage, “And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, [then] put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” [1 Sam. 7:3] Even one of the prophets wrote of this sense of divided loyalty among the Israelites, “Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images.” [Hos. 10:2]
Reverting back to the New Testament now, Jesus also made this bold declaration as an either or decision people must make in their faith, “He that is not with me is against me.” [Matt. 12:30a] There was and is to be no middle ground in Christianity and while that may appear divisive to some it illustrates the exclusivity of the faith that God is asking of us.
Servants of God
What often gets missed though in this week’s passage about no one can serve two masters is one very important word – serve or servant. It may come as a surprise to some people that as believers in God through faith, we are called to serve him, be it fulfillment of his will, obedience to his commands or singularity in worship towards him. To remove any doubt on the ubiquitous nature of this call to servanthood here are some notable individuals from scripture who were called servants, either by the Lord, themselves or others.
Moses was a servant of the Lord [Ex. 14:31, Deut. 34:5, Josh. 1:2], as was Lot [Gen. 19:19], as was Joshua [Deut. 3:24, Judg. 2:8, as was Samuel [1 Sam. 3:9], as was David [1 Sam. 23:10 2 Sam. 3:18 Ps. 18:1], as was Job [Job 1:8], as was Isaiah [Is. 20:3], as was Jacob [Is. 44:2], as was Zerubbabel [Hag. 2:23], as was Simeon [Luke 2:29], as was Paul [Rom. 1:1], as was James [Jam. 1:1], as was Peter [2 Pet. 1:1], as was Jude [Jude1:1], and as was Jesus in his humanity [Is. 42:1-3, Matt.12:18, Phil. 2:7].
Jesus also likened his followers as servants in the New Testament by saying, “…My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” [John 18:36] Paul even took it a step further and described believers in Christ as soldiers who should endure hardness in [2 Tim. 2:3].
Interestingly, when the new way of faith in Christ got underway as noted in Acts of the Apostles, a woman with a peculiar spiritual gift described the apostles as servants, “The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.” [Acts 16:17]
Origin of Servanthood
It is important to note why and how this servanthood originated for believers, which is explained in part, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” [1 Cor. 6:19-20] The phrase bought with a price is referring to the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ through his death, burial and resurrection; hence the purchasing of believers through his atoning sacrifice as the penalty for sin.
The phrase servant is therefore more likened to a bond-servant or slave, someone who is actually procured at a cost by their master, and in this case, it is God himself who has purchased us as noted here, “…the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” [Acts 20:28b] When this concept of being bought with a price by God himself is truly fathomed it should bring an incredible appreciation, respect and devotion toward God. For believers in Christ, it is through his sacrificial atonement; the likes of which no ordinary person could ever achieve on their own accord or through their own efforts. Were it not for Christ, we would indeed still be in our sins and under penalty of the law [Rom. 6:23].
Servanthood is Freedom
Perhaps the irony though of becoming a servant of the Lord lies in the actual freedom derived from it as Paul noted, “For he that is called in the Lord, [being] a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, [being] free, is Christ’s servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.” [1 Cor. 7:22-23] Jesus also highlighted this new found freedom for believers in Christ to give them hope, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” [John 8:35] This freedom in Christ, as the Lord’s freeman, helps to further articulate the meaning of no one can serve two masters.
Paul even takes it one step further by declaring the incredible inheritance believers have in Christ by stating we are not just servants but heirs, “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” [Gal. 4:7] Paul also highlighted the tremendous gift of eternal life as servants of God, “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” [Rom. 6:22] As one is made free from sin and have become servants of God unto eternal life they truly come to the realization that no one can serve two masters.
As this Bible study comes to a close on no one can serve two masters, it is true that people will falter who pursue their own personal riches while trying to live a fulfilling life for God. For individuals who earnestly seek the Lord there will be a time when they are called to serve and this may be when it is least expected; for pursuits and initiatives perhaps never before imagined. Far better to seek out and aspire to this calling now as believers since servanthood will continue right into eternity, “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him.” [Rev. 22:3]
The notion though of serving, or not serving the Lord is one that has beckoned the call of people since the dawn of history. Two unfortunate examples from the Old Testament are noted here for consideration, “But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.” [2 Kings 10:31] A further example is shown in this passage, “Howbeit the high places were not taken away: for as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers.” [2 Chron. 20:33]
While many will come to the Lord, sadly something may still linger in their heart and life as they continue in pseudo-worship of other things. These will hold them back from fulfilling all that God has planned for them as in this occurrence, “And he did [that which was] right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart.” [2 Chron. 25:2] This portrays the prevailing challenge of how no one can serve two masters when they continue to serve both God and something else in their life.
The Lord Jesus Christ wants all of your heart and your desires, this is where believers will truly find rest in him. A notable example of this is recorded in this passage, “And all Judah rejoiced at the oath: for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them: and the LORD gave them rest round about.” [2 Chron. 15:15]
The call is there for all readers to not only come to the Lord with an open and contrite heart, but to also have a desire for a singleness in their heart to fully serve God for, “Blessed [is] that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.” [Matt. 24:46] Ask yourself this question then, do you want your legacy to be one described as, “but not with a perfect heart“, or one described as, “whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing“?
Bible Study Questions
- After reading through No One Can Serve Two Masters, why do you think in principle it is so hard to serve both God and riches?
- In the section Double Minded Life, Hosea makes note of something that becomes divided, what is it? Hint – Hosea 10:2
- Of the fifteen people noted as servants of God, can you name at least five of them?
- Describe in your own words, the origin of servanthood to God. Hint – reference the same section.
- In the section, Servanthood is Freedom, is it true that Romans 6:22 states, But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God?
- In the section Declining Freedom, try to memorize Simon Peter’s profound declaration about Christ (John 6:68-69)
- In contemplating this study on no one can serve two masters, how could you better serve the Lord Jesus Christ in your life today?
WORD GUIDE – * (mammon – riches, material wealth) * (halt – hesitate) * (Baal – a false god of the Canaanites) * (gods of the Amorites – false gods) * (strange gods – false gods made out of material things like wood and metal) * (Ashtaroth – a false goddess) * (alters and images – used in the worship of false gods) * (high places – altars of worship to false gods)