No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.—Matt. 6:24
Just as we cannot have our treasures both in earth and in heaven or our bodies both in light and in darkness, we cannot “serve two masters.” The Greek word for “masters” is often translated “lord,” and often refers to a slave owner.
By definition, a slave owner has total control of the slave. For a slave there is no such thing as partial or part-time obligation to his master. He owes full-time service to his master. He is owned and totally controlled by and obligated to his master. To give anything to anyone else would make his master less than his master. It is impossible to “serve two masters” and fully or faithfully be the obedient slave of each.
In this way we can’t claim Christ as Lord if our allegiance is to anything or anyone else, including ourselves. And when we know God’s will but resist obeying it, we give evidence that our loyalty is to someone or something other than Him. But the person whose master is Jesus Christ can say that when he eats or drinks or does anything else, he does “all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Make your allegiance to Christ your priority each and every day.
|What alternative “masters” compete the hardest for your devotion? How has the inviolable truth of this “no man can serve two masters” statement been proven true in your life and in your observation of others? But why do we seem so intent on trying to have it that way anyway?|
You Cannot Serve God and Mammon (6:24)
The impossibility of living for God and for money is stated here in terms of masters and slaves. No one can serve two masters. One will inevitably take precedence in his loyalty and obedience. So it is with God and mammon. They present rival claims and a choice must be made. Either we must put God first and reject the rule of materialism or we must live for temporal things and refuse God’s claim on our lives.
24. No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and look down on the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon. The man with the misplaced heart (verse 21) and misdirected mind (verses 22 and 23) also suffers from a misaligned will, a will not in line with God’s will (verse 24). He imagines, perhaps, that he can give his full allegiance to the two goals of glorifying God and acquiring material possessions, but he errs. He will either hate the one and love the other, or vice versa. By “God” is meant the heavenly Father, as representing the Trinity, and as revealed to us by Jesus Christ. By “Mammon,” a word of uncertain derivation, is meant wealth, property, as Luke 16:5, 9, 11 clearly indicates. Think of money, real estate, victuals, clothes, etc. Here in Matt. 6:24, as well as in Luke 16:13, wealth of property is, however, personified: it is presented as a master to whom a person is devoted and whom he loves. Today also people will say, “He has become the slave of his holdings.”
If a person loves God he will show this by being devoted to him, placing everything—money, time, talents, etc.—at his disposal, serving him. It is clear, therefore, that loving God is not merely a matter of the emotions but of heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30). To love God requires service and even sacrifice (Matt. 10:37–39). So described, it becomes all the more evident that this supreme, self-sacrificing, enthusiastic allegiance cannot be rendered to two parties. Whoever renders it becomes a worshiper, and the One to whom it is rendered becomes his God. Moreover, since there is only one true God, it follows that Mammon-worship is idolatry (see a on p. 343).
The psychological tension that is built up in the soul of a person who imagines for a while that he will be able to love and serve both masters becomes so severe and unendurable that in attitude, word, and deed he will sooner or later begin to show where his real allegiance lies. Either the one master or the other will win out, actually has been “on top” all the while, though, perhaps, the individual in question was not fully aware of this. In the crisis the agitated soul, out of love for the one master, will begin to show that he hates the other, perhaps even to the point of being willing to betray him. Think of Judas Iscariot. Was it not Mammon that led him to deliver Christ into the hands of the enemy? See Matt. 26:14–16; John 12:6. And on the other hand, think of Paul. There came a time in the life of this former persecutor when he began to look down on whatever of personal merit, earthly possessions, and prestige he at one time had prized so highly. Whatever used to be gain had now become loss (Phil. 3:7 ff.).
Another point, already implied in the preceding, is now brought to the foreground more definitely, namely, that the person who, because of his lack of trust in the heavenly Father, devotes his time and talent to the piling up of earthly treasures, hence to the worship of Mammon, confuses values. He is “all mixed up” with respect to priorities. He attaches primary significance to that which is secondary, and vice versa (see c on p. 343)
A Single Master
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (6:24)
The third choice relates to allegiance, to masters. Just as we cannot have our treasures both in earth and in heaven or our bodies both in light and in darkness, we cannot serve two masters.
Kurios (masters) is often translated lord, and refers to a slave owner. The idea is not simply that of an employer, of which a person may have several at the same time and work for each of them satisfactorily. Many people today hold two or more jobs. If they work the number of hours they are supposed to and perform their work as expected, they have fulfilled their obligation to their employers, no matter how many they may have. The idea is of masters of slaves.
But by definition, a slave owner has total control of the slave. For a slave there is no such thing as partial or part-time obligation to his master. He owes fulltime time service to a full-time master. He is owned and totally controlled by and obligated to his master. He has nothing left for anyone else. To give anything to anyone else would make his master less than master. It is not simply difficult, but absolutely impossible, to serve two masters and fully or faithfully be the obedient slave of each.
Over and over the New Testament speaks of Christ as Lord and Master and of Christians as His bondslaves. Paul tells us that before we were saved we were enslaved to sin, which was our master. But when we trusted in Christ, we became slaves of God and of righteousness (Rom. 6:16–22).
We cannot claim Christ as Lord if our allegiance is to anything or anyone else, including ourselves. And when we know God’s will but resist obeying it, we give evidence that our loyalty is other than to Him. We can no more serve two masters at the same time than we can walk in two directions at the same time. We will either … hate the one and love the other, or … hold to one and despise the other.
John Calvin said, “Where riches hold the dominion of the heart, God has lost His authority” (A Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke, vol. 1 [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979], p. 337). Our treasure is either on earth or in heaven, our spiritual life is either full of light or of darkness, and our master is either God or mammon (possessions, earthly goods).
The orders of those two masters are diametrically opposed and cannot coexist. The one commands us to walk by faith and the other demands we walk by sight. The one calls us to be humble and the other to be proud, the one to set our minds on things above and the other to set them on things below. One calls us to love light, the other to love darkness. The one tells us to look toward things unseen and eternal and the other to look at things seen and temporal.
The person whose master is Jesus Christ can say that, when heats or drinks or does anything else, he does “all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). He can say with David, “I have set the Lord continually before me” (Ps. 16:8), and with Caleb when he was eighty-five years old, “I followed the Lord my God fully” (Josh. 14:8).
24 John Stott (Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 158) comments, “Jesus now explains that behind the choice between two treasures (where we lay them up) and two visions (where we fix our eyes) there lies the still more basic choice between two masters (whom we are going to serve).” “Money” renders Greek mamōna (“mammon,” GK 3440), itself a transliteration of Aramaic māmônā (in the emphatic state; “wealth,” “property”). The root in both Aramaic and Hebrew (mn) indicates that in which one has confidence, and the connection with money and wealth, well attested in Jewish literature (e.g., m. Peʾah 1:1; b. Ber. 61b; m. ʾAbot 2:7; and not always in a negative sense), is painfully obvious. Here it is personified. Both God and Money are portrayed, not as employers, but as slave owners. A man may work for two employers; but since “single ownership and full-time service are of the essence of slavery” (Tasker), he cannot serve two slave owners. Either God is served with a single-eyed devotion, or he is not served at all. Attempts at divided loyalty betray not partial commitment to discipleship but deep-seated commitment to idolatry.
 MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 167). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1226). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 347–348). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 414–415). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 213). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.