Friday, June 18, 2021

The Vision (6.18.21): Ye cannot serve God and mammon


Image: Roses, North Garden, Virginia, June 2021

Note: Devotion take from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 5:24-30.

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 (Matthew 6:24).

Christ begins, “No man can serve two masters….” Note two important verbal facets of this statement:

First, the verb rendered here as “to serve” comes from the root word for “slave” (doulos). So, it might be translated, “No man can be a slave (doulos) to two masters….”

Second, the word rendered “masters” is from the Greek word kurios, “lord.” It is the word that Jews used to translate the holy name of God when they translated the OT from Hebrew into Greek. It was there in the confession that the earliest Christians made about Jesus, when they said, “Jesus is Lord” (Rom 10:9). So, we could render it, “No one can be a slave to two Lords” or “No one can be a slave to two Gods.”

We might say it goes back to the first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exod 20:3). Christ was warning against polytheism, belief and adherence to more than one God. You can’t serve two Lords. Christ demands your exclusive allegiance.

The last line in v. 24 is striking: “Ye cannot serve [be a slave of] God and mammon.” Mammon is an unusual term. In the NT it appears only four times (cf., Luke 16:9, 11, 13). It is a Semitic or Jewish term, used in both Hebrew and Aramaic (but not found in the OT). According to the dictionary definition it means “wealth or property,” but it is often rendered simply as “money.” The NIV, for example, translates the last line: “You cannot serve God and money.”

You cannot serve the Lord Jesus and try, at the same time, to serve Lord Money.

Let me offer two insights we should heed in rightly dividing this declaration:

First, Christ did not address these words to a gathering of wealthy men at the Jerusalem chamber of commerce meeting. He addressed this to all of his disciples, most of whom were ordinary men, and, by modern standards, even poor men.

Second, Christ is not saying that money or possession in and of themselves are evil. Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” He is also not saying anything here that nullifies the duties of stewardship that are given to Christians elsewhere in Scripture (cf. 1 Tim 5:8).

The point is that we must use mammon (including all of our material possessions) as a means to fulfill our duties toward God and man, but we are never to be “spiritual slaves” to it. Money is never to be our Lord.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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