Who’s Your Ma$ter?
Part 6 of the Living Waters Series
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.Matthew 6:24, NIV
1. perform duties or services for (another person or an organization).
synonyms: work for
Dear brothers & sisters,
If you’re just now jumping in to our Living Waters Series, we are embarking on a quest to encourage and help others who are seeking a deeper faith journey. We have personally experienced a radical transformation in our own lives by putting the teachings of Jesus into practice. This path has brought us freedom, purpose, and a deeper relationship with God; and indeed, it is the genuine Christianity that was practiced by Jesus’ disciples, the first Christians. We want to encourage you to also consider becoming a genuine disciple of Jesus, seeking to practice the teachings of our Lord in everything you do!
So of course, we started the Living Waters Series by exploring what it means to show love: for God, our neighbor, and each other. Using the words of Jesus as our guide, we learned how we as Christians should show our love in these three aspects of our lives.
The next logical place to go was the very fundamental of discipleship in Christ, according to Jesus himself: the forsake all principle. Here, we learned about what Jesus expects of us, the cost of discipleship. (Follow the links to readpart 4 and part 5.)
Now, picking up where we left off, we will explore another truly fundamental stage of our early development as disciples of Jesus. And, much like the forsake all teaching, this one is also strangely unpopular, yet it is an essential part of the Gospel message and what it means to actually follow Jesus… at least that’s what he tells us! We will also explain how this next teaching really is Good News (meaning, it’s part of the Gospel!) despite its unpopularity, and how it is yet another teaching in which Jesus shows us the Way to love God, our neighbor, and each other. So without further ado, let’s get to it!
In our previous Living Waters post, we read from Luke 12, where Jesus teaches us that if we sell our possessions and give to the poor, we gain eternal treasures in heaven (v. 33-34). We also saw how this method of forsaking all our material possessions is part of what Jesus means when he encourages us to seek God’s Kingdom first, allowing God to provide for all our needs (v. 31-32).
These teachings (and the ones immediately before in v. 22-30) are also recorded by Matthew in the famous Sermon on the Mount. Here, we find a slightly different context, but the theme is the same: Do not worry about your life; if you seek to serve God by building up His Kingdom, then He will supply everything you need to both survive and thrive! In the Gospel according to Matthew, it goes like this (with emphasis on the parts that are different from Luke’s version):
Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!
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 God and be enslaved to money.
That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.Matthew 6:19-34
Besides those two short pieces at the beginning of this beautiful and fascinating passage, everything else remains the same between Luke’s version and Matthew’s. As far as historical accounts are concerned, that proves an enormous level of credibility to these teachings, which had been faithfully preserved through oral tradition until they were recorded by these two Gospel authors.
The other thing that these parallels prove is that–at least in the minds of the disciples (i.e. Christians) who were much closer to Jesus’ earthly ministry than we are–the contexts of these two passages (from Luke 12 and Matthew 6) are inextricably linked. And we have found in actual practice that this is the case!
Here, in Matthew 6:24, Jesus teaches us that we have a choice between two masters, and we can only serve one. It’s either going to be God or money.
This is weird. Most of us would think that it’s either God or Satan, God or the world, God or our flesh. Reading through the rest of the New Testament, that is definitely the impression that we are left with, isn’t it?
But no, Jesus tells us that our master will either be God or money, based on how we choose to live. We can either spend our time serving God, or else we will be spending our time serving money. According to Jesus, it’s really that simple!
So what does this mean? Quit our jobs?
Jesus says an emphatic Yes! After all, hasn’t he already given us a “job assignment” that is all-encompassing (Matthew 28:19-20)? Surely, in order to do this job well, we need to give it our full-time effort.
But it can be hard to hear Jesus’ God or money teaching because most of us feel that God has given us our jobs, that we can use our jobs to preach the Gospel, help the poor, and of course, provide for our needs.
But Jesus tells us that we don’t have to be limited to a part-time ministry that we squeeze in on the sides of whatever it is we’re actually being paid to do.
In fact, he’s even telling us the hard truth that a part-time, on-the-job ministry really isn’t a ministry at all. It’s a lot like giving God the leftovers, and expecting Him to not be offended!
According to Jesus, we aren’t serving God at all unless we commit ourselves 100% to ministry, to His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33). (And taking things even further, Jesus says that we don’t even love God unless we work full-time for His Kingdom!) The only other option that Jesus gives us is the “money master”.
Jesus tells us that working for money is actually being enslaved to money. Working for money means that we have made it our master, our God.
But wait a minute, you might be thinking… Being enslaved to money is not the same as working for pay! Except it is, brothers and sisters, and here’s why:
Most translations of Matthew 6:24 say “You cannot serve both God and money”. In the long quote above, we chose to use the NLT (which is one of the few translations that use the concept of slavery) because we like the boldness of that statement, and we see that it holds true in real life. And then there is only one translation–the Aramaic Bible in Plain English–that we know of which uses the word “work” instead of “serve”. It reads: “No man can work for two masters, for either he will hate one and will love the other, or he will honor one and the other he will ignore. You cannot work for God and for money” (emphasis added).
Working for something or someone is the same thing as serving. Google defines the verb “serve” in this way: to “perform duties or services for (another person or an organization).” And the very first synonym given for the verb “serve” is “work for“. It doesn’t matter what you want to call it, but the Truth is very clear to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear… We cannot work for both God and money. We can only serve (i.e. work for) one master. And “don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey” (Romans 6:16)? (Obey is another synonym of the verb “serve.”)
Here’s a quick test you can take to see for yourself if you are enslaved to your job (and thus, to the money you get from that job since chances are, you wouldn’t be working there if it weren’t for the pay!):
- When do you show up to work?
- Why do you show up at that time? Is it because your boss (the person who authorizes your payment) tells you to? Or is it because God tells you to?
If your answer to question 2 is “my boss”, then, according to the Bible, you are very likely enslaved to money! (After all, you don’t show up on time because you want to please your boss simply for the sake of pleasing your boss… It’s because if you don’t, they’ll fire you and there goes that paycheck you’re working for!)
So whether we’re flipping burgers, teaching school, practicing medicine, constructing buildings, running a business, or any other form of paid labor, we are enslaved to the whole money system.
Wow. Believe us when we say that this was just as shocking to us as it probably is to you, brothers and sisters! And it’s probably going to take a little while to really wrap your brain around it, so let’s make sure to take some time out for serious prayer about what God is revealing to us through the divine wisdom of His Son. We pray for you, that you have eyes to see and ears to hear this radical message about working for God instead of working for money. We know that God will bless you for your loving obedience to this simple yet revolutionary teaching, because He has already blessed us for stepping out in faith!
Yes, we really have repented of working for money in order to start working for God, brothers and sisters. That means we quit our jobs and have since dedicated our lives to full-time ministry. We call this lifestyle living by faith (more on that here), because we place our faith in God’s promise that He will provide for all of our needs if we spend our whole lives serving (i.e. working for) Him only (Matthew 6:33). He has never, ever let us down!
Despite this truth, most of us initially react to the idea of quitting our jobs with a lot of fear (among other traps of the flesh and cares of this world, see Matthew 13:22). That is why it is so important to pray throughout the whole process so that we keep our eyes on God alone, not letting the enemy’s lies take us away from God’s ultimate will for our lives as disciples of Jesus (i.e. Christians). And remember what we read from Luke 12: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (v. 32).
So in a way, Jesus is saying that our choice is between God or Satan, the world, our flesh. It’s just that the practical manifestation of how Satan/the world/our flesh snares us into slavery is through the lure of money. As the apostle Paul wrote, “the love of money is the root of all evil. And some believers, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10).
You see, money represents one of the greatest desires of mankind: the assurance of provision. With money, we know that we won’t starve or freeze or what have you. But when we start to trust in money as our source of provision, we become enslaved to it. In fact, we make it our God, our master, as Jesus says.
But Jesus tells us that we don’t have to worry about food or clothing. If we serve God, working to build up His Kingdom on earth, He will provide the food, He will provide the clothing, He will provide everything that we need (Matthew 6:33). By allowing God to provide for us (instead of taking matters into our own hands by working for money), we truly honor Him as the God of our lives.
It’s important for us to note here, brothers and sisters, that this teaching about God or money is not just a special calling for a few, select disciples… This is for ALL Christians. The context of the Sermon on the Mount makes this quite clear: “Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them” (Matthew 5:1-2). All Christians are disciples of Jesus (Acts 11:26), so if we’re not following the instructions of our Teacher, then we’re pretty crappy disciples, huh? And in fact, Jesus–the very man-God who we claim as Lord–would say that we aren’t disciples at all… (Luke 6:46, John 14:15, 21, 23, John 15:10, 1 John 2:3).
Not to mention, the verse itself makes it very clear that there are no exceptions to this God or money teaching: “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 God and be enslaved to money” (Matthew 6:24, emphasis added). So unless your name is “No One,” then you cannot work for two masters; it’s either gonna be God or money!
“Alright, alright,” you might be thinking. “Jesus really is saying that we must choose between God and money. But what happened to the Gospel, the Good News?
At this point, it may seem difficult to see how this teaching is Good News (i.e. the Gospel). After all, it’s pretty scary to think about quitting our jobs, committing ourselves fully to God’s work, and just trusting that He will provide! But we can assure you that Jesus was not lying, and it really is God’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom (Luke 12:32). He will provide (Matthew 6:33)!
But beyond the miracle of God’s ability and desire to provide for our needs (as if that’s not outstanding enough on its own), there is another aspect of this God or money teaching that reveals the Gospel: complete freedom!
If working for money is akin to slavery (which it is… and we have proven it earlier on in this post), then working for God is the way to break those chains of bondage (Romans 6:16)! Our personal experience of living by faith has given us a lifestyle that is very flexible, fully customizable, and infused with deep purpose, grace, and infinite opportunities to grow. If that’s not the kind of job you’d like to have, suit yourself. For us (and for countless others), this is exactly what we always wanted but never knew where to find. Where on earth is there a boss who not only lets you design your own schedule and choose your own projects, but is also Love itself? So we’ve chosen to work for the Boss of the Universe, and we hope to inspire you and others to do the same! (Did we mention that the “benefits” are incredible–and eternal?)
And finally, what could be more Gospel-like than love? Applying this God or money teaching to our lives also increases our ability to show greater love to God, our neighbor, and each other. (After all, God is Love, so working for God means that we are working for Love!)
Choosing to work for God instead of money shows reverence to and trust in God. Jesus wants us to make God our master, not money. By putting God in the right place in our lives (FIRST!), we show Him our love. We focus on Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. We trust that He will take care of us. The hard truth, brothers and sisters, is that Jesus says we cannot even love God if we are working for money… According to the Lord, there is no middle ground (Matthew 6:24).
We also show love to our neighbor when we work for God instead of money. As we discussed in our previous Living Waters post, many of us in first-world countries actively participate in an unjust world economic system without even realizing it. (For example, nearly half of the income tax paid by United States citizen is used to fund the world’s most formidable military. Read more about this here.) By refusing to play the $y$tem games any longer, we become a part of a resistance movement against the economic inequality & injustices of the world. Not to mention, we already showed how working for money is personal slavery, but in many ways, our participation in the money system contributes to the enslavement and oppression of others. Not only do we free ourselves by working for God instead of money full-time, but also, we can help free others by no longer building up the corrupt $y$tem and by setting the example of how to follow Jesus in all that he taught.
And last but not least, working for God instead of money shows love to each other by freeing us up to focus entirely on serving God’s Kingdom. This means that we have more time to help each other when we’re going through difficult times, more time to build each other up as disciples of Jesus, more time to do Kingdom projects together (like evangelizing, homemaking, child-rearing, building/repairing, etc.), and more time to simply have fun and fellowship as a true family!
Working for God instead of money is what Jesus wants us as his disciples to do, and he promises us that God will take care of our needs so that we can just get busy building up His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33)! (Remembering, of course, that “needs” and “wants” are usually very different things!) Not only that, but putting this teaching into practice also enables us to show greater love to God, our neighbor, and each other.
Please pray with us, brothers and sisters. We pray that you have been inspired by what we have shared here, and we pray that you have the eyes to see and ears to hear this radical teaching of Jesus. We pray that you can begin to understand the Good News of Jesus’ calling on your life, even if it may also seem difficult and even a little bit crazy. We pray that you grow into a deeper relationship with God, and that you learn to trust Him at the next level.
So with all this in mind, brothers and sisters… Who is your master?
Until next time!
Love & Prayers,
Luke & Allie
Faith Worker Ministries