A Second Look at a Familiar Passage – Matthew 6:24
“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)
In stewardship circles, we often quote this verse as a caution against serving money and materialism as a master. Jesus makes it clear that we cannot serve God while also serving money – we must choose. Coming on the heels of Jesus’ warning against storing up treasures on earth (Matthew 6:19), the message is clear: Choose heavenly treasure and serving God over earthly treasure and serving money.
We serve money when we store up treasures on earth. But serving money is broader than this. We also serve money when we put our own basic needs ahead of the kingdom. Immediately after the warning about serving two masters, Jesus goes on to give an illustration of the difference between serving God and serving money:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” (Matthew 6:25)
That worrying about our basic needs is connected to serving money is made clear by the connecting word, “therefore”. The concept of Matthew 6:24-34 is this: “You can’t serve both God and money; therefore, don’t put all your attention on your own earthly needs. Seek God’s kingdom first, and trust him to meet your needs.”
Most of our congregation members aren’t worried about things like food and clothes. We don’t live as close to the edge as the first-century Jews did. For us, the “worries” tend to be more about things like saving for our kids’ college or their weddings; putting aside money for our retirement; or saving for the next car or house.
What are some ways that we today might store up treasures on earth or focus on our own needs to the detriment of seeking and advancing the Kingdom? The answer will vary by person, but here are a few common ones:
- Buying all the house or car we can afford vs. buying what we really need and using the difference for kingdom work
- Reducing our giving in order to focus on saving for an event or a purchase
- Working multiple jobs in order to facilitate a more lavish lifestyle instead of living more simply and committing time to serving the poor
No one can judge where the balance should be for someone else, of course – it’s not up to us to judge the servant of Another. But this passage challenges us each to examine our own lives to see where our treasures truly are and to consider whether we are seeking first God’s kingdom or putting first our own needs and desires.