No One Can Serve Two Masters

This week’s scripture reading – Matthew 6:24, 

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. * (mammon – riches, material wealth)

Serving God or Riches

Who said no one can serve two masters and what does it mean to not serve two masters? 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; and noting 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 standing in the place of God, even including false gods.

What does the Bible say about having two masters? Well, the futility of serving two opposing interests was illustrated by the apostle Paul as he contrasted sacrifices to God with sacrifices to devils, noted in 1 Cor. 10:21, 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. James also highlighted the notion of this type of double mindedness by emphasizing how it creates a sense of instability in his letter, Jam. 1:8, A double minded man [is] unstable in all his ways.

James wrote further about this duplicitous issue by chastising people who pursued sin while trying to be godly at the same time in Jam. 4:8, Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [ye] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [ye] double minded. 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.

Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils:

1 Corinthians 10:21a

Double Minded Life

This double minded dilemma of no one can serve two masters also prevailed historically back in the Old Testament with at least four cases noted below. The first was described in 1 Kings 18:21a, 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. 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 in Deut. 6:4-5, Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God [is] one LORD: and then in Is. 45:5a, I [am] the LORD, and [there is] none else, [there is] no God beside me. * (halt – hesitate) * (Baal – a false god of the Canaanites)

Joshua’s most notable proclamation also gives evidence of the prevailing divided loyalty among people in Josh. 24:15, 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. * (gods of the Amorites – false gods)

Further evidence of this duality took place in 1 Sam. 7:3, 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. Even one of the prophets wrote of this divided loyalty in Hos. 10:2, Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images. * (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)

Reverting back to the New Testament now, Jesus also made this bold declaration as an either or decision people must make in Matt. 12:30a, He that is not with me is against me.  There was and is to be no middle ground in Christianity and while that may appear divisive to some it illustrates the exclusivity of this faith that God is asking of us.

He that is not with me is against me. 

Matthew 12:30

Servants of God

What often gets missed though in this week’s passage about no one can serve two masters are two very important words – serve and master. 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 John 18:36, Jesus answered, 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. Paul even took it a step further and described believers in Christ as soldiers who should endure hardness in 2 Tim. 2:3.

Interestingly as 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 in Acts 16:17, 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.

These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.

Acts 16:17b

Origin of Servanthood

It is important to note the why and how this servanthood originated for believers, which is explained in part in 1 Cor. 6:19-20, 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. 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 in Acts 20:28b, …the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 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).

Later on, Paul makes notes of the phrase “master” in one of his letters based on prevailing customs of that time in Col. 4:1, Masters, give unto [your] servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. The relationship we have with God is to be emulated with anyone who may be of service to us- just and equal.

knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. 

Col. 4:1b

Servanthood is Freedom

Perhaps though, the irony of becoming a servant of the Lord lies in the actual freedom derived from it as Paul noted in 1 Cor. 7:22-23, 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. Jesus also highlighted this new found freedom for believers in Christ to give them hope in John 8:36, If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. This freedom in Christ as the Lord’s freeman helps to articulate the notion of no one can serve two masters.

Paul even takes it one step further by declaring the incredible inheritance believers have in Christ from Gal. 4:7, Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. Paul also highlighted the tremendous gift of eternal life as servants of God in Rom. 6:22, But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. As one is made free from sin and have become servants of God unto eternal life they come to the realization that no one can serve two masters.

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

John 8:36

Freedom Abandoned

While God’s provision for redemption through his atoning sacrifice and promise of eternal life is offered to all people, not everyone will make the decision to come to him. After Jesus spoke to his disciples, he affirmed that some will not believe in him as recorded in John 6:66-67, From that [time] many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? This is indeed such a tragic moment in the lives of individuals who choose the way of the world over the one who claimed to be the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). For those who come to believe in Christ, the light of the world has shone upon them much like it did with Peter as noted in John 6:68-69, Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. 

Eternal Servanthood

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 and 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 as noted in Rev. 22:3, 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. 

Blessed [is] that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 

Matthew 24:46

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 in 2 Kings 10:31, 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. A further example is recorded in 2 Chron. 20:33, Howbeit the high places were not taken away: for as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers. * (high places – altars of worship to false gods)

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 the occurrence from 2 Chron. 25:2, And he did [that which was] right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart. This portrays the prevailing challenge of how no one can serve two masters.

As mentioned in previous studies, the Lord wants all of your heart and desires, this is where believers will truly find rest. A notable example of this is recorded in 2 Chron. 15:15, 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.

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 and fully serve God as shared in Matt. 24:46, Blessed [is] that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 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

  1. 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?
  2. In the section Double Minded Life, Hosea makes note of something that becomes divided, what is it? Hint – Hosea 10:2
  3. Of the fifteen people noted as servants of God, can you name at least five of them?
  4. Describe in your own words, the origin of servanthood to God. Hint – reference the same section.
  5. 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?
  6. In the section Declining Freedom, try to memorize Simon Peter’s profound declaration about Christ (John 6:68-69)
  7. In contemplating this study on no one can serve two masters, how could you better serve the Lord Jesus Christ in your life today?

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