“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Have you ever had two bosses? How did that go? Unless it was a truly unique situation, the odds are that on some occasions you were happy with one, on other occasions you were happy with the other, and only rarely were you happy with both.
I had two bosses once. When I worked at OfficeMax during seminary, I worked on the copy side of the business. The way it was set up then was that there was a store manager over the whole operation, but there was also a manager over the copy and print side of the business. We were technically an independent unit in the store, but the store manager was still the boss.
My immediate boss on the copy and print side was Charles. I loved Charles. He was a great guy and a good boss. We got along splendidly. The store manager was Mark. I respected Mark and didn’t give him any reason to not like me, but Mark was a lot harder to work with on average. Mark and Charles butted heads often. It made for a work environment with more drama than it needed to have.
Trying to serve more than one boss is not easy. Even if they communicate with each other well and are publicly committed to the same vision, they are not going to have the same management styles. One will resonate more with some employees and the other with others. You’ll end up with employees more loyal to one than the other which creates inner-office rivalries that make for a tense work environment. There will invariably be communication letdowns when each boss has asked for something to be done in a different way without knowing it and each will be let down if it isn’t done their way. It just doesn’t work.
As much as this situation is detrimental in a work environment, it’s even worse in our personal lives. Here’s a hard truth about humans: We were created to be dependent. We are not sufficient in and of ourselves for the task of life. Ever. We lean on other people in ways we can’t fully explain. More than that, though, we were created to worship. We are going to worship something. We always have. We naturally create religions everywhere we go. There has never been a society, even purportedly secular one, that did not have some rhythms of worship built into its basic operational framework. If it is not the God of the Bible, then it is another God. Communist Russia worshipped the State. Revolutionary France worshipped the ideals of the revolution. In North Korea they worship the Kim family.
The thing we worship, then, becomes our master. We place ourselves at its beck and call. We seek to advance its place and prominence in our lives and even in the lives of the people around us. For Christians, this is Yahweh. For Hindus, this is whichever god they have chosen as their chief deity. For Buddhists, this is Buddha. For Muslims, this is Allah. For atheists, this is often Darwinism or some other form of materialism.
Trying to please this one master can be a difficult task, especially if we have not chosen our master well. Trying to please more than one master becomes a task that is not only impossible, but will wear us down until we have nothing left. Life will be like running on a hamster wheel–wearing ourselves out without ever getting anywhere.
For followers of Jesus, we are ostensibly committed to Him as our master. But, the all too often truth, is that we have another master we are trying to please at the same time. This could be a master from before we started following Jesus from which we have never fully turned, or it could be one we have started following since. Whatever it is, if it is competing with God for the number one place in our lives, we are going to be the losers.
Jesus was right: We cannot serve two masters. We cannot serve God and something else. It just doesn’t work. We will constantly be running around trying to please both, always resentful of the one we feel has placed the biggest onus on us.
If you want to serve something else, go ahead. Go do it. Perhaps that’s a surprising thing for a preacher to say, but I really do mean it. Until you are fully convinced that nothing other than God is worthy of your devotion, you will continue trying to split your attention between the two which will ultimately benefit nobody, least of all you.
When you are ready to follow Jesus, though, He’ll be ready for you. It won’t be easy. In fact, in some ways He is the most demanding master you could choose. But He’s also the best. He is truly committed to your best. No other master will be. They will all be committed to their own best and will seek to achieve that through you, sharing with you a small portion of their glory, and not really caring whether or not you are satisfied.
Jesus wants nothing more than to see you become fully who you were made to be. He wants to see you fully at peace, suffused with joy, overflowing with love, radiant with hope. Commit to Him and your life will not be easy here and now. In fact, it will probably be more difficult than it would be with any other master. But it will be good. And the future will be even better. You see, there is no future with any other master. When this life ends, so do they. Then you face the real world–the one you were trying to avoid in seeking these other masters–in which God is Lord of all. But with Jesus, the end of this world is just the beginning of the real one.
You can’t serve two masters. Choose wisely, then, to whom you will give your devotion. The results will shape you now and for eternity.