Service To One Master

October 6, 1996 / No. 2804

Today I would like to talk to you about work, about your job.

The Bible has a lot to say about work. Work, for the child of God, is not simply a necessary evil, but a calling from God. We read in I Corinthians 7:24: let every man abide in the calling wherewith he is called. That means that God is pleased to provide for us and support us through the work He gives us to do. As I said, the Bible has a lot to say about work. If you would read the book of Proverbs, you would read repeatedly of idleness and sloth, diligence and faithfulness. Our Lord Jesus Christ worked. For His adult life up to thirty years of age, He worked as a carpenter and had the rough hands of a carpenter. We read, further, in II Thessalonians 3:10, that if a man will not work, neither should he eat. And still more, the Bible tells us that we will work even in heaven. In Revelation 14:13 we read, “Blessed are the dead that die in this Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”

But running through all that the Bible teaches us about labor and work is a warning, a warning which is spoken bluntly, and a warning which is displayed in various ways and in the lives of various people. It is the warning against covetousness, of being caught up with earthly things, of beginning to work for earthly things, that is, seeking and serving and living to have the earthly, and beginning to think that one’s happiness is dependent upon what one is able to have, and beginning to trust in the earthly things, and beginning to find one’s delight in them, and to have a lust for the earthly things.

This, the Bible says, is idolatry. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself warned in John 6:27, “Labor not for the meat that perishes, but for that meat which the Son of man shall give unto you.” Again, in Luke 12 there is the incident of the man who interrupted Jesus in the midst of one of His most beautiful sermons and said, “Lord, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.” The Lord responded to that man, “Beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” but in being “rich toward God” (Luke 12:13-21).

There is another verse that Jesus spoke in this connection which I want to consider with you for a moment. That we find in Matthew 6:24. You will remember that this is part of what is called Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.” Really it is Jesus’ sermon on the kingdom of heaven. In verse 24 of the sixth chapter, Jesus said the following: “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.”

The question that Jesus confronts us with here is: For whom are you working? What are your goals? What are you serving? Is it God? Or is it mammon? In the context Jesus has been separating between the precious and the vile, between the true and the false. He spoke, in the beginning of the sixth chapter, of two worshipers: the genuine worshiper and the hypocrite, the one who seeks God in the closet sincerely and the one who seeks God to be seen of men. He has spoken of two treasures: an earthly treasure and a heavenly treasure. He has spoken of two wisdoms (or light): If the light of the eye be evil the whole body will be evil.

So now the Lord speaks of two masters: God and mammon. Specifically, the context is that He has warned us not to lay up treasures upon earth, not to set our hearts upon the earthly things as that which can satisfy or give happiness. The Lord has said that this is folly. They are corruptible: moth and rust do corrupt them and, He said, thieves break through and steal. And now the Lord presses it even further when He tells us that it is impossible for a child of God to serve both God and mammon. You must serve one of the two. So the question is: Why do you work? What are you working for? What are your goals? Who is your master, God or mammon?

Jesus speaks here of two masters: God and mammon. The one master is God. He is the living and true God of heaven and earth. As God He is the creator of the earth and the redeemer of His children in the blood of Jesus Christ. He is the eternal, the almighty, the blessed one. He is the one who created all things, and yet He has no beginning. He is the one who is not dependent upon any thing other than Himself for His existence. Psalm 50 says that if He were hungry He would not tell His need to us, for all the cattle upon a thousand hills are His. He is the sovereign one, that is, He does whatsoever He pleases. Psalm 147:3, “But our God is in the heavens; he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.” He is the one who is incomparable in majesty and power and holiness. Isaiah 40:25, “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.”

Perhaps the closest definition of Himself as God is given in the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32. Turn to that passage a moment. In the context of the verses that I want to read, the Lord has bemoaned the terrible sin and departure of the children of Israel from obeying Him and that they have not been mindful of Him. Then He says in verse 39: “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.” There He declares that He is the only God, the God of all men and all flesh, the God who makes alive and the God who justly kills. Then, in verse 40, He says, “For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.” He is the living God, He possesses life in Himself. He is the absolutely sovereign one, which means He does whatsoever He pleases. Still more, as God, He is the Redeemer, the Savior in Jesus Christ His Son. If you would read Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1, you would read there that the living God is pleased to make Himself known, to reveal His glory and His grace and His wisdom in Jesus Christ, in the way of giving Jesus Christ to suffer the death of the cross and to be raised again the third day, whereby God saves His people in Christ from all of our sins. And He reveals the excellency of His grace and wisdom, justice and righteousness.

The one master is God, the living God. No matter what man may say, He is the only God. No matter that the unbeliever scoffs and sneers and says, “Where is now thy God?” God, the God of the Bible, Jehovah, is the only true God, and all others are the vanity, the emptiness, of men’s imagination and are less than nothing.

That is the one master – God, whom all men must serve and whom to know is life eternal.

The other master to whom Jesus refers is mammon. Now mammon means literally “riches.” It refers to material things of value, or simply to the good things of the earth. Now those good things of the earth are not evil in themselves. We read in I Timothy 4 that all things, as created of God, are good, as creatures of God, and nothing to be refused if they be received with thanksgiving. But, you see, they become evil when things become the center or the goal of our life. That is what the Bible refers to as covetousness. And that is why covetousness is idolatry. If you would read Colossians 3:5 or Ephesians 5:5, you would read that the Bible says, “covetousness, which is idolatry.” The idea is this: covetousness is to place your heart upon the physical things of God’s creation and to begin to think that those things will give happiness, protection, satisfaction, contentment. You look to those earthly things, or perhaps you look to your own beauty or whatever it may be, as being the basis of your self-worth and importance. That is what it means to serve mammon, when you make a God out of earthly things: riches, money, homes, goods, possessions, or beauty. Mammon can be the lust for money and for the power that money brings with it. It can be the lust for entertainment and good times and pleasures. These things are the things that become the end-all in your life. You say that you have to have this or that or you cannot be happy. It may be clothes, a car, a house, honor, reputation among men, some earthly thing, some riches, some pleasure which stands at the center of your life. And you serve it. That is mammon.

Now many think that they are their own masters. They say they do not live for anything. Oh, sure, they work, but they are pretty independent. That is not true. Man serves something. Every man, every woman, every boy, every girl, every single human being serves something. And it is either God, or it is mammon, one of the two. That is because God created man so that he has to serve something. God created man dependent. The Bible says in Romans 6:16, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are…?” Everyone serves one of these two: God or mammon. But not both! Understand, it is not left up to you to choose which one you are going to serve, who is going to be your master. We do not have the right to worship any old god, any old way that we would choose. But we must serve the living and the true God, the most high God, the God of the Bible, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 4: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” No one is free to decide for himself. And there is only one way whereby we can serve the living God. That is through His Son, Jesus Christ. For God sent forth His Son, revealed in the holy Scriptures. And it is by faith worked by the Holy Spirit that we serve and love God.

Now Jesus says of these two masters (God and mammon) that they are served, they must be served, with the most devoted and exclusive service. The word “serve” comes from the word which means “slave.” Paul would often use this word to refer to himself as the doulos, or the “slave” or “servant” of Jesus Christ. He saw himself as a bond slave, someone who had been purchased to be the property of his master so that he had no will of his own, but he lived only to serve the will and interest of his master, both in body and in soul, mind and in talents, all that he had. And for Paul to be the slave of Jesus Christ, to serve God, was his joy. He says in II Corinthians 10 that he sought to bring everything captive to the will of Jesus Christ: his mind, his learning, his body, his strength, his heart, that he might do everything to serve Him who died for him.

Now Jesus is teaching us that these masters demand service. And the service of these masters is characterized by two things: love and cleaving. He says, “You will either love the one and hate the other; or you will hold to the one and despise (set at nought, think lightly of) the other.” The service of these masters is characterized by exclusive love. If you serve mammon, then you love mammon and you hate God, says Jesus. And that love will be characterized by a cleaving, so that you do not want to let it go. That is true. When man serves mammon, when he serves wealth and power, then we can see that that man and woman today are driven to secure it. Hours are devoted to obtaining it. Jesus Himself noted this in Luke 16:9. He said that the children of this world are wiser in their generations than the children of the light. He said that when they want something, they know how to go about getting it. They devote themselves with a greater diligence than even His own children in the service of His kingdom. When a man wants pleasure, he spends untold dollars to get it. Millions of dollars are spent upon sports, vacation, recreation, tourism. When a man gives himself over to alcohol, sex, or drugs, he will literally serve it with his body. He will sacrifice his family. He will lay down his life and his wealth and his soul. The service of these masters involve devotion and cleaving.

So it is when God is served when, by grace, God is our master through Jesus Christ. When we are purchased by His Son Jesus Christ then God is our master. We believe that everything is His. All of our talents, our possessions, our time, our body, our soul, our job, everything. And we seek to please Him and to do His will in all things and at all times wherever we are. With the apostle Paul we say, “I hold not my own life as dear unto me, but that I might serve Him.” We love Him and cleave to Him because He is the one who has died for us, who has purchased us out of our sins. And we use everything as a faithful servant of God.

Which one of these two, God or mammon, is your master? You cannot serve both. Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters.” The Pharisees to whom Jesus was speaking here thought that they could. They thought that the could serve God and also earthly pride and honor. But it is not so. It is not so because God demands the heart. And to give the heart to anything else than God is to deny God as God and to hate Him and despise Him. God is not satisfied with part of the heart. It is either all or nothing. It is true that to serve mammon is to hate God because God says, “I am the one who satisfies, I am the one who gives peace and happiness. In knowing Me is trust and peace and safety, joy and pleasure.” And mammon comes along and says, “Oh, no. That is not so. Those things are found in me.” If you serve mammon, if you live for those earthly things, you cannot serve God. Perhaps, outwardly, for a while, but only for a while.

Which one, God or mammon? We try to serve both, do we not? The Lord is talking to us here as His children. We live in a day of untold material prosperity. There are so many material things that we begin to believe that we cannot do without them. And the Lord has said, “When riches increase, set not your heart upon them.” Be careful, says the Scriptures, that the love of money and the care for the things of this life do not drown your soul in perdition. So often we serve God with the leftovers of our life.

I want to tell you a story I once heard about a farmer whose cow had twin heifer calves, one of which was predominately white and the other predominately black. He came in that day from his chores and said to his wife that one of those two calves would be the Lord’s. They would raise them both and would sell them as young heifers, springers, and the proceeds of one of those calves would be given totally to the Lord. His wife said, “Which one, dear?” He says that it was not important right now that they pick the black one or the white one. It makes no difference. One of them would be the Lord’s. One of them came down with a cold, and one morning when the farmer came in from his chores he said to his wife, “The Lord’s cow died.”

You see, it is always the Lord’s cow that dies. We say, well, first the house, first the car, first the clothes, first myself. And then the Lord’s, if there is anything left. Jesus says, “We cannot do that! It is either or!” Where is your heart? Is it upon God or mammon? Jesus said to His disciples, “Children, how hard it is for those who have riches to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” We are so covetous. It is so ingrained in us to say, “It’s mine. I’ve got a right to it. I have to have it.” And we are so afraid that the Lord will not give us what we want, so afraid to trust Him. And the Lord says to us today, Get it straight. As citizens of the kingdom of heaven, in your heart and in your life, seek the heavenly and the eternal. Seek faithfully to be servants of the heavenly Father with all the good things that He gives you. And pray over your own heart that you do not begin to look upon the earthly things as being yours. Remember what the psalmist says in Psalm 24: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” We need to examine our souls, keep our focus upon the kingdom, and remind ourselves that we are pilgrims seeking the heavenly. And we must trust God to supply, and find in God our joy and our happiness.

The Lord said, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; not yet for your body, what ye shall put on.” That is, do not have anxiety over those things. Set your heart upon God and you shall be delivered from all fear and worry that comes in the service of mammon. Seek first the kingdom of heaven.

Whom do you serve? Why do you work? Why do you get up in the morning? What are you pursuing in your life? What is your goal? You have to give an answer. What is in your heart? Are you serving God or mammon? Which one?

Let us pray.

Our Father in heaven, we pray that by grace our hearts might not be divided but be as a single arrow aimed at Thy glory. Grant that we might serve Thee with all of our talents, goals, strengths, and in everything that Thou hast given us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.