The Two Masters
Possessions, Popularity, and Perceptions, Oh My!
We are going to take another look at Jesus’ longest, and most influential sermon that He preached—The Sermon on the Mount. Specifically the passage we will be looking at today talks about money and possessions.
How many of you are familiar with a guy named David Platt? He is a pastor out of
who wrote a best selling book called Radical. In fact, one of our Sunday school classes is currently studying the book and watching a video series on it right now. So what is Platt’s “radical” idea? The subtitle of the book is “Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.” That is a radical idea when we are constantly being bombarded by commercials and media telling us what stuff we need in order to be happy. Birmingham
What is the American Dream? There are countless varieties of the American Dream because each person can have their own, but the idea stems from the absolute fact that as Americans we can have and do what almost everyone else in the world could never dream about having or doing. In America a person of any race, gender, or financial background can grow up and be whatever they want from President of the United States, Astronaut, Fighter Pilot, or Mayor of Bagdad. It doesn’t matter. You also have the ability to go to school, get a good education, choose between running a business or working a job so you can have a car, house with a white picket fence, green grass, 2.5 kids, and a dog.
We are so unbelievably blessed here in
that we have lost touch with the rest of the world. Every single person in this room is rich compared to the world’s standards. If your family has a car you are richer than like 92% of the world. If your family has two cars, you are in the top 1-2% richest people in the world. The amount of money it would take to feed and water all of the world’s starving and dehydrated population is less than what Americans spend on ice cream each year. We get upset about the things we “need” and don’t get like a new Xbox Kinnect, an Iphone, or whatever it is that we think we need that we forget about Neharika who lives in a mud hut and how she thankfully received dinner plates for Christmas. How many of you received dinner plates as your main Christmas present this year? America
How did we get here? How did we get so spoiled? Abraham Lincoln said, “Religion gave birth to prosperity, now the daughter has eaten the mother.” In other words, we had a great devotion to God so He blessed us. When He blessed us, we became enamored in how much stuff we had that we forgot about Him. We sang “How Great I Art” instead of “How Great Though Art.” And because of that we began to lose God’s favor.
Let’s look at our passage, Matthew 6:24 NLT “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 both God and money.” Some of your Bibles may contain the word “mammon” which is just a funny sounding word that means money, wealth, or possessions.”
In the game Tug of War, you have two teams on each end of the rope with usually a flag in the middle. When one team successfully pulls that flag across their goal line they win. Other, more fun ways to play, include a muddy pit in the middle and the game ending when one team successfully pulls the other team through the mud. Either way, you probably have all played it or seen it played before and realize the concept—two opposing forces tugging with all their might to inflict their will on others.
That is the situation Jesus is warning against in Matthew 6:24. Think about trying to be on both teams of a Tug of War match. It’s ridiculous right? Almost as ridiculous as trying to serve two masters, especially when one of them is God, because eventually your two masters will make opposing demands. One will say give all your possessions to the poor and the other will say make all you can and can all you make. Don’t get confused, I have two jobs with two different bosses requiring vastly different things, but I have only one master and it is not Pastor Brian or my dad.
Let’s look at Mark 10:17-22. As Jesus was starting out on his way to
, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jerusalem
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’[a]”
20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
This man holds the distinct honor of being the only person in scripture who Jesus said “Follow me” to and did not follow. Why? He sought Jesus out as the answer to his problems and yet did not follow Him because he was trying to serve both Jesus and the god of possessions and wealth.
Can you be rich and still serve God? Absolutely. I can name you several millionaires that serve God in ways we’ll never know about because they want to keep it a secret in obedience to Christ. The key is that they don’t serve money, wealth, or possessions. They view it as a tool to do the work of Christ.
Maybe money, wealth, and possessions aren’t hot button issues for you, but I guarantee that there is something that will trip you up. Maybe it’s not money but popularity. If being popular is a master to you, you will eventually have to decide which master to follow when the two make opposing demands. I’m willing to make a wager that there is a smelly kid at your school, or somewhere in your life that needs to know about Jesus. If you are more concerned about what your friends would say if you sat next to him or her at lunch than what God would say, then you are trying to serve two masters. I will never forget when I was substituting as a P.E. teacher at Brush High School near Cleveland, two kids came up to me eagerly asking me to let them be the captains of the kickball team. I didn’t know why, or even care to know why so I let them. I assigned the first pick to one of the two and watched in amazement as he picked the kid with a learning and physical disability as his first pick. How amazing was that to witness? How often does that happen in a public high school? Almost never I bet.
Can you be popular and still serve God? Absolutely. Tim Tebow is a perfect example. Is he popular? Yes. Does he serve God? Yes. The key is that he doesn’t serve popularity, but views his popularity as a tool to serve God. What if he served popularity as if it were a god? Perhaps his agent said in order for him to get more endorsement deals, he needed to date a high profile celebrity with low morals. If he would bow to the god of popularity, his work for Christ would be tarnished. I remember when he was a junior people asked if he was leaving school early to go to the NFL. He replied that he wasn’t even sure he wanted to go to the NFL but might go directly into the mission field instead. He later decided that going into the NFL would give him more of a platform to evangelize.
Maybe possessions and popularity aren’t that big of a deal for you. Perhaps how you are perceived is though. No one wants to look like a disheveled homeless person, but are you spending a disproportionate amount of time getting ready in the morning than you do anything else? If you timed yourself getting ready for school in a week versus reading your Bible or praying would it even be a contest? This is another area where you have to be honest with yourself. I know for a fact women go into a bathroom and time is measured by calendars instead of a stop watch.
Or what about raising your hand in class when you don’t understand something? “But then people will think I’m stupid.” Yeah that’s a good point, it’s better to wait until you get your test back and everyone will know for sure.
Can you be pretty and perceived well and still serve God? Absolutely. Look at me. I’m obviously extremely handsome. The key is that I don’t serve the god of good looks. But seriously, God is far more concerned about what’s on the inside than He is on the outside. He is also concerned about why we’re doing something as compared to how people perceive why we’re doing something. For example: You see a politician working a soup kitchen—what’s your first impression? Just trying get votes, right? He’s putting off a perception that he cares about the plight of the less fortunate.So how can we make sure we’re not serving two masters? First and foremost you need to become a follower of Christ. Life is pointless without Him, and all of our efforts to do anything are useless. Secondly, you need to identify areas that you are weak in because that is where you are susceptible into being lured into serving another master. I, personally, don’t have a problem with being tempted to spend hours getting ready in the morning. I do have a problem with wondering how people might perceive me if I try to share the gospel with them. Thirdly, you need to acknowledge your dependence on Him and ask Him to assist you. This could be a daily prayer for you. And lastly, test yourself. Do something this week that stretches you. Go talk to someone. Strike up a conversation. Eat lunch with the smelly kid. Go a day without your usual preparation and see if anyone cares or notices. If they ridicule you, you at least will know where you stand in that relationship. Being a servant of God is not easy, but it is worth it.