“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6.24).
Some stories beg to be told. I think the one which follows is one of those stories. It has a point which I think is obvious. I once heard of a godly man who outlived his two wives. He took great pride in the fact that he loved his wives equally and was evenhanded in how he treated them in every way. He was so intent on having everyone see that his devotion was equally shared between the two, that he had long before purchased an additional grave lot to make room for the three of them in the family plot. In fact, he had planned things such that the empty spot between his two wives would be the place where he would be laid to rest when the time came. As time moved on, the widower became ill and neared death. In a weakened condition he talked with his eldest son about his soon demise and the arrangements he would like to have carried out at the funeral and burial. His final instructions to his son went something like this: “Of course, son, you know that I want to be buried right between your mother, Tillie, and my second wife, Margaret. It is your duty to make sure this final wish is carried out.” The last words of the dying man were whispered in the ear of his son who had been summoned to come even closer to his father's side. “Son, I know you will do what I have asked you about my arrangements, but now that I think about it, if you don't mind tilt me a little toward Tillie.”
Jesus was more than vaguely familiar with “human nature.” As our Creator and eventual redeemer, He knew man's heart. He was aware of the conflicting messages that men hear as well as the divided loyalties that these messages demand. In the ordinary course of human events, our Lord was fully aware that one of Satan's tools is to divide our loyalties such that any devotion to God is tempered with other thoughts and allegiance to others. Once Satan is able to divide our love for God and lessen it by other cares or concerns, he has accomplished his mission. Jesus taught something that Satan ha known from of old; Jesus taught that God demands first place in all things! He will not play second fiddle to any person or thing! The statement, “No one can serve two masters” is simply a practical way of stating this principle. Or to put it in the language of our little story, God doesn't want us at all if we insist on being “tilted toward Tillie!”
Later in the ministry of Jesus, he was asked a telling question. We quote it here without comment: “But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?' Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22.34-40). There is no conflict between the “first commandment” and the “second commandment.” It is possible to carry them out just as they were written. The main thing is to remember the main thing! As an implication of these truths, it is easy to see that any love which demands that one's love for God be lessened or divided, is a love which is forbidden and sinful!
The point of today's message has to do with love and rational thought. It is possible to decide who and what one will love. Further, it is possible to decide the intensity of that love. Jesus would not have demanded such had it been impossible. Decide to love God supremely and do not tilt toward Tillie!
1. Research question: What is mammon as used in today's text?
2. Why did Jesus say that we cannot serve two masters? What are the practical aspects of this great truth?
3. If we are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind what does this imply about our ability to direct our love toward the proper object as well as to determine the strength of our love?
4. Is it OK to love one's self? Must my love for self be beneath my love for neighbor? Why or why not?
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