Jesus continues the theme of loyalty to God: one cannot serve two masters. Service here is to be a slave, not be employed. It is possible to be employed by two masters, but not to be a slave. Slavery requires complete devotion, a slave was to be 100% disposable to his master. One cannot give 100% to two different persons, so a slave cannot serve two masters. By way of analogy, imagine a baseball player who is trading to a new team, but wants to continue serving the old team. If he were to do things to help the old team, the new team would be furious. Imagine a player trying to wear his old uniform with his new team.
The reference to loving one, hating the other probably implies that he serves both, but is not devoted to both. One of the services is hypocritical and shallow, the other is genuine, but not one hundred percent.
The ESV and NIV translate μαμωνᾶς as money. The KJV transliterated the Aramaic word (מָמוֹנָא). BDAG suggests this was a Canaanite loanword originally meaning “food, maintenance, provisions” (מון). In Luke 16:9, 11 the word simply means money. Mammon is not the name of the “demon of materialism.” Some Aramaic Jewish writings translate Proverbs 3:9 as “honor God with your Mammon” and Deuteronomy 6:4 include Mammon in the list of things which can be used to love God.
Nevertheless, Jesus is personifying money and possessions as the opposite of God, one can either choose to seek first money or seek the kingdom of God.
Jesus reflects the general teaching of wisdom literature on the proper use of wealth (Prov 3:9), although without the promise of material blessing in the future. As with the first saying, there is a hard edge of coming persecution in Jesus’s claim one can only serve one God. As his disciples are persecuted, they will have to choose between their possessions and God. Under threat from Rome, disciples can either choose the nice home and comfortable life, or God and his kingdom.
This is an important (and convicting) application of Jesus’s words for modern America. If there was a government sponsored attack on the church that forced a decision to following Jesus and give up our wealth as a church, what might we choose? If standing firm on an issue cost a church their tax-free status, would they continue to stand firm?
Jesus never says wealth is evil nor does he demand his followers all join him in a voluntary vow of poverty. But he does call his followers to live a life of simplicity, to hold their possessions lightly, and to dedicate themselves to pursuits which result in eternal profits.
26 thoughts on “God and Money – Matthew 6:24”
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.
Given texts such as Mark 10:21 and Luke 12:32-4, what makes you think that Jesus does not demand “his followers all join him in a voluntary vow of poverty”? What exactly do you mean by it? Could you clarify how you distinguish between “poverty” and “a life of simplicity”?
Great question. First, I am narrowing the scope in this post to only the Sermon on the Mount, I will get to the parallel with Luke 12:32-34 soon. The Rich Man in Mark 10:21 (sell everything you have) is interesting, since it sounds at first reading that Jesus is asking just this one particular person to sell everything because he knows he will not do it. But the disciples seem to think this applies to them because they have left everything to follow Jesus. Was the instruction to the rich man intended to be programmatic for the disciples of Jesus (everyone sells everything and follows Jesus)? Maybe…isn’t that is the message of the pearl of great price and the hidden treasure in Matthew 13? Sell everything you have in order to gain the Kingdom of God?
I like the way you ask the question, what is the difference between “poverty” and “a life of simplicity”? I really think the Jewish followers of Jesus in Jerusalem continued to live a life of voluntary poverty after Pentecost, selling property to meet the needs of the community. This is why Paul is told to “remember the poor” and why Paul collects a gift for the poor in Jerusalem from his gentile churches. This follows Scot McKnight’s James commentary just a bit, he sees James as leading a group of “poor ones” who are living out poverty of the Sermon on the Mount quite literally.
I do not think Paul ever instructed his churches to live in poverty, but rather to live a “simple life”, 1 Thess 4:9-12, 2 Thess 3:6-13, for example. Work hard, provide for your own needs, and live in a way which garners the respect of outsiders. This is not a James vs. Paul thing, but Paul does not seem to be instructing his churches to live like Jesus did.
Thanks for the thoughtful reply.
I agree with you and Bruce Longenecker about the pillars not having a collection specifically in mind when they made the request to “remember the poor”. Maybe Gal 2:10 is telling us that James, Peter, and John felt that Paul’s teaching did not emphasise concern for the poor sufficiently.
In any case, Paul does not seem to have the same emphasis as Jesus on the matter. This is all the more puzzling because the author of Acts was a fan of both men (the view that the author of Acts did not know Paul is untenable in my view). I wonder whether part of the explanation is that Paul was a pragmatist and did not want to appear too demanding in his letters. I believe that Paul organised collections for the poor in Judea from every province he contacted, at different times, and that Luke was an enthusiastic supporter of that work.
” Paul was a pragmatist and did not want to appear too demanding in his letters”
I considered this, especially if Luke is right and Paul’s churches did include prominent gentile women and civic officials like Erastus. Demanding a life of poverty like the Jerusalem community would not have appealed to anyone with even moderate wealth, and would have been quite radical in the Gentile world. But on the other hand, Paul does not seem to hold back the “foolishness of the Gospel” in other aspects, so I cannot imagine him jettisoning an important aspect of following Christ just to appear to more people.
Is it possible Paul did not see his mission in the same light as the mission of James? Not to open the “Paul vs. James” can of worms, but this seems like a good example of a contrast between the two. Paul is seems to be operating under a different commission, or maybe a different mode of ministry.
Did the Cynics demand living in poverty? Even if they did make that kind of demand, Paul would not have wanted to be mistaken for a Cynic.
This verse about how we are unable to serve two masters has been one that I have thought about a great deal. It is one that has caused me to stop and wonder what Jesus really meant when he was saying that either we can serve and love money or we can serve and love God. There is no in between. I really like what you said about how Jesus is personifying money and how he is saying that it is the opposite of God. My interpretation of what Jesus meant in this verse is that we can not let money and possessions become our goal in life. Our goal in life should be to seek God in everything we do. We should be having him as our desire and helping reach others for Him. When money and possessions are what we truly seek, then we cannot fully serve and seek God. I believe that Jesus is calling us to live a simplistic life. This would mean not craving and desiring the newest item that comes out each year, but being thankful for the quality items we already have and being content with them.
Good post Alex I really thought it was really well said where he mentions Jesus is personifying money and how he is saying that it is the opposite of God. I also agree with you that our goal in life is to seek God in everything that we do.
As Christians, it is impossible to be all in for God and all in for the world. That mindset shows that you have a half hearted way and are not fully in God’s truth. You have to pick one that will define your life. God is eternal, and money is temporary. Strive to follow after the things that last. Seeking him is all we are called to do, he will provide for us so why should we dwell over things that he said he will provide when we are in need of them. We will only be fully content in life through him. I agree, I have thought about this and asked myself if I am truly all in for God.
Deuteronomy 14:22-26 states that we must “Make an offering of ten percent, a tithe, of all the produce which grows in your fields year after year.” Then in “1 Timothy 6:10 to be: For the love of money is the root of all evil” Wealth is a very controversial topic when it comes to the Christian faith. With society believing that the church is nothing more than a building that houses hypocrites, and pastors are just simply money hunger people that feeds off their congregation’s hard earned money, the idea of being wealthy and Christian causes a lot of problems in society. As you mentioned in the post “Nevertheless, Jesus is personifying money and possessions as the opposite of God, one can either choose to seek first money or seek the kingdom of God.” (Long, 2018). Therefore, it’s safe to say money and God don’t mix well right? Not necessarily, society only believe that pastors are money hunger, not because of the fact they ask for an offering, tithes but it’s the things they have because of the money. People believe that since we follow a man that was homeless volunteering than being wealthy and living a very luxury lifestyle is a not appropriate. I believe do not mind the money we get, I think he is worried about we do with it and how we treat it. If we worship money, like circle of life around cash with the lifestyle we pursue instead of using it for good things like the ability to make life better for people and making sure our family is taking care of, then money can be a good things.
This is basically Jesus addressing idle worship of money. Idle worship used to be a real issue back in Jesus’s day, and it was addressed in the OT however the worship of money would not be something that was commonly thought of as idolatry in the ancient world. Jesus is bringing that into perspective. The issue is that so many people struggle with serving God because there is something else that takes up a large portion of their heart. It doesn’t even have to be a bad thing. People will give God everything but then withhold their children in their hearts. We cannot serve both. God does not want us to be luke warm in our service. He wants our all.
I definitely agree with you. You really can’t “divide” your heart into loving different things. It goes beyond money, it can include relationships, friendships, a hobby, a sport, and the list goes on. We can still do and have the things we like as long as we don’t allow it to consume our lives.
I think that many people today, serve money as there master. There are many people that only care about making money, and it doesn’t even matter whether or not it is legal or not. But one way or another you do have to make money. I remember reading in Ecclesiastes 10:19 which says, “Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything.” meaning that money is indeed necessary to live. On the flip side that does not mean that one should serve money as a master as well as Jesus. The verse talked about above is talking about not becoming a slave to money, like it is an addiction.
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. This talks about we can either to choose to seek the kingdom of God or to seek money. You can’t have both you have to do one or the other. He also addresses a perfect example of a situation like you can be employed by two people but that does not make you a slave because being a slave makes you have to give everything to that owner. In Mcknight, he mentions simplification “In the kingdom, we won’t be hoarding or storing up treasures but instead living in the bounty of God’s gracious provisions so we can enjoy what he wants for us: to serve God and to serve others. The importance in life is to serve God and money has no value when it comes to serving God because what is more important is spreading Gods word.
I grew up hearing “you have to pick God or money” from many different people. Throughout the years, I have met many wealthy people. I have met wealthy people who are Christians, and wealthy people who want nothing to do with the church. I do not think the issue is money itself, but the heart of the person who has the money. The Christians who I have met are super generous and are always willing to help those who are in need. And the none-Christians are broken up into two different groups. Group 1, those who have money and just brag about how rich they are. Group 2, those who have money but are always willing to help those in need, and donate tons of money to different charities. So, it really comes down to the person’s intention (just like everything else in life.”
I couldn’t agree with you more Jess! It’s all about the heart of the person. Money is not the problem. The main issue is that money is a commodity that is very easy to worship because it facilitates things. Someone with money will most likely have an easier life than someone that is poor. I think this is why there is such a warning from God about serving two masters, and his specific use of money as one of them.
“The word treasures here surely involves possessions, but it is not the same as possessions. Instead it refers to the accumulation of things as a focus of joy “McKnight pg. 206).” This verse deals with faith and loyalty, in the sense that if one is loyal to God then they will trust God to provide; and loyalty because which one are you the most devoted to? wealth for some is a motivator especially for a poor person who doesn’t own much. the more money and wealth a person has the believe is the more power they have. So when someone turns to money they are more likely to leave the church who asks for a tenth of their money, and in doing so turn away from God. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from their faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:10).”
I like the example that was used right away in the beginning. We don’t really often think of ourselves being as so low in integrity to serve two masters often because the second master is disguised in something so materialistic such as money. We look at money as a necessity to life and a means of provision. In reality, money can easy imprison you if you are not weary. There is a song that puts it well “If you posses your possessions then they’ll posses you”. It’s completely true. I understand this and have seen where has this gone wrong in my own life. As a musician I became accustomed to accumulating instruments and gear. It seems like there is always a need for just one more guitar pedal or one more cymbal. After becoming interested in the mission field and experiencing being in a third world country for a period of time, I realized how imprisoned I was by my own possessions. I was almost uncomfortably caught off guard by how much I missed certain things or items. Eventually I got to a point where I no longer craved those things that I was missing from my first world lifestyle. I was content without. It was freeing. McKnight said it well when he put it like this: “One’s affections are for either one or the other. Jesus pushes his disciples to his major point: there are two masters; one master is God and the other master is mammon or possessions” (McKnight, pg.209). Overall, we have to be willing to acknowledge the second master that we allow to intrude in our life and our walk with God. It’s completely up to us to get the second master out of the picture.
I like the first thing you stated in your post. That you do not realize that you are following after a false master, or that the worldly master is in disguise. It takes a lot of will power and knowledge to realize what we are putting ourselves in and who we are putting ourselves towards. We must be bold and overcome the things that push us away from God. Things that push us away begin to overpower us and begin to define who we are. We need to start to free ourselves from this world and do not live and act like the world does. Start to follow God and his action and start to put forth the effort to display Christ like actions.
I think that ending of the post was spot on. “Jesus never says wealth is evil nor does he demand his followers all join him in a voluntary vow of poverty. But he does call his followers to live a life of simplicity, to hold their possessions lightly, and to dedicate themselves to pursuits which result in eternal profits.” I think this all comes back to greed. It is okay to have money, but I think it is very important to give back. Don’t hoard possessions. That is when the evil sneaks in. Be a cheerful giver! Jesus says that he does not want to call us in to poverty, but to instead hold our possessions lightly. It is important that we are to not accumulate possession. If we are not willing to give, then we are not living our the kingdom vision.
Being a big sports fan, I loved the example used in the post. I think the analogy was spot on. A player cannot be fully committed to his team if he still has a connection with his past team. As an athlete, your team is your family. You do anything for them. You are a bunch of people playing as one unit. As Christians, we know that we are to only serve the one true God. We know that there is only one true God. McKnight mentions in his text that money wants to be a god (McKnight, 2013). So, God wants us to seek an entirely new plan, so we can experience the new heavens and new earth (McKnight, 2013). I think this a very important to understand in today’s world. We are taught from society at a young age that we are to get the highest paying job, have the nicest car, and have the most money. This would be nice, but, in reality, this is not going to happen for most people. So, why are we focusing all of our time and energy on money? Shouldn’t we be focusing all of our time on God? Some of the most important jobs are not the highest paying. As much as I like sports, I believe athletes are paid way too much. But, that is the market they are in. Pastors, youth pastors, doctors, military, and first responders are paid much less. I don’t think that is the way it should be, but it is today’s world. We should be focused more on the ministry rather than the money.
How do we serve God above money when money is a necessity in the world we live in? How do we turn a desire for money into a grateful attitude for God’s provision in our lives? Money is a big deal to Jesus, it is one of the more common things He teaches about. Jesus knows that there is a dangerous aspect to money and He desperately wants us to realize the same. 1 Timothy 6:9 says, “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” Yikes. Money takes root as a sin in our lives when it becomes the thing we crave above God. I once heard a pastor give a great picture of what it looks like to be rich towards God. He said instead of putting our focus on obtaining more money, we should count God as our riches. If we have God, then we are the richest because He is the greatest gift, a gift that is freely given to us. I believe when we choose to put our hope and our worth in God we experience life to the fullest. We are not bogged down by needing new things or being jealous of what others have. Our mindset becomes fixed on the impact we can make for the Kingdom, in ourselves, and in the lives of those around us. McKnight writes, “simplification is the natural response to a kingdom vision. In that kingdom we won’t be hoarding or storing up treasures but instead living in the bounty of God’s gracious provision so we can enjoy what he wants for us: to serve God and to serve others” (211). What a different life that would be if we could take our attention off worldly aspirations. Just because we live in a culture that loves money does not mean we have to indulge in it. 1 John 2:15 says, “do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” We will forever be stuck in sinking sand if we do not confess our greed and actively try to work against it. It is possible for our cups to overflow solely from God, because He is the ultimate provider and He wants to bless us.
Wealth can be a difficult topic in the Christian faith, and as McKnight notes, there are two masters, one is God, and the other material possessions (McKnight, p. 209). As you said, we can’t serve two masters, and it would be like wearing a jersey from an old team as you are now part of a new one. We focus so much of our time and energy on making sure we have a good job with benefits and good pay so that we can have the latest technology, the nicest car, etc., and it begins to enslave us. Hebrews 13:5 is a great verse that talks on this, where God is telling us to keep our lives free of money, as he will never leave us or forsake us. The reality of it all is that money will leave us, our material possessions will get old or break, but the love of God and the relationship that we have with Him will never break, He will never leave us, and He is the only consistent thing that we have and ever will see. Thus, we should never let ourselves become slaves to money or earthly possessions, as our relationship with God is more valuable than we can ever describe.
If you look at today’s culture, you are able to see that the majority of people are serving money as their master. They are doing everything that they can do become as wealthy as they can before they die. That is the goal for many people, in fact that is ho many people define success. They define it as having an abundance of wealth. Jesus tells us that we are unable to serve two masters. We cannot serve both God and money. McKnight states that Jesus “offers a woodcut of two options: either you run on the treadmill of money or you live for God” (McKnight 209). We have to choose between living a life that may be comfortable because we have the funds to keep us that way, or to live the uncomfortable life that God commands us to. He does not want us to be comfortable, but to step out of our comfort zone and to learn to trust him. When we can do that, we find that he blesses us in ways that we could never imagine.
I feel that working for two masters does not necessarily ring the same bell as it did back in first century Israel. As college students, we often have two or even three jobs that we are working. However, this is not exactly what Jesus was trying to say. Rather Jesus was saying that one cannot serve two masters, or two gods, or two idols (McKnight, p. 209). This concept is rooted deeply in the theology of Judaism, as it is the first commandment given to the people. You shall not have any other gods before me. The modern western church would say that they are not breaking this command, they have not purchased a doll and bowed down to worship it any time lately. However, active worship is not at the heart of this commandment. Yes, active worship of false gods is bad. However, just like the rest of the sermon on the mount, Jesus is addressing a heart issue within the people. This is a sin that many people fall into today. They do not intend to commit this sin, but they do. Many people love other things more than God, I too have been guilty of this. This can be money, children, a spouse and just about anything. Understanding God is to be above all, loved above all is key.
When I think about money, I immediately associate it with not money itself but the things that I have that are of worth, that if I were to sell them I could get more. I always feel convicted about this topic because I think about how we are to tithe at least ten percent but also to give with a cheerful heart as much as the Spirit prompts us. McKnight tells the story about Flannery O’conner and how she lived a simple life giving of what little she had. As a college student, it is difficult to think about giving my money when I am in debt. Of course I still buy things when I need them, but it is hard to give all I have when I know I still have to pay for the next semester. The Scriptures tell us that being in debt makes us a slave to the person we are borrowing from (Proverbs 22:7). I wonder if this verse can correlate with Mathew 6:24 at all meaning that we are not only a slave to the lender but a slave to money as we are constantly thinking about paying it back. If we are only to be a servant to God, we need to continually surrender our finances to Him and do our best to not be consumed by the world that tells us we need the newest clothes, technology, ect. We need to rather be thankful with what God has given us to survive each day and bless those around us who are less fortunate if we are able.
I think the analogy that the analogy you used summed up the point very well, alongside how you talked about the word means serve is referred to as a slave, and I think that this is important because fathers still need to make a living, and put food in there children mouth, so they need to make money to then put food in there children’s mouth. I think it is important just as you were saying to know the difference between thinking how you will provide for your family, and relying on God to help you, and relying on God to make you feel good, or are you rely on money to take the place of God and make you feel good, these are the questions we need to ask when we are trying to find the balance of God and money. I think a great thought from McNight will help point us in the right thought direction ” For sale on the wall in nearly every Christian bookstore and then sometimes found on the walls at Christian homes is a picture of an old man or an old woman bowing in thanks for a small loaf of bread. this is what I think of when thinking about a good balance we need to care for our food what we will eat next and at the same time we don’t God will provide.