GNB 2.64

March 17, 2023


No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16.13)

They [the believers in the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth who is the Son of God and Messiah] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. All the believers were together and had everything in common.” (Acts 2.42,44)


Yesterday, I offered a way of thinking about Jesus’ new commandment to “love one another” which said “Love One (God) and the other (everyone else.)” To understand the scope of Jesus’ new commandment, we have to put ourselves into the realm of recognizing “others matter” because we are one of the others. We will rarely, if ever, deny that our life matters. We may raise the question, of course, because of the way of the world “if our life matters to God.” We tend to judge such desired responses based on the current state of things based on “things of this world.” As mighty ones of God in Jesus as the Christ, we obviously know that our lives matter to God. John 3.16 addresses that thought succinctly when he wrote “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son to the cross so that whosoever believes in Him (His life, ministry, death and resurrection) would not perish (die to dwell in eternal death) but have everlasting life (that is, to dwell with God in Heaven forever.) His very sacrifice and belief in His Son’s faithfulness to Him to take up the cross and follow God’s plan for our redemption, salvation and reconciliation is the ultimate indicator that “our lives matter.” The problem exists in that the world has created an environment where “lives only matter” when they promote our own welfare and agenda. Our own welfare and agenda becomes our master.

So, when I remind us of Jesus’ new command which identified all who followed it to be His disciples, it is with the caveat presented above from Luke 16.13 and Matthew 6.24. While we are called to “love One and the other” by “loving one another,” we must balance that truth with the weightiness that “we cannot serve two masters.” To follow the language of “love,” we can restate that teaching to say “we cannot love two masters.” There is another important restating of that teaching which is “we cannot worship two masters.” Love, serve and worship create a perfect triangular boundary around those who call themselves God’s people. Yes, that God who declares “I will work all things together for good in those who are called according to My purposes and who call themselves by My name” is the ultimate defining truth for who we are and are intended to be. When we believe that we can love “one people” one way and “another people” another way, we catch ourselves in the dilemma of “serving, worshiping, loving” two masters. The result, Jesus says, is that we will ultimately “love one and hate the other,” “serve one and rebel against another” or “worship one and rebuke another.” That dialectic goes without saying. The issue arises with “which one” is “which one.” Whom do we love, serve and worship? Whom do we hate, rebel against and rebuke? And in our listing of who that is for us, do we find a wandering, conditional, declaration based on time, place and purpose? If we do, then we convict ourselves with the real possibility that “we love ourselves more than one and the One and others.”

Mighty ones of God, do not fool yourselves or allow yourselves to be convinced that simply because the extension of the biblical application in Jesus’ teaching says the two posits are limited to “God” on the one hand and “money” on the other that everything not God or not money is outside the circle and thus allowed. I would dare say “money” catches a lot of areas, if not all of them- including God (at least in some churches’ teaching about stewardship, tithes and offerings.) It becomes more clear when we look at these “two sides of the same coin” that we may recognize the issue is “who really sustains me.” The challengers of Jesus (the Scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the Law) thought they could catch Jesus on this very point. They presented Him with the question of “paying taxes.” It was their way of asking “who do you give your financial allegiance to in determining authoritatively who you support.” Putting aside that these very men had already made their financial contributions to Rome “under the table,” their intent was to get Jesus to declare “fealty” or “rebellion.” Jesus showed that He was both “one and the other.” He asked for a coin, which they quickly offered (not knowing it would be evidence against themselves as it was a temple coin) and then gave them a defining question, albeit rhetorical. He asked, “What was on either side of the coin?” They knew that on one side was the image of Caesar and on the other was “The Temple” (because there could be no image created of God.) Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” The truth of the matter is that in this world there has to be a different between “One and the other.” Giving taxes as decreed by human law did not mean a lack of fealty to God unless all you had was given only to Caesar. So, by application, paying temple taxes to God was not an indicator of rebellion against Rome unless all you did was give to the Temple and ignored the “law of the land.” What was behind the entire conversation really was a conviction of the Temple ruling elite who wanted Jesus to choose “them” or “Rome.” They couldn’t make that choice themselves. But, we must as Jesus did. We live in a complicated world with divided purposes and principles. The truth is that there can only be “one” guiding principle. Jesus gave that principle as “love one another” by loving God and the other understanding that we are one of those “others.” But, it can only be God whom we truly love, serve and worship. No other can sustain and maintain us forever.


It is to You and You alone that we offer ourselves in worship, praise and service. Let them be filled with love for One and the other as we would desire to be loved ourselves by One and the other. Help us to grow into this new command and bring the truth to light that while there are choices, there is only one choice that makes all the difference in the world. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

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