“No one is able to serve two masters, for he will hate one and genuinely care for the other or he will be devoted to the first and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and stuff.”
Yahweh is a jealous God. He knows that you cannot love and serve him if you are still tied up with the things of this world. The Aramaic mamonas (mammon) occurs only here in the Greek New Testament and refers to “wealth,” “property,” or, as we say, “stuff.” Like so many of Jesus’ statements, the point is crystal clear and little doubt is left as to what he intends. Picture two landowners in Jesus’ day. One has a slave but that slave is purchased by the other and finds himself in an entirely different setting. The first owner was cruel and mean and his slaves despised him. The slave who is transferred to the new owner finds himself in an atmosphere that is significantly better. He learns to care for his new master. Given the opportunity to return to the first owner on a part time basis he turns it down because it is clear that you can’t serve two masters at the same time even if you wanted to. One you will hate and the other you will love.
So it is with our relationship to God. Freed from bondage to sin we enjoy the blessings of our new master. We have no desire to work out a dual relationship so we can serve both of them at the same time.
But wait . . . Why is it that in reality there is a strange desire to spend time with the former master. We know that his slaves have nothing to look forward to. In fact, Jesus describes their destiny in terrifying terms – fire, darkness, agony, remorse. Our being pulled in two directions is best described by Paul in Romans where he writes about not doing what he wants to do but tending to do what he hates (7:16). He has a new master, Christ, but somehow the old master keeps the former relationship alive. Paul gives the answer to his predicament in the last verse of the chapter, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Sanctification (that is, becoming what we are in Christ) is a slow process. We long for the completeness that we know awaits us but it seems that goal is further away than we thought. Jesus says we can’t serve two masters and that is the goal of every serious believer. What we sometimes (or often) do reveals how strong are the powers that once held us captive. However, there is not a moment in our Christian life when we – if we turn to God’s Spirit for help, will be denied the power to overcome the one who was defeated on the cross. Demonic forces cannot win because God already has. There is only one Victor. Our role is to continually turn to him and receive all along the way the power he supplies to resist the old master and serve the new. Trying to serve both is an abnormality.