No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one…
Christ here passes from the consideration of thoughts and desires to the large world of action. His rule of life touches us all round. It begins with the heart - the inner chamber, the sanctuary. It also applies to the life, the work, the scenes of daily life in the world. Now, we are carried out to this busy world to consider the principles that rule our conduct there.
I. WE MUST HAVE A MASTER. This is assumed. Christ considers two forms of service. He does not contemplate the absolute freedom in which we are our own masters. We profess to be free, and claim to rule our own conduct; but that is only because the chains are gilded, or because the silken threads are invisible, because our obedience to our chosen master has become a second nature, i.e. because we serve from love and not from constraint. But all true service is heart-service; it springs from love; it is given willingly; and therefore it does not perceive the yoke of servitude. Yet he who escapes from the service of God as an irksome burden, irksome because his heart is not in the service, will certainly fall into the clutches of some other master - mammon, sin, evil habit, lust, fashion, etc. - all of them being but representatives of the great usurper.
II. WE HAVE A. CHOICE OF TWO MASTERS.
1. God. It is not enough to think of God as our Benefactor; we must remember that he claims our service. This is implied by his Fatherhood, because a father expects obedience on the part of his children. Now, it is not to be denied that the service of God is a very difficult service. It involves the renunciation of sin and the practice of self-denial. It requires absolute submission of the will in interior desire as well as in visible work. In our own strength it is impossible (Joshua 24:19). But God gives strength equal to the task. The reward of his service is immeasurable, not only in subsequent wages, but in the present joy of serving so good a God, delighting to do his will (Psalm 40:8).
2. Mammon. One form of low service. The unworthy service may assume other forms. But this is most prevalent and tempting. It is seen in the race for wealth, in the greed of covetousness, in the slavery of material pleasures and earthly desires. It is degrading to the soul, and it ends in weariness, disgust, and bitter disappointment (ver. 19).
III. WE CAN SERVE BUT ONE MASTER. This is not a question of simple inconsistency and incongruity; it is a matter of absolute impossibility. Christ does not say, "Ye ought not;" he says, "Ye cannot." There can be but one true service rendered by our real selves. Yet nothing is more common than the foolish attempt to achieve the impossible. The result is the miserable failure of a distracted life. The man who would serve two masters has no success or joy in either pursuit. When trying to serve mammon, he is haunted by a disturbing conscience that restrains him from going as far as he would, and vexes him with muttered reproaches. When endeavouring to serve God, he is invaded by a host of foolish fancies and worldly anxieties. He cannot give himself to the worship and service of God, and therefore these things are a weariness of the flesh. Thus he fails, and. is miserable whatever he does. The secret of happiness is whole-heartedness. There is no joy on earth like the deep and satisfying gladness of a complete surrender to God as our one Lord and Master. Happily the principle is a safeguard for the true servant of God. The service of God excludes the service of mammon, and so keeps us safe. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.