You Cannot Serve God and Mammon
You cannot follow Jesus well with a divided heart. You will not give Jesus the devotion He deserves when you are not fully with Him. You will also miss out on seeing His glory and opportunities to do His will when you are distracted. This is due to the fact that it is impossible to truly serve the real Jesus, your absolute Lord and Master and the King of Kings, unless you commit to Him as such. Allowing anything or anyone to share the throne of your life dethrones Jesus from this position. Your service of other loves and loyalties may not seem harmful on the surface. They may even seem good and noble. But they are subtle acts of rebellion that leave you too conflicted and confused to hear from Jesus.
You call Jesus King, Lord, and Master, which is good, but do you live out this reality?
No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. Matthew 6:24 (New Living Translation)
Who Ya Fer?
I visited Sea World with my family when I was 8 years old. At the time, they had a water skiing show as an attraction in addition to the whales and dolphins. It involved the performers doing cool tricks while water skiing. If that were not enough entertainment, the theme of the production was “Hillbillies – the Hatfield and McCoy feud“. This involved the cast acting out mock conflicts dressed in bathing suit versions of frontier clothing…again, all while on water skis. This may seem strange, but to me as young boy, it was theatrical brilliance! I was an easily pleased child.
The audience was also included in the mock feud to make it even more exciting. You were either part of Team Hatfield or Team McCoy and were expected to cheer accordingly. The public address announcer called on each side periodically in an exaggerated accent to declare their allegiance. He shouted over blaring banjo and fiddle music:
“Yeehaw, SeaWorld, Who’r Ya Fer?“
The people of each team were expected to yell out in response, “Hatfield!” or “McCoy!“.
This was all very exciting to my 8 year old brain. I wanted to enthusiastically jump up to join the crowd and declare who I was for! I loved that sort of activity as a kid. I still do.
The problem was this desire ran into a competing “loyalty”. It out me into an internal conflict with this other attachment that turned my day of fun into one of pain, loss, and resentment. You see, as a young boy who idolized his dad, I knew had to scope out Dad’s reaction before I could join in. I desperately wanted his approval and did everything I could to attain it, though I was rarely successful. His clear disapproval in this instance was as obvious as it was unsurprising. He thought the whole thing was ludicrous. He never joined in cheers or participated in silly theatrics and mocked those who did, including me and my two sisters. If I stepped out of line and joined in despite this clear message, I would never hear the end of it.
Though I on the surface, it seemed like I had a simple choice, cheer or not cheer, what occurred was a battle of loyalties. I loved my father and greatly valued his approval. I also wanted to join in and have fun like the people around me. I wanted to be ok with being me as well. The sad thing is that this division in me left me with no good options. I lost either way.
I could never truly enjoy the show. I was too attached to my Dad’s approval. The potential joy and fun would have been displaced by anxiety and self consciousness. I could not be me without being aware of not serving my other loyalty and being torn between the two.
I could never be happy not joining in as it ignored my real other master, me, and what I wanted to do. I also could not enjoy any relationship that came since it was based on a lie and I was involved reluctantly.
You can probably guess that I did not join in during the entire show. I pretended to agree and joined in the scoffing to serve one master, while secretly wishing things were different and despising myself for my failures to serve the other.
I missed out on both options and was miserable in the process for a simple reason – I could not decide who I was really ‘fer and therefore I wasn’t for anyone.
Why Do You Call Me Good?
A heart divided between Jesus and anyone or anything bears similarly bitter fruit. There may be no water skis or coonskin caps involved, but you simply cannot be the man or woman Jesus wants you to be reluctantly following Him. Any spiritual conflict of loyalties will turn your opportunities for service, growth, and rejoicing into regret, condemnation, and loss. You will not hear Jesus’ call when you are listening to someone else’s and will miss out on the great riches that come with obvedience.
Jesus’s interaction with the Rich Young Ruler is a clear demonstration of these truths. The man comes to Jesus with great potential:
Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Mark 10
The man’s exceptional urgency is shown by his running to get to Jesus. Men of position simply did not run in ancient Israel as it was seen as unseemly. He also seems to understand something exceptional about Jesus in that he kneels before Him. It is a position of either great respect or of worship. It is a statement of submission. The man’s sense of need is also apparent in his questions. They reveal that he knows that he does not have assurance of eternal life, but is seeking it from Jesus. The man appears to declare himself from the outset as being for the Lord. This appears to be outstanding, yet, a huge problem lurks behind the scenes with the man. The man has some esteem for Jesus but his heart was already spoken for. This quickly shows itself in the account:
Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”
But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Jesus loved the man. I have no doubt he had good intentions. I believe he thought he was being authentic while kneeling before Jesus honoring Him and seeking to be taught. He may have even thought he kept all the commandments. He looked great to the human eye. Yet, the Lord does not judge like man does.
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
Jesus looked at the man’s declaration of allegiance to Him and saw it was untrue. His attachment to his possessions was smothering his love of the Lord. As a result, Jesus gave the man the only direction that would set him truly free – let go of that which keeps you from following me fully. Jesus is not against money or possessions. He does despise them when they keep you from Him. This is lived out in the man’s response. His love of his stuff caused him to not only turn away from Jesus, but to get up off his knees and walk away filled with sorrow. The submission, humility, joy, and hope with which he came to Jesus were eclipsed and driven out by his first love – possessions
That man’s life was likely never the same. He could not follow Jesus because of his love of possessions. He rejected Jesus’ call on him as a result…and what a call. The Rich Young Ruler said no to being one of the early disciples of Jesus. He could have learned directly from Jesus, hung out with Peter and Andrew, and been witness to all of the major events of the Gospels. He could have eaten the Last Supper and stood at the foot of the Cross of Calvary. His name could have been written in the Word. Instead, he remains the nameless man who is known for his love of money and for sorrowfully walking away from Jesus. Do you think he could enjoy his things like he previously after this encounter?
Choose This Day Whom You Will Serve?
For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Joshua stood before Israel as they were about the enter into Canaan. It was the land flowing with milk and honey, a picture of abundance, God swore to give to them through Abraham. It was a beautiful and fertile country that was theirs for the taking. Everything they wanted or needed was available and, in addition, God would bless them with even more than necessity as they inhabited the area. There was only one thing they needed to do: choose.
“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15
They had to let go of anything else they served and choose God. If they did, then great wealth, blessing, and security. If they did not, then it would be a rocky road, which you know it was for Israel.
The Promised Land lies directly ahead of you as well. A life surrendered to Jesus is better than living in ancient Israel at its peak. It is filled with riches, abundance, blessings, and rivers of living water, all of which is there for your taking. You don’t have to work to produce them or labor in their creation. What you have to do is just as simple as Joshua’s direction to Israel:
Choose this day whom you will serve.
Have you made that choice? “This day” means today, right now, before you miss out on anymore of what God has for you. I have never been disappointed in being able to honestly say:
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!