September 12, 2021
Emmaus Lutheran Church
St. Matthew 6:24-34
Servants Of The Great God
In the name of Jesus.
Jesus Christ says: “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 both God and money.” (Matt. 6:24)
In the beginning of Romeo and Juliet, the servants of the two houses in Verona, Montague and Capulet, begin fighting over which of their masters is better. In other times people were devoted to their lords and masters. If your master was a great man, it meant you were the servant of a great man. You belonged to the household of a great man.
That’s the way the Bible talks about belonging to the Lord. Before Joshua died, he told the Israelites: 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 24:15) Joshua talks about the Lord the like a king or their feudal lord. He is not embarrassed that he has to serve someone. He is proud to belong to the Lord and be his servant.
But Jesus tells us today that we can’t serve two masters. The reason is a person can only really love and serve one master. His heart can only be devoted to one. The other one he will look down on or hate.
So you can have one Lord that you love, and one lord only. It can be money, or it can be God, but not both.
Literally the word is not “money”, but “Mammon,” which means, “what one trusts in,” or “your treasure.” Jesus is saying, you can’t be a servant of money or other earthly treasures, other things that humans put their trust in—power, wisdom, beauty—and be a servant of the great God.
Now rationally, you would have to be a fool to choose to be a servant of Mammon or anything else instead of a servant of God. If Mammon at the most basic level is money, what is that? At one time money was gold and silver coins. Gold and silver is shiny. But it is dead. It only has value because humans assign value to it. But it is cold, it rusts. And money today is not even as valuable in itself as dead metal coins. It is paper. It’s numbers in a ledger book.
On the other hand, there is God. He was, and is, and is to come. He is eternal. He is the living one, the source of life. He is the Almighty. He does all things. Nothing happens apart from His power. He wills something and it comes into being. The evil He does not will He turns to His own purposes, and the ones doing the evil depend on Him to give them life. Indeed before the day was, I am He; And there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?” (Is. 43:3)
God is eternal, without beginning or end. He is almighty. He knows everything (unlike us, who don’t know what will happen an hour from now). He does not change (unlike mammon, which rusts, unlike human power, which fades). He is present everywhere, and there is nowhere He cannot find and protect His servants. And beyond His great power and wisdom, He is just and righteous, holy and without sin, faithful, kind, fully of pity, gracious. He is love, Scripture tells us. These are His attributes. He is not only able to provide for us and give us everything we need, protect us, but He is also gracious and kind to His servants.
You would have to be a fool to be a servant of money, or health, or power, or pleasure, or whatever else one might serve. These idols are nothing. They can’t really do anything at all.
And you can’t serve both. Either you will love God and by comparison hate these other things. Or you will be attached to intellect, fame, or prosperity, and despise God. You will love these things and think God is weak and contemptible.
So which do you serve? Are you a servant of the living God, or is your master Mammon?
Most people do not serve the living God, the Scripture tells us. Their master, to which their heart is attached, is not the all-powerful, eternal God, but far weaker lords. They love their life on earth. They love wealth, they love pleasure, they love their good name.
Jesus says: they show who they are servants of by what they are anxious about. They are anxious about their life, what they will eat and drink, and about their body, what they will put on.
During the last year and a half, we have seen many in our country be exceedingly anxious about their life.
Of course you should take care of your life. It is a gift from God. But then again it is not yours alone. Your life is given to you not for you to do whatever you want with it. It is given to you so that you may receive God’s gifts in faith and give yourself to Him in thankfulness. It’s given you so that you may serve Him. And when He wills, your life will be taken away, and you will come and give an account of your life to God.
Is this the way we have thought about our lives in this country during this pandemic? Obviously not. Before the pandemic, everyone thought of their lives as theirs alone to do with as they wish, not as a gift of God. After the pandemic, everyone became concerned about their lives, not as gifts of God to be cared for in service of Him, but as possessions we were terrified to lose.
Some were fearful of their health, others were anxious about their freedom. We have all been anxious, as though the Almighty God had no ability to take care of our lives in this world, as though He could not be relied upon to do so.
But you can’t serve both God and Mammon. If you are concerned about your body, what you will eat and drink, and your body, what you will wear; if you are concerned about your health, how you will keep yourself alive, and your freedom, how you will keep it safe from those who threaten it, you can’t also serve God. You are anxious about those things when you should leave them to your Lord, who can and will protect you, who feeds the birds even though they don’t sow and reap, and clothes the grass with greater splendor than Solomon, even though it is here today and tomorrow thrown into the oven.
If you are a servant of Mammon, you will reap the rewards of serving it. Since Mammon is a dead god, an idol, it can’t take away your sins. It can’t give you life.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all this will be added to you (St. Matthew 6:33). This is how Jesus Christ describes being a servant of God—to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. Then the other things we are worried about will be provided also—food, drink, clothing, shoes, as we learned as children in the first article of the Creed. As we pray for in the fourth petition of the Lord’s prayer: devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health. Servants of God will have what they need for this life.
But how can a person seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness? A person doesn’t look for God unless he has already found him. No one is righteous, no not one; says the Scripture in Romans chapter 3. No one understands, no one seeks for God (Rom. 3:10-11).
A person who seeks God has already found Him. A person who seeks righteousness already has it. No one seeks God until God has found him. Jesus says: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:3,6) When a person knows that he is spiritually poor and lost, when he hears the law, God opens the kingdom of heaven by proclaiming the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When a person knows that he is perishing eternally because of his sin through hearing God’s law, God feeds him with the bread of life, the righteousness accomplished by His Son in His death.
In the flesh we are servants of sin. We are worried about our lives and our freedoms. We obsess about these things and set our hearts on them. This is idolatry. When we do this we despise God as our Lord and master, thinking our health and freedom is greater than He is.
Yet God gives us His Kingdom and His righteousness. He gives us something greater than food and drink, earthly health, good government. He gives us righteousness in the good news of Christ. He declares Jesus’ innocent death for sinners is yours. Which means the law is fulfilled and you have eternal life. That means you enter into His kingdom out of the devil’s power. And you are safe from all he can do to you. You cannot die eternally while you are in God’s kingdom. You have life.
But why does Jesus say, Seek first his kingdom and righteousness if we have it already by faith in Him?
Well, you have food and clothing now, don’t you? You have health now. And yet you still seek to keep yourself in health. You seek to be clothed and fed.
Besides, though we have his kingdom and righteousness by faith, we are waiting for the day when we possess it by sight, and it will be all we have. And we will not be able to lose it.
We seek the day when our righteousness appears before God and the universe, and we appear like a bride without any spot or wrinkle. We seek the day when we see the kingdom of God coming down from heaven like a city with twelve gates of pearl.
And how do we seek it? How do we serve God until that day? St. Paul says:
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. (Rom. 14:17-18)
The kingdom of God is not a set of outward behaviors. It is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” We have the kingdom of God by faith in Christ. It manifests itself in the fruits of the Holy Spirit. In the kingdom of God we have righteousness before God solely through faith in Jesus. That is our righteousness. But having this righteousness, we receive joy and peace from the Holy Spirit, along with His other fruits, the greatest of which is love.
Seek to be found in Christ’s righteousness when He returns. Seek the forgiveness of sins; seek the Holy Spirit who forms you into Christ’s image. So that instead of fear about your life you have love for others. Instead of anxiety about your life, you have joy and peace, knowing that the great God is your Lord and Father.
When we allow anxiety about our life to distract us from Christ and to quench the Spirit’s peace, we are being tempted by the evil one, just as surely as if we are tempted by anger and hatred or lust or greed.
You cannot serve two masters, because you will love the one and hate the other. Your Lord is either the omnipotent, gracious God who gave you His Son. Or it is mammon, the things of this life.
But you are a servant of God. You have been baptized into His Son and entered His household. His name is on you.
You serve Him by faith in His Son alone. Believing in Christ, you have fulfilled His Law. You have His Spirit, who keeps you in His kingdom, and works in you joy, love, and peace.
You are not a servant of a weak and stingy master, nor a dead idol that can’t save. Your master is the Lord of heaven and earth, who made all things, who feeds the birds and clothes the grass of the field.
He guides you with His eye. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without Him, and you are worth more than many sparrows.
He will support us as we serve Him, daily forgiving our sins and giving us life. Come to His table and receive Your Lord’s rich gifts. He gives you not mere earthly health and freedom. He gives you the blood and body of His Son, and in these gifts He gives you life.
The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria