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Matthew 6:24 meaning

Jesus teaches that people cannot love both God and wealth. They must choose one or the other. We can do what God commands, which is to serve and love other people; or we can love wealth and obey what its lusts require. It is one or the other, it can’t be both.

The parallel account of Matthew 6:24 is found in Luke 16:13.

Jesus shares an important principle. Just as a servant only has one master whom he serves, so too, does our heart. No one can serve two masters (v 24). Our heart obeys only one master at a time.

Whenever a servant or a heart has two masters giving him orders, he will only be able to follow one of them. Jesus illustrates through an inverted statement (like a chiasm): For either he will hate the one (the first master) and love the other (the second master), or he will be devoted to one (the second master) and despise the other (the first master) (v 24). He cannot serve and be devoted to both. Indeed, he cannot even love both. The servant will follow either the one or the other.

Jesus then names the two masters. You cannot serve God and wealth (v 24). Only one of these masters can be the controlling influence of your life. This is a principle that shows how vital it is to have an eye that can see the light of truth (v 22).

If God is your master, you will love Him and be devoted to Him. You will seek the reward of pleasing Him. You will, like Jesus, despise anything that keeps you from pleasing Him (Hebrews 12:2). This would include the demands, the ridicule, shame, or persecution that come from anything in the world that tries to be your master. If God is our master, our primary concern is not to try to get ahead in this life by accumulating wealth. We will despise the lust for wealth compared to following God. We will be a generous and wise steward of the wealth He grants into our hands. Instead of storing up our wealth on earth, and trusting in it to bring us fulfillment, we will forward it (and our hearts) to heaven.

If wealth is our master, we will lust for it and be devoted to its demands. We will be consumed by the pursuit of hoarding it. The lust for wealth is a master that is never satisfied. This principle is stated clearly in the Old Testament: "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 5:10). The lust for wealth (a common master of this world and its kingdoms) is at direct odds with God and His kingdom.

If the lust for wealth is our master, we will hate God and His commands to love and serve other people. Instead of using whatever wealth that God puts into our hands to enlarge His kingdom and bless others (and according to Jesus's teachings, bless ourselves in the process), we defiantly seek to carve out our own kingdom in opposition to God. When people have wealth as a master, it leads to disharmony and unrighteousness. When we view wealth in comparison to others, then we must have "more" than the one to whom we compare. We seek to push them down as well as to elevate ourselves. As the Apostle Paul tells Timothy, "For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Timothy 6:10).

Again, we see that the ultimate issue pertains to the inner workings of the heart and its loves. There may be two (or more) masters barking out commands, but the servant can only choose to follow one of them. When desires are in conflict, the heart will follow the one it loves.

In telling His disciples, You cannot serve God and wealth, Jesus is asking them: which of these two masters are you going to love? Which will you despise? Which will you serve? (v 24). It has a ring of Joshua 24:15, "Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…" Jesus is speaking to His disciples, so these are believers. Jesus is not speaking of how to be born into God's family. These listeners already have God as their Father. Jesus is teaching them how to choose perspectives and actions that lead to our greatest benefit. Being enslaved to wealth is clearly not in our best interest.

The Apostle Paul tells us another benefit we gain when we do not have wealth as a master. We learn to be content (Phil 4:11-13). When we are not living a life of comparison, we can enjoy what we have, rather than being enslaved to the master of "More."

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