No Man Can Serve Two Masters
Too many committed Christians have been known to say:
“Sometimes I think I could leave my job and work for a church or Christian organization so I could really serve the Lord in my work.”
What is the meaning behind that thought?
The meaning is that they think they cannot “really serve the Lord” unless they are working in “full-time Christian service”. They grudge the time they spend serving a secular employer, because they believe that this cuts into the time they could have been spending in serving the Lord. They think they do are not really wholehearted about serving the Lord totally, because if they were really and sincerely wholehearted about this, they would be a missionary, or a Pastor’s wife, or a preacher, or have some other ministry, or a staff member in a church or Christian organization.
In spite of these thoughts, most Christians continue working in secular careers. And they continue to feel inferior in their Christian lives, they continue to be troubled by the thought, “Shouldn’t I be in a job that allows me to devote more time to Christian work?”
This is an important question.
Most Christians work at a career that demands more than 40 hours a week (8 hours a day for 5 weekdays). Work out the percentage of time spent per week on secular work. Even family time is affected by the demands of work. Month after month, their work makes regular withdrawals from the limited fund of time at their disposal.
And the time that goes on secular work is not left-over time. It is prime time, the best hours of the day, in the best years of life! If a person is to accomplish anything worthwhile in life, it will probably be by devoting large chunks of prime time to that worthy goal. Is it then right for that valuable prime time to be “wasted” on secular work?
Again: the number of Christians in secular work vastly outnumber those in Christian work. Therefore, it follows that the majority of hours available in the body of Christ is devoted to serving secular bosses, and working at secular businesses, that is to say, working at worldly concerns rather than the things of eternity.
At first glance, it would seem that, yes, the biggest percentage of available time in the body of Christ is being invested in things of no consequence for eternity … and that this is an enormous waste of time in the body.
It begins to seem as though most Christians are working for two masters: working from 9 to 5 for their secular masters, and working some evenings and part of the weekend for Christ.
What did Jesus say:
Matthew 6:24 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.
Mammon means (the god of) money. It’s as if in today’s India’s Hindu terms, Jesus was saying: “You can’t serve God and Lakshmi.”
Jesus spoke this about riches (wealth). But it could also relate to work. If we see our lives as divided between secular and sacred compartments, we would see ourselves serving our earthly employers in one compartment and God in the other. It’s like serving two masters.
Jesus was saying that divided service creates a divided mindset, double-mindedness. The book of James says
James 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
The person who loves organized Christian activity will begin to see his secular work as interruptions to his life’s real mission.
That’s because he is trying to serve God and Mammon.
If he is sincere about serving God, he begins to over-load himself during evening hours and weekends to try to do some things that count for eternity.
Isn’t it more spiritual to “live by faith” than to work for a living?
It would help us if we had a single-minded view of all of life. For that we need to see our work as God sees it. And for that, we need to understand some crucial differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
What was God doing in the Old Testament?
The Old Testament shows that after sin entered the world nothing in it was clean. Man had become a slave to Satan. And God took the first of many steps to bring man out of slavery, and out of the filth of sin.
Then, out of all the earth’s unclean peoples, God set apart the Israelites. This doesn’t mean that they were better than the rest. He chose Israel out of His own sovereign will.
God first removed them from the uncleanness surrounding them in Egypt. He took them into the desert, where they were away from all unclean influences from surrounding cultures, and there He began to show them the difference between clean and unclean.
God had to start with basic lessons. The “elementary schoolmaster” was God’s Law, given through Moses.
The Sacred / Ordinary Divisions – Part 1
The Old Testament had Holy versus Ordinary distinctions in regard to …
The Tabernacle and later the Temple had a Holy Place, and the Holiest Place (also known as the Holy of Holies). These were both under the covered place. Outside the covered place was the “Outer Court”, which had holy objects like the Brazen Altar and the Laver (priests’ wash basin). But the area was not considered as holy as the Holy Place and the Holiest Place. We could say that the Outer Court was holy, the Holy Place was holier, and the Holiest Place was, of course, holiest. Outside the fence of the Tabernacle, and later outside the outer wall of the Temple compound was the secular area, where the people lived, bought and sold things, lived their family lives, and did other ordinary, everyday things.
Of course, the Land of Israel (the Promised Land) was considered more holy than the land on which other nations lived.
The High Priest was the holiest person in the Jewish community. Then came the Priests who were holy. Then the other Levites who were less holy. All these were holy but in lesser and lesser degree. The community of Jews was secular (ordinary) in comparison with the High Priest, Priests and Levites.
Of course, the Jewish community as a whole was considered holier than non-Jews (Gentiles).
Foods were not divided into holy and ordinary, but into clean and unclean. To eat unclean foods was a sin under the Law. There was no special merit attached to eating clean foods. So, in that sense, the clean foods were ordinary and the unclean foods were unholy. There were clear definitions of what was clean. For example, every animal that chews the cud and has cleft hooves was clean. If an animal chews the cud but its hooves are not cleft, it is unclean: for example, the hare and the rabbit. Similarly, if an animal has cleft hooves but does not chew the cud, it is unclean: for example, the pig. If an animal neither chews the cud, not has cleft hooves, it is of course clearly unclean. This applied to the meat of animals. There were special regulations pertaining to body parts, for example, blood, kidneys, etc. When it came to fish, they had to have both fins and scales in order to be categorized as clean. Catfish have fins but no scales, hence they are unclean. Shell fish, lobsters, prawns, etc., have neither fins nor scales, hence they too are unclean. Predator birds and scavenger birds were unclean. As to other birds, there was no definition given of clean and unclean, but there was a list of clean birds, and a list of unclean. In general, any bird not in the list of clean birds was considered unclean. There was also a division of clean and unclean insects. To be clean, an insect had to be a flying insect (not a creeping insect), and it had to have legs jointed above their feet: such as the locust, the cricket and the grasshopper. Other flying insects (flies, mosquitoes, bees, etc.) were considered unclean. All creeping insects were considered unclean (ants, grubs, worms, etc.) There were many other regulations concerning meats that could be eaten (clean) and were prohibited (unclean). For instance, it was all right to kill a clean animal and eat it, but it the animal died a natural death or by an accident (like drowning) or was killed by another animal or by being bitten by a snake, it was considered a carcass, and all carcasses were unclean.
The holiest garments were those of the High Priest, followed by the garments of the Priests and then the garments of the Levites. The holiness of these garments were related the office of their wearer. Thus, the High Priest’s being the holiest office, the High Priest’s garments were the holiest of the garments. Ordinary people wore ordinary garments.
Day of Week and Special Days
The Sabbath was considered a holy day from Creation, and the remaining six days were considered ordinary days on which a man could work.
There were also special days set apart by God for special reasons: in the spring, there was the Passover season (containing three feasts) … in the summer, the Feast of Pentecost … in the autumn, the Tabernacles season (containing two days of repentance, one of which was a fast day, and 7 days of joyous celebration in leafy tents under the open sky).
Under the Law of Moses, the fast of Yom Kippur in the autumn was considered the holiest day of all in the annual, next only to the Sabbath which, of course, belonged to the weekly calendar.
Under the Law of Moses, work relating to the Tabernacle and the Temple, specially the rituals, but also their construction, maintenance, etc., was considered holy work. Work not relating to these was ordinary, but not unholy. However, the “work” of a thief, or of a prostitute, was considered unholy (sinful). Certain types work such as tanning leather, were considered unclean.
What is God doing in the New Testament?
In the New Testament the promised Messiah has come, the promised Redemption has been accomplished. The redeemed of the Lord are no longer slaves to Satan. And everyone is given an invitation to be redeemed by faith in the Messiah’s saving death and resurrection.
The gospel breaks out of the boundaries of Israel, and goes out into the world with the full intent that it should be proclaimed to all nations.
The sinfulness of sin, which God was stressing through the various Old Testament distinctions between clean and unclean, holy and ordinary, the sinfulness of sin was made fully clear by the fact that our sin needed the death of the Son of God if its penalty was to be lifted off us.
God’s basic lessons are now taught through Old Testament history and prophecy, and through what Jesus did on and through the Cross. For the one who has been redeemed, the “elementary schoolmaster” which was God’s Law, given through Moses, had done its work. (Mind you, for the one who has not yet been redeemed, who has not seen the sinfulness of sin and so has not been convicted in his heart and not yet repented of his sins, the Law still has a part to play. For such a person, the Law displays God’s standard, which is so high that we we cannot keep it, and so we understand our need for a Savior.
The Sacred / Ordinary Divisions – Part 2
For the redeemed, the New Testament abolishes many Holy versus Ordinary distinctions. Instead, new distinctions are made, for example, the words that we utter (see “Food” below).
Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that at present God’s Holy Temple in Jerusalem is the place to worship, but the day is coming when this will no longer be the case. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil of the Temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. Forty years after the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Messiah, the Temple itself was burned down and not a stone left upon another. Only the compound’s outer wall, which was not part of the temple, still remains. It is known today as the Wailing Wall, because every day some Jews (from around Israel and the world) visit the Wall to pray and lament the destruction of the Temple, and they wail their hearts out.
There are no priests in the New Testament church. All those who are saved are all Priests (and Kings). Jesus Christ Himself is the Great High Priest, seated at the right hand of the Father.
Jesus declared that it is not what goes into the mouth that is clean or unclean, but what comes out of the mouth, the words that are uttered by the person, they are clean or unclean.
Our holy garments today are the robe of righteousness, the garments of praise. These are not made of fabric or leather, but are entirely in the realm of the spirit.
Day of Week and Special Days
All days are equally appropriate for worship.
About the Shabbat, remember that, when God originally ordained it, the Law had not been given, God’s judgment on Adam and Eve had not been pronounced, Cain had not murdered Abel, and the Great Flood of Noah’s time was far distant in the future. Yet the Shabbat was included in the list of the Ten Commandments. If the other commandments are still in force, it is false to say that the Shabbat command is not in force. The Shabbat, however, is to be regarded as a day of prescribed rest from work, so that body and soul and spirit may be refreshed by the Lord.
There is no work that is more sacred than another, if the work doesn’t require sin. For instance, a robber’s work is by its very nature sinful. So is a prostitute’s work. (Calling her a sex-worker, may be politically correct, but it doesn’t make prostitution morally or spiritually correct.)
However, when it comes to all non-sinful secular work, they are to be performed “as unto the Lord”. Hence, they all partake of the quality of being holy before the Lord, if performed with that attitude.