Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pick Your Master

Luke 16:13 No servant 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 God and money."

13 Οὐδεὶς οἰκέτης δύναται δυσὶ κυρίοις δουλεύειν· ἢ γὰρ τὸν ἕνα μισήσει καὶ τὸν ἕτερον ἀγαπήσει, ἢ ἑνὸς ἀνθέξεται καὶ τοῦ ἑτέρου καταφρονήσει. οὐ δύνασθε θεῷ δουλεύειν καὶ μαμωνᾷ.

This comes at the end of the Parable of the Dishonest Manager. Or, if you prefer, the shred steward. Whatever you want to call it, the conclusion is a bit confusing as Jesus commends the use of unrighteous wealth in verse 9. That may be confusing, but this verse is crystal-clear.

This is one of those times where the English translation just does not quite capture the full essence of the verse. The KJV translates the last sentence very literally with, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." That last word is simply a transliteration of μαμωνᾷ.

But what does that word mean? It goes beyond simply "money." According to Thayer, it comes from the Hebrew word אםן, which is something that you trust in. Of course, it also means money or riches. Perhaps a better colloquial translation would be "stuff we trust in for our security." In other words, you can't serve both God and stuff.

This has profound applications for anyone who is reading this. If you're reading this you have access to a computer and the internet. That means that I can assume you have safe drinking water, shelter, and food. You probably have to worry more about not overeating than where your next meal is coming from. You probably have more stuff in your house than you can possibly use. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Jesus is not saying that all stuff is bad. What He is saying is that we cannot serve both God and stuff. What are you working for? Are you working to get all you can, can all you get, and then sit on your can? Or are you working for the glory of the Lord so that you can use the resources He gives you to serve Him? Who is your master?

I write this surrounded by 3 guitars that I do not play because I do not have time. Yet I feel guilty about that because I own these guitars and want to make music with them. In other words, in a sense this stuff has a grip on me. I'm not sure that this verse means I must get rid of my guitars, but I also know that they demonstrate the dangers of acquiring stuff. Let's be aware of this as we live our lives, amen? The American Dream and the gospel are not the same thing.

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