Serving God and Pursuing Wealth Luke 16:13

by Steven Chan

Serving one master is challenging enough already, why would anyone want to serve two masters?  It could be because one feels compelled to serve more than one master as both masters lay claim over you. It could be because one thinks that one will be better off or would stand to gain more if one serves two masters. Whatever may be the motivation for serving more than one masters, Jesus declared in Luke 16:13: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”  Jesus said that it is not possible to serve two masters because your love and loyalty will be challenged or under threat. Jesus then applies this principle to our service to God. We cannot serve God and also seek to be a servant of the idol of wealth (i.e. mammon). The pursuit of wealth is often the primary aim of the people of this world. Jesus warns against this attempt to serve both God and the relentless pursuit of wealth.

The Bible observed that the Pharisees were upset by what Jesus said because they were “lovers of money” (Luke 16:14). Isn’t it surprising that the religious leaders of the day were described as “lovers of money”? How could those who professed to devote themselves to the service of God be described as “lovers of money”? That’s the danger as those who profess to serve God deceived themselves into thinking that they could have the best of both worlds. Are we guilty of similar inclinations?

Being upset with what Jesus said, they derided or scoffed at Him. Those who attempt to serve God and Mammon are not content to be quiet; they would do their best to justify their actions. They are vocal and offer arguments to justify their lifestyle. He said to them in Luke 16:15: “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” The warning of Jesus was that try as you may to justify yourselves before men, do remember that it is God who knows your hearts! Isn’t that true with so many “believers” who try to justify their lifestyle or actions in life before men? Sadly, they forget that God knows our hearts! And it is God who judges us ultimately (Heb 4:13; Ecc 12:13).
The warning of Jesus was also that “what is highly esteemed among men” is an abomination to God. In other words, even though one may win over many “converts”, “supporters” or “sympathizers” to one’s belief and practice, such that it is viewed as “highly esteemed” it does not change the fact that it is an abomination before God. More importantly, it is the case that what is highly esteemed among men is considered as an abomination to God. So, we must be careful not to judge any action or belief as acceptable just because the majority of the people of this world agree with it.

Jesus went on to preach that the kingdom of God is being preached and many are pressing to enter therein. The kingdom of God should be our primary concern in contrast with the things of this world. While many were pressing into it, it appears that the religious leaders of the day were more interested in their worldly pursuits.  They were distracted by the things that were highly esteemed by men.

The desire to pursue things that are highly esteemed by men may cause one to also compromise on God’s teachings on marriage and divorce.  Apart from the pursuit of wealth, the pursuit of hedonism (pleasures of life) poses a real threat to those who would serve God. Jesus therefore warned them in Luke 16:18: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.” The teaching is simple, clear and straightforward. But just like the devil deceived Eve with ideas that caused doubts in her understanding, likewise, the devil does the same with this simple and clear teaching of God. Many so-called “servants of God” are bending backwards to be “friends with the world” so as to reap the benefits of popularity with both the believers and non-believers, by loosening that teaching. They will accommodate and accept those who have divorced their wives and married another on the ground that God’s grace can cover all sins, including the sin of divorcing and marrying another. They don’t disagree that it is a sin, they merely say that it’s okay to continue in that subsequent marriage because:- (a) since a divorce has occurred, the two parties are no longer bound together and so they are free to remarry – otherwise, it would be inhumane to deprive them from entering into another blissful relationship, as after all, God intended every man to have his own wife! (b) God’s grace can cover the sin of divorce and remarriage!  While it is true that God’s grace is able to cover such sins, it should not be forgotten that one needs to repent and like the woman caught in adultery in John 8:11, “go and sin no more”.  It is ridiculous to suggest that one may continue to remain in that relationship that is described as “adultery” on the pretext that one has supposedly repented. Forgiveness does not change the practice of adultery into non-adultery, nor does it change the act of homosexuality into non-homosexuality just because one has been baptized (I Cor 6:9-11)!

Brethren, the warning of Jesus rings true. No man can serve two masters. We must be careful that we love God with all of our heart, soul and mind and to be loyal to Him at all times – and not have divided loyalty.