Words of Faith
Rev. Rita S. Platt
October 12, 2014
“The Problem With Two Masters” (Treasures, part 2)
Matthew 6: 24
Perhaps you have seen the license plates that show the phrase “A House Divided,” accompanied by the logos of two rival college football teams…like Pitt and Penn State. That rivalry has been dormant since 2000, but will be renewed with the 2016 to 2019 schedule.
This phrase often reminds people of Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech in 1858. Lincoln was speaking about a nation divided on the issue of slavery. What many people don’t know is that the line was not unique to Lincoln but that instead Lincoln was quoting Jesus.
Jesus said, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mark 3:24-25 NRSV).
Jesus is telling us, in other words, that competing allegiances in a kingdom, a house, or a heart will lead to destruction. Division leads to war in which either there is constant strife or one side wins out.
Last week we were challenged to consider where we are investing our hearts. Our homework was to pay attention to where we spend our time, money, and energy. In other words, where our hearts are invested. To accomplish this task you probably examined your budget or our calendar.
We were also challenged to make a list of our top ten priorities – a vehicle that might help us align those priorities is to review – or create – a personal mission statement. You may have discovered this task is quite challenging because we have to wade through so much stuff. I invite you to come to the adult forum because we are going to talk about that task.
No matter how far along you are in the process, most of us have probably discovered that our hearts indeed are divided. We have said “yes” to too many commitments, signed too many contracts, and swiped too many credit cards. Now we must use our energy dealing with a bunch of stuff that doesn’t make us happy.
Jesus says in Matthew 6, “ No one can serve two masters.” A person trying to do so will inevitably be devoted to one master and despise the other. I think this may explain why we find ourselves dreading commitments: you look at the commitment and there is no excitement. You find yourself in a battle: “I don’t want to go.” Because you gave your word – because you feel a sense of responsibility – you go. Do you know what I am talking about?
This thing you dread is tugging at your heart. It is not your treasure.
Now most of us also know the experience of being physically drained, having something on your calendar, returning energized. What’s the difference . . .?
You can’t serve 2 masters.
In the text the two masters are identified as God and money; the assumption could be made that God is good and money is evil.
But let’s look a little deeper. I think a book written by Edward Hays entitled Secular Sanctity: Reflections on Finding God in the midst of Daily Life may be of some help. Hays premise is, “An awesome new task faces the spiritual person of the twenty-first century: the challenge to create a new spirituality for a new era. What is needed is a new way of seeing. We need to form a new vision of the sacred as the vibrant dimension hidden within the secular. We must find a way to end the separation, a way to join the two in a wedding, a fusion.”
There are 18 essays. In one he identifies some specific ways people can have a balanced and healthy relationship with their money:
- “We should love our money and take pride in it,” he says. “Money is a symbol of work well done.”
- Money earned is rightly spent, “to nourish our bodies: so part of our income goes for food, clothing, shelter and also for entertainment..this expression of self-love is good and holy.”
- “Money in a wallet or purse is a sign of the community to which you belong.” Thus part of our money is used to pay taxes..”to build highways, to pay teachers salaries and to patch potholes in the street.”
- Finally some of our money is used on “gifts to those we love and those organizations we feel are important to the world and the growth of the human spirit.” He adds that whenever we give money we are saying, “This is my love.”
We can bless many people with our money; it is not evil. But it can destroy us if we let it have control of our lives.
God doesn’t want shared allegiance. God doesn’t want a piece of your life. God wants to be everything.
There’s an old story about a conversation between a chicken and a pig. The chicken said, “Let’s do breakfast.” The pig replies, “That’s easy for you to say. You just make a donation. For me, it’s a total life sacrifice.”
As we continue to use that two-pronged approach, let us examine how we are using our time, our energy and our financial resources and see if it will identify our priorities
This week we add an additional question: “When it comes to God, what kind of animal do we want to be – a chicken or a pig?” Do you want to be someone who is content to donate toward the work God is doing or would you rather offer your whole life?