Choosing Between Two Masters: Matthew 6:19-24

Focus Passage: Matthew 6:19-24 (CEV)

19 Don’t store up treasures on earth! Moths and rust can destroy them, and thieves can break in and steal them. 20 Instead, store up your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and thieves cannot break in and steal them. 21 Your heart will always be where your treasure is.

22 Your eyes are like a window for your body. When they are good, you have all the light you need. 23 But when your eyes are bad, everything is dark. If the light inside you is dark, you surely are in the dark.

24 You cannot be the slave of two masters! You will like one more than the other or be more loyal to one than the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Read Matthew 6:19-24 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

If Jesus made any obvious, challenging statements during His ministry, a statement in the passage we are focusing on is likely to show up on the list.

One of the relevant things Jesus liked to talk about was money, but this was not because He was fixated on gaining wealth, but because He knew those in His audience living in the first century did have a tendency to focus on what they had in their bank accounts and on growing that number. This characteristic of human nature is probably the one that is the most universal throughout human history.

Into this discussion, Jesus gives a very obvious statement – one that most everyone can agree on: “You cannot be the slave of two masters!” (v. 24a)

In case there was any doubtful thoughts in the minds of those present listening, Jesus explains further, “You cannot be the slave of two masters! You will like one more than the other or be more loyal to one than the other.” (v. 24a)

With this emphasis in place, Jesus has the whole crowd in agreement. Even in situations where one has two bosses, an individual will not be equally loyal to both. If the two bosses agree on something, then everything is great, but if they disagree, then the individual may be forced to choose who gets the greater loyalty.

While this is a very practical, but obvious statement, Jesus then hits His key point for this illustration: “You cannot serve both God and money.” (v. 24b)

“Wait Jesus,” I can hear many in the crowd saying. “You mean we cannot be rich and servants of God?”

This conclusion is what many people who have read this verse have concluded, but I don’t think it is as straightforward as that. Otherwise, one’s estate would be a great measure of their Godliness.

Instead, I believe Jesus’ hinge statement in the middle of this verse is the key that we must pay attention to: “You will like one more than the other or be more loyal to one than the other.

This relates to the money discussion because while following God’s principles can lead to very wise money management, there may be times when God calls you to give. It is in the times when we are called to give freely that serving money clashes with serving God. It is in these moments when we must choose whether serving God is the higher priority, or serving the growth of our bank account.

When following God increases our bank accounts, we feel this is a win-win. But when God calls us to give, we learn where our loyalty and focus really is.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

Trusting in God: Matthew 8:14-27


Read the Transcript

When reading Matthew’s gospel, we quickly find that when he wrote his gospel, he likes focusing in on Jesus’ teaching and on some key events, and this means that at times Matthew’s gospel speeds through some events, while at other times, a great deal of focus is given to one event.

Almost in contrast to Matthew’s big focus on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which covered three chapters, our passage for this episode speeds through several loosely connected events. Usually we’d find these events split apart, but for the case of our episode and our focus on Matthew’s gospel, I thought it might be neat to pull these events together just like Matthew did.

Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 8, and we will be reading from the New Living Translation. Starting in verse 14, Matthew tells us that:

14 When Jesus arrived at Peter’s house, Peter’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. 15 But when Jesus touched her hand, the fever left her. Then she got up and prepared a meal for him.

Let’s pause briefly here because this is the first “event” in our passage. It is fascinating in my mind that Peter’s mother-in-law focused on serving Jesus before even helping herself to food. In her mind, the best way for her to say “Thank You” to Jesus was to prepare a meal for Him. It’s also interesting that since Peter has a “mother-in-law”, this means that Peter was married, even if we don’t know anything about his wife.

Continuing on to the next event, which starts in verse 16, Matthew continues by telling us:

16 That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command, and he healed all the sick. 17 This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said,

“He took our sicknesses
    and removed our diseases.”

18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he instructed his disciples to cross to the other side of the lake.

This marks the bounds of the second event. The big focus of Matthew’s gospel is describing how Jesus’ healing and casting out demons fulfilled God’s promise through the prophet Isaiah. While Matthew likely wanted to include more details and stories regarding those who were healed, it’s likely that not much time was given to uncovering the stories of those who came to Jesus. Also, Matthew wouldn’t have had enough space available to focus on sharing the stories of all these people.

Matthew’s big focus is letting us know that Jesus fulfilled God’s promise and prophecy regarding the Messiah through His ministry of healing and casting out demons.

As Jesus and the disciples were preparing to leave, Matthew then describes another event that is often looked at separately. Continuing in verse 19, Matthew tells us that:

19 Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

21 Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”

This marks the end of another event we usually look at separately. In this event, a couple of individuals wish to dedicate their lives to Jesus and become disciples. When reading what Matthew describes here, we don’t have any idea if the religious teacher is discouraged by Jesus’ words about not having a home, or if he decides to follow the homeless Messiah.

However, when looking at the details of the second individual, who asks to return home to bury his father, we see this person described as a disciple, which subtly indicates that he got in the boat with Jesus and did not return home. While I don’t have any idea which disciple this was, it is an interesting invitation that is worth noting early on in Jesus’ ministry. The big idea I see in this short event is that we should not expect special treatment as disciples of Jesus, and we should be placing God’s purpose and mission ahead of everything else in our lives when we follow God.

Matthew then describes a powerful event that leaves an impression on all the disciples. Continuing in verse 23, Matthew tells us:

23 Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. 24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.

27 The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”

Let’s stop reading here, now that this event is finished. This fourth event is amazing because it demonstrated Jesus’ power over the natural elements.

However, while most people look at this last event and they focus on Jesus’ command of the weather, it is amazing in my mind to see the challenge Jesus gives is a challenge related to trust in God and trust in God’s protection. While the disciples are scared of dying, Jesus is sleeping in the back of the boat. When they wake Him up to help them, Jesus challenges their lack of faith and their fear before simply challenging the weather to change.

Looking at all four of these events together, we see an interesting theme of trust in God, and that God will provide exactly what we need when we need it.

In our first event, Jesus helps Peter’s mother-in-law who then says thank you by serving Jesus. She trusted that she would be fine helping serve Jesus a meal before even getting herself something to eat.

Looking at the second event, everyone who came looking for Jesus’ help had trust in God that Jesus would be able to help them, and Jesus did not disappoint their trust.

Coming to the third event, the two individuals who came to Jesus looking to be disciples had the question of trust pushed back at them. Would they trust Jesus knowing that Jesus had no home, and would they put following Jesus ahead of the societal demands of family? That is a question we all end up facing in varying degrees when we choose to trust and follow Jesus.

And in the fourth event, we see Jesus challenging all the disciples related to trust in God and His protection when they all face the worst literal storm of their lives.

In all these events, we can see and know that trust in God is never a bad choice, and when we choose to trust God, we will never be disappointed. Yes, sometimes trusting God brings storms into our lives, but with our trust in God, He will help us move through the storm and keep us safe until the other side. Even if the storms of this life end in death, God is more than willing to keep us safe until He returns and raises us back to life.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and intentionally place your trust in Him. Know that trusting in God is never a bad choice and with whatever comes our way, we are better equipped to deal with life’s challenges when God is at our side than when He is not.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. Don’t take the word of any pastor, author, speaker, or podcaster for what the Bible says. Study out everything you learn with what the Bible teaches to know firsthand if it is truth or not. God has kept the Bible safe for thousands of years, and if we trust Him to keep us safe for eternity, He is more than capable of keeping His message of salvation safe for a few thousand years of sinful, human history.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or fall away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Matthew – Episode 15: In four consecutive, but seemingly unrelated events, discover how one big central them in them all is trust, and specifically trust in God and Jesus. Discover what this tells us about Jesus and how this challenges our faith living over 2,000 years later.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

One You Do Not Know: John 1:19-34

Focus Passage: John 1:19-34 (NASB)

On discovering that John the Baptist was not claiming to be Elijah, “the Prophet”, or the Messiah, John the disciple’s gospel includes an amazing statement in this conversation between Jesus’ forerunner in ministry and the priests and Levites.

After John the Baptist has shared that he is simply the one who comes before, “They asked him, and said to him, ‘Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?’” (v. 25)

This is a valid question. If John makes no claims to be special or significant, than what would give him the right to baptize?

While we learn the reason later on in this passage, the point in time when John shares why he baptizes happens the following day. In John’s direct reply to the priests and Levites, we find a surprising foreshadowing regarding how these spiritual leaders would react to Jesus.

John responds to these messengers by saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” (v. 26-27)

In this response, John the Baptist calls these leaders out that they do not know the One who God sent. In many ways this is true, however, Jesus had already subtly showed up on the scene. Jesus had already been baptized publicly by John, but even before this, Jesus had already spent three days in Jerusalem with some of these leaders about 18 years earlier when He was 12 years old.

John confidently challenges these leaders that the One God sent to Israel is alive among them, but also that they would not know Him. This man would follow after John and John admits that he isn’t worthy to even untie the sandal of the One God sent.

John’s statement is amazing foreshadowing, since all throughout Jesus’ ministry, the religious leaders – who should have been the ones to proclaim who Jesus was – were the ones who were standing in the strongest opposition to what He was doing.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

Truth from a Liar: Luke 4:31-41

Focus Passage: Luke 4:31-41 (NIV)

31 Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.

33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34 “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

35 “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.

36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” 37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.

38 Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. 39 So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.

40 At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. 41 Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.

Read Luke 4:31-41 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

One of the interesting events that stand out in my mind happens in the passage we are going to focus on in this journal entry. While there are many places where Jesus casts out impure spirits (or “demons” depending on the translation), there are two interesting distinctions that separate these healings from other similar ones included in the gospels.

On one Sabbath, as Jesus was teaching in the synagogue, a man with an impure spirit interrupts Jesus by shouting, “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (v. 34)

Probably not even looking the slightest bit phased, we read Jesus’ response in the next verse: “‘Be quiet!’ Jesus said sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.” (v. 35)

That evening, after word had spread about what happened, more people bring their sick and demon-possessed family members to have Jesus heal them. Luke tells us, “At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.” (v. 40-41)

In both of these cases, the demons were declaring the truth about who Jesus was, and Jesus silenced them from speaking.

Why would Jesus want to silence these impure spirits? After all, wouldn’t Jesus benefit from being known for who He was?

While there are a number of reasons for not allowing the demons to speak, probably the most notable one is that anything that comes from a liar’s mouth cannot be trusted. If the evil spirits could lie about other things, how would anyone know if what they say here is a lie or the truth? Even though a declaration about who you are carries some weight when it comes from your enemy, if your enemy is a known liar, then there is no way for others to know if he is lying or telling the truth.

Also worth noting is that the popular belief about who the Messiah would be was different than the Messiah Jesus came to be. The people expected a military-minded messiah, not a meek and selfless Messiah. Jesus knew that if too many people knew He was God’s promised Messiah, they might rally around who they think He should be rather than being open to who He really came to be. If too many people knew the truth too soon, they could derail the focus of His mission.

So Jesus keep the demons quiet, in order for Him to build His ministry on His own terms – and not in a way that might jeopardize His ultimate mission of dying for our sins on the cross.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.