This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)
In Matthew 6, Christ continues with the Sermon on the Mount. As I studied this chapter, I found that there are six main categories of advice that He gives (both a do and a do not). He gives us advice on giving alms, prayer, forgiveness, fasting, prioritization, and loyalty to and trust in God.
Today, we’ll focus on the final point taught in Matthew 6 – our loyalty to and trust in God. We’ll learn about unintended worship of mammon, trusting in God, and seeking His kingdom. Finally, we’ll look at the Atonement and see how this teaching helped Him to perform His sacred work.
Loyalty to God
- Do remember that it is impossible to serve both God and mammon.
- Do remember that life is more than meat. (What we eat.)
- Do remember that our body is more than our raiment. (How we clothe ourselves.)
- Do remember that God knows our needs.
- Do seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
- Do not attempt to serve two masters.
- Do not take thought for life – what you’ll eat, drink, wear, etc.
- Do not be materialistic.
- Do not take thought for the morrow; the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.
We will study this section by breaking it down into three main parts.
You Cannot Serve Two Masters
“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.” – Matthew 6:24
So – the Savior teaches us here that we can’t serve two masters. And who are our masters that we, at times, attempt to serve simultaneously? God and Mammon.
Mammon. I decided to look this word up. I’m familiar with it, of course, but just to be sure that I wasn’t assuming anything, I looked up the definition in the dictionary and found that Mammon is idolatry, treasure, worldliness.
It seems like it would be an easy thing not to do. Who, while worshipping Christ, would also worship mammon? It seems hypocritical. And while Christ often spoke to the Pharisees about hypocrisy, it’s important to remember that the Sermon on the Mount was given to the disciples. So – this is an issue that we believers really need to be concerned with. Our attempt to serve two masters might be happening more often than we think.
Ways we might be serving Mammon rather than God:
- Excessive consumption of TV and media. Do celebrities and social networking become our “gods”? (I admit that I have a difficulty with internet and media! And I know that it gets in the way with my own ability to be serve God).
- Addiction to food, drugs, pornography, or gambling These things become our “god” rather than the Lord. In many cases, these addictions can turn us against God. I understand that addiction is real, and I don’t want to make light of the situation for so many. I also know that in order to really beat an addiction, we have to submit to something else – God! We can’t serve to masters. Either our addictions will strip us away from God, or God will save us from our addictions.
- Consumer Debt. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and have come to the conclusion that being in excessive debt is our attempt to serve two masters. We think that we’re serving God, but we have this other master – Visa or the Bank – that we must answer to. The master of debt never sleeps. It accrues interest. It burdens us. Not only that, but how can we possibly serve God fully if we have the master of excessive consumer debt. I could go on about this, but don’t want to for this post. Maybe it is something that I will write about later in another blog post.
In any and each of the above mentioned forms of mammon (and I’m sure that there are more than what I just now came up with), we cannot serve God as we serve this other beast. It’s impossible.
It is impossible to multitask our allegiances.
Not only that, but the thought that we can is insidious – we will end up loving the one and hating the other.
Take No Thought
Interestingly enough, the scripture about serving God and Mammon isn’t the end of the chapter. It is a part of this series of verses. I have always thought of this scripture on its own – rather than it its context. Thinking about how it fits into the entire chapter of Matthew 6 might shed light on how serving mammon will turn us away from God.
In the very next verse, the Savior asks,
“Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.” – Matthew 6:25
I’ve been thinking about why this verse follows the “no man can serve two masters” verse. It’s because they are related.
Instead of serving the master of mammon – worldliness and materialism – we ought to serve the Lord. We know this. And what usually gets in the way? Well – besides our tendency to be like raccoons (shiny stuff!), we kind of get wrapped up in our day-to-day needs.
Of course, we should be self-sufficient, and that’s something to consider. But the Lord is telling his disciples not to take any thought for their life. Instead, they should focus their efforts on something else.
This topic (just like the serving two masters topic) could be studied even further, but the point I want to make is this – instead of getting hung up on many of the details in our lives, we need to trust in God. He knows what we need. He knows that we need food, shelter, and clothing. He has created this entire earth – including us – and He understands the conditions of our lives. He will help us with them!
Our perceived needs should never trump our devotion to God.
Seek First the Kingdom of God
Just to be clear – I don’t think that the Lord is telling us to be lazy bums. He’s not telling us to get stuff for free from others who have more than we do. He’s not telling us to get everything we need from the government. This isn’t some kind of economic or political treatise.
In fact, I think that this is the exact opposite. He’s letting us in on the secret to how we can get all of our true needs met. Christ is telling us the order and pattern of His kingdom. He’s teaching us how to prioritize our efforts. And we can rest assured that we will be blessed for our obedience. Whether we are blessed now, temporally, or in the next life, we will be blessed for keeping His commandments.
The Savior explains:
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” – Matthew 6:33
Before we seek clothing, food, shelter, entertainment, or anything else, we should seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. When we prioritize the Lord, then the other needs we have will fall into place.
I actually think that it might go deeper than that, too.
I know that when I have started to prioritize the Lord’s kingdom first, before what I considered were my “needs,” I got a better idea of what my actual needs were. The Lord has not only sustained me in life, but He has molded me into a better person who isn’t always claiming to need another bigger, better thing. I’ve come to learn more about what is of true worth and value in this world.
When we choose to serve God over mammon, take no thought of our daily “needs”, and seek God’s kingdom, we show our loyalty to God and learn to rise above materialism. We learn to prioritize God’s kingdom, and trust that He will provide a way for us to have what we need and when we need it.
The Savior, of course, is a perfect example of this.
The Savior was a simple man from a simple background. It’s safe to say that He didn’t get caught up in a rat race to get ahead. He knew who He was. He knew whom He worshipped. And, above all, He sought His Father’s Kingdom.
During the act of the Atonement, we see this come together.
Only complete devotion to God would be able to empower Christ to get through the agony He suffered in Gethsemane. Even a single deeply-residing devotion toward the world would have nullified everything He did. He was perfectly loyal to God; He loved God perfectly.
Christ didn’t seem to take any thought of what He would eat, drink, wear, or do during this great work. He didn’t worry. He knew a trade – He was a carpenter – and I suppose that He had supported Himself before His ministry. He wasn’t out “bumming” off of people. Additionally, he wasn’t fretting about His retirement plan, His job, His house. He didn’t worry about having the latest in sandals or togas. He was secure that His needs would be met. He completely trusted His father.
During the Atonement, He didn’t take any thought of what would happen to Him later on. He lived in the present moment, always seeking God’s kingdom and fully submitting to every horrible thing that He was subjected to. He was burdened with the weight of the world in Gethsemane, judged and mocked in Jerusalem, and then crucified on Calvary. Yet he took no thought for Himself. Instead, He healed a centurion’s ear, saw to it that His mother was taken care of, and forgave the Romans who crucified Him.
Because of His consecration and complete devotion to God, all that God had was added to Him. He inherited glory and power. He overcame death. And because He diligently sought the Kingdom of God, He can offer it to all of us.
Our own potential can only be reached when we completely submit ourselves to God and give up worldliness. It can be difficult. But, instead of letting our minds be clouded by fears and worries, we should look to build His kingdom and trust that He will prepare a way for us to keep the commandments He has given to us.
Thanks for reading this today. I’m not sure that it is my best writing. My mind is hazy. This has been in my queue for a long time. Even though this might be written in a pretty confusing way, I feel the concept here with clarity. I know that we cannot serve two masters. I keep learning more and more about myself – how much pride and fear that I have. They reside deep in my soul and take so much to get rid of.
I know that as I look to the Savior’s example, I am encouraged. I can seek God’s kingdom. I can worry less about the details of my life and trust in the Lord. I can trust that He hears my prayers, understands my needs, and that He knows me, personally.
What do you do to “take no thought”? How do you seek Him? How have you benefitted by serving God rather than mammon?