Jesus tells us in the Gospels that we cannot serve two masters. This idea that we can only truly “follow” one master can also be found in today’s spiritual literature, where much is written about having “a divided heart.”
Indeed, the business world is full of motivational speakers trying to convince us to be “focused” and “single-minded” in the pursuit of success.
But why must we be focused on serving only one master, of being driven by one motivation? Jesus adds to this admonition the command that we must love God and “hate” mammon. Does He mean that we must “hate” wealth or its pursuit? What could Jesus have meant?
When we choose one master over the other, we place the rejected master in service to the other. Therefore, if we choose to serve God as the ultimate focus of our lives, then we can also use wealth to serve Him. However, we can also fool ourselves into thinking that we are serving God when, in reality, we are only serving our own agendas. There are three basic ways that we sometimes think of God that, in turn, lead us to fooling ourselves about who we are really serving as the master of our lives.
First, there are those who relate to God only when there is an emergency. We can call this the “God as paramedic” approach. If something or someone we love or deeply care for is in danger, we immediately go about calling, serving, and worshiping God. Our motivation is that He will protect or heal that person or thing. God is not master here. Instead, our love or attachment to that person or thing is what influences our devotion and piety.
The second approach is one we can call the “God as my personal insurance policy” method. This is adopted by folks who usually attend some sort of religious congregation and may perform an occasional act of charity. But most of all, they “believe” in God. The bottom line here is that the person’s “faith” pays the premium on the eternal policy, thus keeping him either affiliated to God, or out of the flames of damnation. Personal protection, rather than faithfully serving God, is the main motivation of this approach.
The third and final method is the “God is my friendly neighbor” approach. People adopting this method are regularly involved in religious activities and may even belong to parish groups or associations. But with this approach, all religious and parish activities serve only to gain social acceptance and respectability in the eyes of one’s peers. This method treats God simply as a friendly neighbor to whom we tip our hats and say, “good morning,” and perhaps offer occasional help by doing Him a favor. This method is founded on the desire to project a certain image that falsely dictates our relationship to God.
All three approaches demonstrate that our agendas, and not God’s, are the central focus. God’s Person is being used in all three ways to serve the individual. These instances have God made to serve us, rather than us serving Him. When we serve God, putting Him at the center of our lives, everything and everyone is placed in such a way as to serve Him. This is what “God as Master” means.
Whom Will You Serve?
We can fool ourselves by rationalizing about whom we serve. However, it is through prayer and worship, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance, and being intimately connected to the local Church that help us remain focused on God as our master, and to not surrender to temptations, physical pleasures or societal pressures. When we surrender to the devil, the flesh and the world – the three traditional enemies of the Christian that correspond to the three rationalizations – we place our individual selves as the ultimate master and are no longer serving God. But when we place all of our gifts in service to Christ, then we are following Christ’s command. We are serving the one, true master. Service to God is not performed in isolated instances. Instead, this service is every day, in all that we say and do. The choice is yours. Whom will you serve?