ŇNo 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.Ó Matthew 6:24.

 

Here Christ meeteth with a second objection which the carnal heart of man might frame against the former commandments (vv.19,20); for whereas Christ has forbidden the treasuring up of worldly riches, and commanded the seeking of heavenly treasure; some man might flatter himself with this persuasion: He might seek both, and lay up both treasures for himself in earth, and in heaven also. To this, Christ answers, No, that is impossible; and He proveth it thus: No man can serve two masters. But to seek heavenly and earthly treasures is to serve two masters; to wit, God and Mammon. And therefore no man can seek them both. The first part of this reason is fully set down and proved in the text, by the effect of such service in contrary affections and behaviour; for either he shall hate the one, and love the other etc. The assumption and conclusion are necessarily implied in the last words: Ye cannot serve God and Mammon; wherein Christ applies the former argument.

 

The Exposition.

No man can serve two masters.

This may well be doubted of; for experience shews that by their mutual consent, one factor may serve diverse merchants. Hereto some answer thus: That it is implied that the masters must be of diverse and contrary qualities; as when one saith, Come and do this; and the other, Do it not; and then no man can serve them both; and thus the words contain an holy truth. But yet because no clause is expressed implying contrariety in the masters, therefore I take it that the words must be taken as a common proverb among the Jews, which Christ lays down for the ground of His reason. Now in a proverb, it is not required that it should be always true, but for the most part, and ordinarily (as Luke 4:24), No prophet is accepted in his own country; that is, ordinarily.

 

For either he shall hate the one; that is, the one master commanding him; either disliking that he should be his master, or displeased with his commandments.

 

And love the other; that is, the other master in whom he taketh delight, and is well pleased with his commandments.

 

Or else he shall lean to the one, and despise the other. These words are an explanation of the former, shewing how it may appear that a servant hates one master and loves another; namely, his leaning to the one, declares his love unto him; that is, his applying of himself to respect his masterŐs pleasure, and to do his commandment. And his despising the other, declares his hatred, when he hath no regard to his commandments.

 

Ye cannot serve God and mammon. By mammon, He meaneth riches, lucre and gain. Now He saith not, Ye cannot serve God and have riches, for Abraham, Jacob and Job were very rich, and yet served God sincerely; but, Ye cannot serve God and serve riches; that is, give yourselves to seek riches, and set your hearts upon them, and serve God also.

 

In the words thus explained, we may observe sundry instructions:

 

1. First, here Christ sheweth what it is to serve God; a point much spoken of, but little known, and less practised. To serve God therefore is to love God, and to cleave unto Him. Everyone will say, He loveth God, and ever hath done; but beware herein of spiritual guile, for true love consists not in word and tongue, but in deed and in truth. And God must be loved, not only as He is a bountiful Father, but as He is a Lord and Master, and doth command us service. The written Word shews His will and pleasure concerning us, what He requireth at our hands; and if we serve Him indeed, we must love Him in His power of commanding, though He should bestow no reward upon us. This David sheweth notably (Psa. 119:125), I am thy servant, grant me therefore understanding that I may know thy testimonies. Again, if we serve God, we must cleave unto Him, and thereby testify our love. Now what is meant by cleaving unto, is notably expressed in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:15), where it is said of him that having spent his portion, he clave to a citizen of that country; that is, he resigned and gave himself to his service. So to cleave unto God is to resign a manŐs self unto GodŐs service, in obedience to all His commandments, and embracing all His promises; not suffering himself to be drawn from any part of GodŐs Word by unbelief or disobedience, though all the world should set against us. This David also professed of himself, saying (Psa. 119:31), I have cleaved to thy testimonies, O Lord; and (Psa. 119:6), I shall not be confounded when I have respect to all thy commandments. On the contrary, when a man withdraws himself from God, by disobedience to His commandments and by unbelief, then he doth hate and despise Him. Indeed the vilest wretch that lives, is ashamed with open mouth to profess hatred and despite of God, but yet the bad practice in life bewrayeth the bad affection of the heart (Prov. 14:2), He that is lewd or perverse in his ways, despiseth God; and they that live in the breach of His commandments hate Him (Exod. 20:5), let them profess in word what they will.

 

Now the consideration hereof serveth:

 

(1) First, to discover unto us the gross blindness and superstitious ignorance of the world; who think that if a man rehearse the LordŐs prayer, the Creed and the ten Commandments, he serves God well, let his life be what it will. But here, Christ teacheth us a further thing; if we will be GodŐs servants, we must cleave unto Him both in the affections of our heart and the actions of obedience in our life. Thus did Abraham, when God said unto him, Thou shalt not kill, he kept himself from murder; but when he said (Gen. 22:2), Abraham, kill thy son, he addressed himself to do it, though he were the son of the promise, and the only son of his old age.

 

(2) Secondly, this sheweth how atheism abounds in all places at this day; for to hate and despise God is sheer atheism. Now they that withdraw their hearts from God, and set themselves to seek the things of this world, neglecting obedience to GodŐs holy commandments, are here accounted of Christ, despisers and haters of God; and the number of such is great in every place. I know such men do scorn to be called atheists, but how they be esteemed in the world it skilleth not, till they reform this wicked practice, they are no better in the sight of Christ.

 

2. Secondly, whereas God and mammon are here opposed as two masters; hence we learn that mammon, that is, riches, is a great lord and master in the world. This Christ here takes for granted, and therefore doth forewarn His disciples of it. But how (will some say) can riches be a god? Answer: Not in themselves, for so they are the good creatures of God, but to the corrupt heart of man, which makes an idol of them to itself, by setting his love and delight upon them, as on true happiness, and trusting in them more than in the true God. And for this cause is covetousness called idolatry (Col. 3:5), and the covetous person an idolater (Eph. 5:5). For look whereon a man sets his heart, that is his lord and his god, though it be the devil himself. Now that men do thus set up riches in their hearts as an idol, and so become servants and slaves to that which God ordained to serve them, I shew plainly thus:

 

(1) For first, they neglect the worship and service of God for lucre and gain, and spend more time with greater delight for earthly riches than they do for the true treasures of GodŐs heavenly graces.

 

(2) Secondly, let a man have worldly wealth at will, and he is full of joy and delight, his riches give him true contentment. But if he lose his goods, then vexation and sorrow doth more oppress him than all the promises of God in the Bible can comfort him.

 

(3) Thirdly, by transgressing GodŐs commandments, a man loseth heaven; but who is so grieved for his transgressions whereby he incurs this loss, as he is for a small damage in some part of his riches?

 

(4) Fourthly, I appeal to menŐs consciences, whether they be not far more sharp and eager set upon the means of gain than on prayer and other parts of GodŐs worship, which are the means of grace.

 

All which do argue plainly that they serve mammon, and honour riches for their god. So that howsoever by GodŐs blessing, outward idolatry may be banished out of our church, yet we have many idolaters in our land; for every covetous worldling sets up the idol of wealth and riches in his heart for his lord. And that these mammonists abound everywhere, appears by the common practices of oppression, extortion and cruelty, in hard dealing towards the poor, by greedy landlords and usurers; as also be the practices of the rich in the time of dearth, for by their hoarding up of store, engrossing of commodities and enhancing of the price, to the augmenting of their private wealth, they mightily increase GodŐs wrath upon the poor. Indeed God hath His servants which have Him only for their God; but the number of them is small, in respect of those that set their hearts upon the world, and make mammon their god.

 

(1) Here then, first, behold the slavish baseness of a covetous heart; for man was made to be the lord of mammon and wealth, and yet through covetousness he subjecteth himself to become a slave and vassal thereunto.

 

(2) Secondly, hereby let us learn to become faithful disposers of worldly richesŐ and (as Christ saith, Luke 16:9), make us friends with this mammon of iniquity, by good disposing of it to GodŐs glory in works of mercy; and so shall we retain our right of creation, whereby God made the creatures to serve us.

 

3. Thirdly, Christ opposing God and mammon, and saying, no man can serve them both, imports plainly that he that seeks to be rich, setting his heart thereon, forsakes God. I say not that every rich man forsaketh God, for when God giveth abundance to a manŐs moderate labour and industry in his lawful calling, he may lawfully possess it, using it to GodŐs glory. But to seek to be rich, is a denying of God, because so the heart is servant to mammon, and not to the Lord. This may appear by their whole behaviour about wealth, whether we consider their getting, or their keeping, or employing of it; in all which they sin against God: First, in getting, for God giveth riches to whom He will, and hath not tied Himself by promise to make any man rich. And therefore he that resolves with himself that he will be rich, cannot make conscience of lying, fraud, injustice, Sabbath-breaking and such like, when the committing of these things makes for his advantage. Secondly, they sin in keeping, for he that resolves to be rich, will rather forsake the truth than his wealth in time of trial. And for the saving or recovery of his wealth, he will not stick to seek to blessers, wizards or conjurors, etc. Thirdly, for disposing or employing; he that resolves to be rich sins therein, for he cannot be drawn to works of mercy, at least with any cheerfulness; and hence it comes that sometimes the poor do starve before the rich manŐs door.

 

(1) The consideration hereof serves, first, to correct our judgment concerning covetous and worldly minded persons; our censure of them is too mild and gentle, we judge them honest men, only somewhat hard and near themselves. But mark ChristŐs sentence upon them, Worldly persons forsake God, and thus choose mammon for their Lord and master; which is a practice of atheism, and therefore not to be so lightly passed over as men think.

 

(2) Secondly, hereby we see it is a dangerous and unlawful course for men to make laws with themselves, how rich they will be; as to have so many hundred, or thousand pounds in stock, and so much lands and rents etc. For what follows upon this resolution? Why surely they must needs give themselves to the compassing of their purpose, and so they fall into the manifold snares of Satan, by practices of injustice, lying, fraud etc.

 

(3) Thirdly, hereby we must be admonished to content ourselves with that portion of goods, more or less, which God sendeth; knowing that a little is sufficient with GodŐs blessing upon it, Away with covetousness (as the apostle saith, Heb 13:5), and be content with that ye have; for he hath said, I will not leave thee nor forsake thee.

 

(4) Fourthly, whereas Christ saith, Ye cannot serve God and mammon; we learn that the heart of man must not be divided between God and the world; the one half to God and the other to the world. No, God will have all or none, herein he will not part stakes with the creature (Prov. 23:26), My son, give me thy heart.

 

The consideration whereof serveth,

 

(1) First, to discover the hypocrisy and spiritual guile of many who think they may live in one sin or other, and yet be GodŐs servants still. This is the conceit of drunkards, adulterers, covetous persons, and such like; for even while they live in these sins, they will come to GodŐs worship, to the Word and prayer often, and to the sacraments, at least once a year; which they would not do, but that they think God hath respect unto them herein, like to the wicked Jews (Jer. 7:9,10). But they deceive themselves, for no man can serve two masters. While a man lives in any sin, the servant of the devil, he can never be accepted of God for His servant.

 

(2) Secondly, this shews that the servant of God is so far forth delivered from sin by regeneration, that no sin reigns in him; for so, he should have two masters, for every reigning sin is a lord and master (Rom. 6:16), Know ye not that to whomsoever you give yourselves as servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether it be of sin unto death, etc. And he that committeth sin is the servant of sin (John 8:34). This therefore is a sure ground, that no regenerate person lives in any sin.

 

(3) Thirdly, hereby everyone is taught to consecrate both his soul and body to the Lord, endeavouring to serve Him with all the powers and parts thereof; for God is our only Lord and master, and therefore let all that is within us bow the knee to Him (Rom. 6:21), The servant of God is one freed from sin, who hath his fruit in holiness, and the end everlasting life. The Queen of Sheba pronounced SolomonŐs servants happy, that stood before Solomon to hear his wisdom. How much more then are they happy, who in soul and body are GodŐs servants, who for bounty and wisdom infinitely surpasseth Solomon? Here some will say, I would gladly serve God alone, and I desire I might do it with all my heart; but the corruption of my nature is such that is makes me to rebel against the commandments of God, and I cannot do the good I would, but the evil I would not, that do I (Rom. 7:19); so as I fear, I serve two masters. Answer: This is the state of GodŐs children in this life; but herewith they must stay themselves. When they fail in obedience they must consider whether they do so freely and unwillingly, or against their wills. If thy heart can truly say, thou dost unwillingly commit sin, thou wouldest not do it, and art truly grieved and displeased with thyself for it; then be of good courage, thou dost not serve two masters, for this serveth one only. Now though there be in thee the flesh and the spirit, the one haling thee one way, and the other another; yet while thou strivest against the flesh, desiring and endeavouring to be wholly subject to the Spirit, though thou fail often in action, yet in Christ be thy sins pardoned, and God accepts in thee the will for the deed. Endeavour therefore to acquaint thyself more and more with the will of thy heavenly master, and seek to please Him in all things, and labour to mortify the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit, and so shalt thou know God to be thy only master, and in due time perceive thy freedom from the bondage of the flesh.