Service, Freedom and Slavery

Passage: Matthew 6:24

6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.


Soul Search Essay

There is a certain level of irony in this passage as it exists in Greek. The word for serve here is from the word group for slavery – doulas.  What is ironic is that the classical Greek man valued his independence, his personal freedom as the most important thing he possessed.  To be free to a ancient Greek undergirds every conceived and executed action.  To be in a state where doulos applied to him?  That would be a horror beyond all other horrors for a Greek.  Yet, here in Greek language is a strong statement about servitude.

Does the Greek focus on freedom sound familiar?

Don’t we Americans value freedom?  For people pursuing business success, social success are we not pursuing the freedom that wealth and connections can confer; the freedom from want and need; the freedom to do as we wish; the freedom to have what we want, go where we want, be what we want?  Isn’t this the American business dream; the social “A” list dream?  Isn’t this the wall that the corporate ladder leans against; a wall of access, of power, of wealth, of acclaim?  If so, are we not the same as the classical Greek?  Yes, we are.  Ask a secular history of philosophy professor and she will say that American and European life, concepts, beliefs, and ways of thinking were born in Greece. The Grecian umbilical cord is thousands of years long.  It is also incredibly thick.

There is a second word of interest in this verse as well, although it is not Greek.  The word “money” in this translation represents the word mammon.  This is an Aramaic word not just for money, but also possessions.  A modern paraphrase might be ‘net worth and social status.’ So, what is in view here is not just a bank account, but the home, clothes, cars, and all our other possessions.  So, the challenge issued in this verse is not just about pursuing wealth.  It also is about serving possessions.

What is insurance?  It is service of and for possessions.  It is the payment of time (via wages for most of us) as money to secure future replacement of possessions.  I work a portion of time each pay period inorder to maintain possessions.  Is this not serving mammon?

What is fashion?  Is it not the use of appearance to manage others impressions and opinions.  Clothes, cars, homes are purchased in order to convey something to other humans.  We manage our appearance in service to our desires and goals. Is this not serving mammon?

What is a person “having it made?”  Is it not a label applied to someone who excels at fashioning a perspective of him or her that embodies personal freedom due to access to money, the ‘right’ possessions, along with the acceptance of other ‘made men’ and ‘made women?’  Yes, I mean this in the mafia sense; even, even as I place this label on you and me.  To be made is to prove to power holders in a group that you have such total commitment to their approach to life that you become one of the power group.  Are you not a slave to the perceptions that you spin through possessions?  Are you truly free?

Freedom is the ability, will and effort expended in following a different agenda – an alien agenda.  You can serve God.  Freedom is found in devotion to an alien agenda provided by YHWH’s love.  It is given to you each day.  Yes, this love has tasks.  It also has community.  Real community.

It is a question of values.  It is a question of access.  YHWH’s values. YHWH’s access.

Captured…

Passage Colossians 2:6-8
2:6 Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 2:7 rooted and built up in him and firm in your faith just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 2:8 Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Soul Search Essay
I have worked in a variety of work environments and businesses – for-profit, non-profit, entrepeneurial, established businesses, family businesses, etc. I have read many business and management books. Only a very few of these books are based in scripture. Fewer secular business environments actually reflected Christ like influence. Many of the environments I worked in were populated with a scattering of Christians (I live in the Bible Belt), but from what I could tell the race to influence mentioned in the prior devotional essay was being lost by these believers. Most did not seem to know a race was even happening.

In any new social environment there is a race between you and the environment on who will influence whom more. Yes, your entry into the environment, your shared thoughts, your actions, etc. are having an impact, but are you not also adjusting your thinking and actions based on the responses to you from the environment? You are. This means you are changing, even if you do not realize it. OK, maybe you are in management and you may be a strong leader making an observable impact. Even you, however, are not unchanged by others in that environment. You do not have sufficient power to impose your will with no impact on you by other’s behaviors, even if you are the CEO. Also, your observable impact may be more in line with human tradition than Christ.

Consider your work history. How often were the relationships you have now and those you have had at work been infused with Christ-based input coming to you (again to you, not from you)? What where all the influences that you experienced? Were there Christ-based influences impacting you that were both pervasive throughout this history and defining of these environments (See footnote)? Why in the world would I ask these questions of someone in a secular business environment? Do I not understand the trends in America today? The removal of Christianity from many American forums. Do I as an author have no clue about this distancing in American businesses, whether small, medium or large? This distancing is precisely the trigger for this essay.

Since most Christians work in secular business systems led and staffed by non-Christians, these believers are at least strongly influenced and sometimes strongly controlled by evil. Whoa! Am I saying all business is evil? No. I am saying all businesses (unfortunately even ministries) have many, many deep tendrils of evil running through them.

To believe that Satan ignores or is excluded from business culture and philosophy is foolish. It is laughable. We live in an unavoidably fallen world. Falleness dominates the world. Why? Satan is the current ruler of this world and his goals are spiritual. Satan is committed to lying his way to the destruction of anything Christ-based and/or Christ-connected. Anything. One of his most effective tools at insinuating his lies into your life is your work within a business. Why?

Business offers power, money and status. These are powerful ways “…to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” The modern American business is founded on human traditions. If you disagree with me, take a serious look at your workplace. Really look hard. How many things in that environment influence you to “…continue to live your lives in [Christ], rooted and built up in him and firm in your faith just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness?” Many? Maybe a few, but do you work in an environment that actively supports your spiritual development? Or does it offer other solutions? For the vast majority of the answer is “No, it does not support my spiritual development.” Yet, work and business definitely offer solutions. Do you recognize the solutions you are being offered? The solutions are too often destructive and therefore are tremendous threats to you.

So, what is the greatest threat to your being “…rooted and built up in him…?” Success.  Success itself.  Continue in the essays to understand why I say this.

FOOTNOTE: Notice that I did not ask you if you worked in a Christian ministry. This devotion essay has nothing to do with working exclusively in a church or ministry. Most Christians do not work in ministry delivery businesses. I am addressing Christians in the secular business world, which is where most Christians work.