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.