"No servant 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." [Luke 16:13]
There is no union or sympathy between God and mammon. The tendency of the one is exactly opposite to that of the other. While the world is master of the thoughts, principles, and actions, the Lord cannot be honored. The current of the world sets in against the soul with such force that it is borne along with the tide of its interests and infatuations. Satan, the angel of evil, the arch-enemy of truth, the father of lies, having successfully carried out his plan of ruining a holy race, follows up his advantage, and strives by every means to hinder the salvation of man and his re-instatement in the favor of God. He keeps the mind preoccupied with the plans and ambitions of the world; and heaven and Christ are crowded out of the thoughts and affections.
Satan presents the same temptations today that he presented to Adam, and to Jesus, the second Adam, who overcame him and made it possible for man to overcome. The indulgence of perverted appetite and passion has held sway over the world since Adam's transgression. It was impossible for man to overcome in his own strength, with his enfeebled moral powers. He might exercise all the capabilities of his nature, and yet, without divine aid, he could only be conquered; but help has been laid upon One who is mighty to save. Man's efforts and Christ's power will bring him off a conqueror. The moral image of God will be restored in the characters of those who serve him.
The next temptation that assailed Christ was on lust for power. The world is filled with this desire, and the resulting strife shows the spirit of the ambition of this world. How many have been swept to ruin in this torrent of pride! Satan presents all the kingdoms of the world, in all their pomp and majesty, to the Son of God; but he repels the tempter with, "It is written." [Matthew 4:10; Luke 4:8] The word of God marks out the course of his children, and rather than disobey his commandments, Christ resigned the treasures of the world.
How many today see the force and beauty of the truth; but they cannot serve God and mammon, and they hold to the world. The truth requires the sacrifice of the world's honor, their position in business, their daily bread; and they falter and fail. They do not consider the promises of God to those who seek first the kingdom of heaven. They raise the excuse, "I cannot be different from those around me. What will people say?" "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey?" [Romans 6:16] We must not study how to serve ourselves, but how to do the will of God. Christ left his glory, and clothed his divinity with humanity. He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. For our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich. And yet, after this great manifestation of love on the part of Heaven, we are reluctant to yield our meager treasures, so soon to pass away. The majority of the world sell their souls for a little worldly gain, when Christ has presented to us eternal riches.
Did not Jesus entreat, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal"? [Matthew 6:19]
Oh, how uncertain are the treasures of earth! A man may be worth his thousands today, and tomorrow failures will sweep them all away. Yet the eye is clouded by ambition, avarice, and gain without godliness. The people do not see that they are putting their treasure into a bag with holes. It is cankered and moth-eaten. There is no progress heavenward. The gross attractions of earth hold their affections. The soul starves and becomes dwarfed for want of spiritual food, the fresh manna from heaven. The world has come in between the soul and God.
The duty we owe to God is revealed in his word in unmistakable clearness. Here the obligation of man is declared so explicitly that the day of Judgment will reveal no excuse for not serving God. God's great moral standard of righteousness is to be met. His law requires your heart's supreme affection for your Maker. It requires you to do unto others as you would have them do to you. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth," [Matthew 6:19] is a positive declaration; but "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven," [Matthew 6:20] is equally positive. Laying up treasure in heaven points out the duty of an unselfish use of our means. We are stewards of God's possessions; they are not ours to use for the gratification of corrupt desires, for selfish indulgences. All Heaven is watching with interest to see what use we are making of God's intrusted talents. If we lay up treasure in heaven, we shall use the Lord's goods to advance his cause, to save souls, and to bless humanity, and all that is so used the Lord will place to our account in the bank that never fails. When the heart loves God supremely, property is no hindrance to advancement in the Christian warfare, because the consecrated man will discern the best investments to make, and will use his wealth to bless the children of God.
The constant employment of the capabilities to amass wealth on earth binds the man to earth. He becomes a slave to mammon. When wealth increases, the idolatrous heart becomes forgetful of God, and grows self-secure and satisfied. Religious duties are neglected. There is an impatience manifested under restraint, and the man becomes self-sufficient. All spiritual things are clouded, for the mind's eye is directed earthward. The worldly tendencies, both by nature and practice, have become more fully developed, and the spiritual faculties are paralyzed. Having eyes, men see not; having ears, they hear not. The gross, earthly mind cannot see the pure, sublime truths of the gospel, but views everything from a worldling's standpoint. The world comes in between the soul and heaven. His eyes are blinded by the "god of this world," [2 Corinthians 4:4] so that he cannot discern or appreciate the value of eternal things.
In order to serve God, we must find time for calm reflection and serious thought. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned; but when the eye is evil, the whole body is full of darkness. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever." [1 John 2:15-17]
Oh, let us contemplate the amazing sacrifice that has been made for us! Let us try to appreciate the labor and energy Heaven is expending to reclaim the lost, and bring them back to the Father's house. Motives stronger, and agencies more powerful, could never be brought into operation,--the enjoyment of heaven, the exceeding rewards for right-doing, the society of angels, the communion and love of God and his Son, the elevation and extension of all our powers throughout eternal ages; and it hath not "entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." [1 Corinthians 2:9] Are these not mighty incentives and encouragements to urge us to give our heart's loving service to our Creator and Redeemer?
And on the other hand the judgments of God pronounced against sin, the inevitable retribution, the degradation of our characters, and the final destruction, are presented in his word to warn us against the service of Satan.
Shall we not regard the great mercy of God? Let us place ourselves in right relation to Him who has loved us with amazing love, and avail ourselves of the great privilege of becoming instruments in his hands, that we may co-operate with the ministering angels and be co-laborers with God and Christ.