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 mammon.

Matthew 6:24

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

There are many things in life where there can only be one of something. There is only one starting quarterback on a football team, and that is whoever takes the first snap of the game. There cannot be co-starters. We don’t have co-bishops, or co-presidents. There are many things where there is just one, and where there can only be just one of something.

It’s the same way with our priorities. There can only be one number one priority. There is no such thing as co-number one priorities. Because at some point, the “co-priorities” may come into conflict, and then only one can win, and that is the #1 priority. Many people like to say that God is their number one priority. And perhaps in a given moment He is. God is one of my priorities, but is He number one? That’s a sobering question.

In Matthew 6:24, Jesus tells His disciples “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 mammon.” (In this case, mammon means money). Whether we admit it or not, we spend much of our lives serving money. A high school student who is working hard to get into a good college is hoping primarily for a good name, a good degree, a good job and a good paycheck. There are very few high school or college students who are thinking that their first priority is to make a difference in the world.

Years ago, we had a NHL hockey player come and give a presentation to our youth group. We asked him if he’d rather play a few less seasons and win the Stanley Cup or play a few more seasons even if it meant never being a champion. He said, quickly, and honestly, that he’d rather play a few more seasons and make more money. His number one priority, was money.

If we are going to serve like Jesus, then the priority has to be serving, and serving Jesus. This can’t be A priority, it needs to be THE priority. So whether it is a high school student thinking about college, a college student thinking about a career, a career person getting ready to go to work, the leading thought is about serving, not money.

There are a lot of inequities in life—people make different amounts of money, have different standards of living, some have bigger houses or nice cars, some take nicer trips to expensive and exotic places. The great equalizer of course is death. And while it is true, some people have better caskets, no one takes money, or their car, or their house, to their grave. The only thing we take to death is our soul, and how we’ve taken care of the Divine imprint God placed on it—our talents, our opportunities, even the length of life He blessed us with.

Years ago, when a notorious murderer was executed, his last statement was to quote the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. The poem ends with the stanza:

            It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,
           I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.

I remember thinking only a foolish man could quote such a poem. I suppose it is true that our choices seal our fate before God, and we choose where we are going to steer our souls. Ironically, the original poem written by Henley was written while he was healing from having his leg amputated and was a testament to not allowing his misfortune to ruin his life. He wanted to encourage people to have dignity and courage in the face of life’s challenges.

This poem comes to mind as I reflect on the question of who is the captain of my soul—is it money? Is it me? Is it God? And if my life was a ship, where do I sail it every day? To a paycheck? To salvation? I have to wonder “Is God my priority only on Sundays?” What is my purpose each day—to enrich myself, or to enrich others? And which comes FIRST? Is it enrich myself and then others (if there is time left)? Where does my money go? Does the church get my first fruits? Or my leftovers (if there are any)? These are hard questions. If one gets up every day and thinks only about enlarging his bank account, eventually money will become his master.

Jesus set the bar high for us. There is no co-master, or co-priority. There can only be one. Who, or what, is it for you?

Rejoice, Jerusalem; and all you who love Zion, celebrate! Today the age old bond of the condemnation of Adam has been released. Paradise is opened to us; the serpent is neutralized. He deceived a woman in Paradise of old, but now he sees a woman become the Mother of the Creator. What profound riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! Woman, who became the instrument of sin, and who brought death to all flesh, has now through the Theotokos become the beginning of salvation for the world. For the all-perfect God is born as an infant from her, and in birth He preserves her virginity, and being wrapped in swaddling clothes He breaks the chains of sins. Becoming an infant, He heals the labor pains of Eve. Therefore, let all creation dance and leap for joy. For Christ came to recall it, and to save our souls. (Doxastikon, Aposticha, Vespers of the Nativity, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)

Personal Reflection Point: Why do you think Jesus warned about money becoming your master?