“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.” – Matthew 6:24 (ESV)
I have found that a lot of people misunderstand this verse, or perhaps more accurately simply ignore half of it. So often we immediately take from it that we shouldn’t make idols in the place of God because if we do, we will end up loving that idol and hating God. True. But notice that it doesn’t just say “You will hate the one [God] and love the other [money/sex/food/image/insert-own-idol-here]”, it gives us the alternative option too: that you could just as well end up – if you still love and serve Jesus – hating the idol instead. Money, sex, food and image are all good and important things, gifts given by God. We should respect and desire many of these gifts, but we need to put them in their proper place. If we serve any one of them wholeheartedly, they will inevitably disappoint us and we will end up hating them.
Let’s use marriage as an example. If all your hopes and dreams rest in the idea that one day you will meet ‘the one’ (which, by the way, doesn’t exist, but that’s a subject for another time), you will build up the idea of marriage into something which it cannot possibly be. So when you do get married, you will be expecting far more from it than it will give you. That kind of pressure will crush your partner, and it will make you bitter towards something that isn’t delivering what you wanted it to. Instead, we need to acknowledge that things such as marriage are incurably broken by sin and will therefore, however good they might be, never be perfectly satisfying and fulfilling. Whatever that idol is, it will let you down, and that is, quite simply, because it is not God. Only in Jesus do we find something that will never fail, will never do wrong by us, and will ultimately give us our purpose.
Because it’s all about finding purpose, isn’t it? We look to money, sex, food, image, success, experience, relationships and a plethora of other things to give us meaning, to give us the sense that we have a purpose in this life; something to live for. But we were not created for any of those things. We were created with the sole purpose of knowing, enjoying and glorifying God and until we are doing just that we will never be satisfied by anything else. But as soon as you are walking with Jesus, those other things are opened up to you in a whole new way. You can enjoy them without expecting them to become everything to you. You will be able to receive them as gifts with an open hand, acknowledging that they are given by God and can be taken away. That they are things that add to your life without shaping your existence.
As Christians, we might look to serving in mission as an idol too. When I find myself dissatisfied in my work or personal life, I quite often think “Well, I could always go to China” (where I have family connections). In those moments I have in mind a completely unrealistic picture of what work on the mission field will look like: me, happy, fulfilled, being the best Christian I can be, serving God with unmatched passion and doing all sorts of fantastic Christian things. But the reality is that if I’m not living for God alone, exactly where I am – if I’m not content with what He’s provided for me in this moment – then I’m not going to serve Him any better anywhere else. If the master of my life here is experience, excitement, happiness or ease, then I shouldn’t expect my desires to change in any other context: I will continue to serve those idols elsewhere. I could end up quitting my job and leaving my friends and joining a great mission agency, but with that unrealistic idea of mission in mind, I will be disappointed. Disappointed that I find myself equally dissatisfied in China as I was in England, disappointed that I’m not the wonderful Christian I thought I would be. Disappointed that something I’d had such lofty ideas of wasn’t living up to my expectations. But if I keep both my life as it is now and the idea of serving in mission in perspective – that is, secondary to my relationship with God – then those things won’t compete for His crown, and I will be able to live the life that He designed me for. Namely, a life walking day-by-day with Him, wherever that might be or whatever I am doing.
It’s really all about the right perspective – God and God alone should be king of our lives. If we try to squeeze something – or someone – else onto the throne with Him, we won’t fully enjoy either. But if we leave the crown on the head of the creator alone, then we will be able to fully appreciate the things he has created.
The views expressed in this blog post are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the GC network.