Who Do You Serve?

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

Happy New Year! As much as it is a new year, and a welcomed one at that, the beginning of 2021 feels a lot like 2020. This is the case for our world, but if I am honest, it is also true for my heart. While the outside of me looks pretty good most of the time, the inside of me could use some work. The truth is the two, my internal self I keep hidden and my external self I present to the world, are more connected than I often realize. This becomes apparent when I lose my patience with my wife or kids and then wonder what happened. Why is it we struggle to leave behind the parts of us that are preventing of from living a full and free life?

As I pondered this question, something Jesus said popped into my head- “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24) We often associate this verse with the love of money”, which makes sense based on the words Jesus used, but I believe the meaning is deeper. I do not think Jesus is concerned with how much money we have but rather the control we yield to our money. This is not unique to money. There are many “things” we elevate to a place of control in our lives. Whatever we allow to be in the place of control in our lives becomes our master, which can have serious consequences in our lives if we don’t choose well.

This has become very apparent in our current political season. If you are unsure, just take a look at what happened at the U.S. Capital last week. Make no mistake, the events of last week were tragic and heart breaking. Lives were lost, property was destroyed, reputations were forever tarnished, and our country was further divided. The right to protest and disagree is part of what makes our country great, but what happened on January 6th has no place in our country. To allow the words of a man and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories to put you in a position to storm our Capital is a picture of the consequences of allowing politics and politicians to become your master. The regret evident in the statements of some of the people arrested for their part in the incident demonstrates the impact choosing the wrong master has first on our hearts and then on our actions.

This is especially troubling for the church. To, as some did, use God to justify your decision to invade the U.S. Capital in hopes of overturning an election clearly displays misplaced allegiances. The trend toward Christian Nationalism is a trend toward making politics our master over Jesus. Instead of making decisions based on Christ, many in the church have used Jesus to prop up their political leanings, subjecting their faith to their biases. This is not consistent with the message of Jesus. We as Christ Followers need to repent and realign our priorities.

This struggle with allegiances is not always about something external such as politics. In my case, it is all about me. I have allowed pride to become my master. This becomes clear when I struggle to admit when I am wrong or to even consider the validity of another’s opinion. It also shows itself when I am unwilling to take steps I know are right and beneficial, but also come with a cost to my pride or reputation. I have allowed pride to own me and it is keeping me from experiencing the full life I desire.

Where do we go from here? It starts with taking an honest assessment of our lives and identifying the master we serve. We are all serving a master, whether we know it or not. Then I believe we need to ask whether or not the master we serve is producing freedom or bondage in our lives. Does the master I serve make me feel more free or less free? Is it life producing or life sucking? From what I can tell there is only one master who truly produces freedom- the God who created on purposes and with a purpose.

This is what Jesus meant. Jesus is telling us choosing a master is not optional. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we each serve something or someone. Jesus is calling us to choose the only master who can truly set us free. Who are you going to choose?

James Belt

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