Why does Jesus say that you can’t pursue both worldly treasure and eternal treasure? Are you attempting to chase them both? Does this help explain why being spiritually disciplined is difficult or your affection for God has withered and your soul has grown dry? (Matthew 6:22-24)
The primary reason that most of us have little spiritual discipline or affection for God is because what we really treasure is here – it is transient. You cannot pursue both earthly and heavenly treasure for they are mutually exclusive – you have to make a choice. Our tendency is to try to pursue both which reveals our natural proclivity to be double minded.1 The point is that our ultimate affection should be toward God and nothing else, which is one of Jesus’ common themes in His teaching.2 Jesus is personifying the pursuit of wealth and tells us that we have to choose who we will serve. We can’t serve two masters – our lives aren’t compartmentalized. Just as no one shares a slave, because the same degree of devotion to both masters is not possible, “since a slave is the sole property of one master, he must give the master exclusive service. A disciple’s loyalties cannot be divided—that is, one is either a slave to God or to money.”3 You can’t have two treasures on the throne of your heart. There is nothing wrong with nice things – but where is your mind’s affections on these things? Do you have to have them? Do they identify you? Is your hand closed around them? Can you honestly say, “I don’t need that?” Do you have them or do they have you? We’d rather hedge our bets and have the best of both worlds, but the best of the eternal kingdom requires an absolute abandonment of the pursuit of the things of this world. A slave is able to follow two masters as long as they travel together, but when they take separate paths, he can no longer follow both – he must make a decision. It is far easier to make that decision before you come to the fork in the road. You can only chase one thing at a time. When money masters us, God becomes the means to bless us. When God masters us, money becomes the means by which we proclaim the Gospel. You can’t chase both. Are you trying to serve two masters and attach God’s name to it?
1 “he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8 ESV); “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8 ESV)
2 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26–27 ESV); “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37–38 ESV)
3 “Serve (Gk. douleuoœ) indicates the work of a slave, not an employee. Since a slave is the sole property of one master, he must give the master exclusive service. A disciple’s loyalties cannot be divided—that is, one is either a slave to God or to money.” Lane T. Dennis and Wayne Grudem, eds., The ESV Study Bible (Accordance electronic ed. Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008), note on Matthew 6:24