No man 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. You cannot serve God and mammon.
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Do you see how by degrees He withdraws us from the things that now are, and at greater length introduces what He has to say, touching voluntary poverty, and casts down the dominion of covetousness?
For He was not contented with His former sayings, many and great as they were, but He adds others also, more and more alarming.
For what can be more alarming than what He now says, if indeed we are for our riches to fall from the service of Christ? Or what more to be desired, if indeed, by despising wealth, we shall have our affection towards Him and our charity perfect? For what I am continually repeating, the same do I now say likewise, namely, that by both kinds He presses the hearer to obey His sayings; both by the profitable, and by the hurtful; much like an excellent physician, pointing out both the disease which is the consequence of neglect, and the good health which results from obedience.
See, for instance, what kind of gain He signifies this to be, and how He establishes the advantage of it by their deliverance from the contrary things. Thus, wealth, says He, hurts you not in this only, that it arms robbers against you, nor in that it darkens your mind in the most intense degree, but also in that it casts you out of God's service, making you captive of lifeless riches, and in both ways doing you harm, on the one hand, by causing you to be slaves of what you ought to command; on the other, by casting you out of God's service, whom, above all things, it is indispensable for you to serve. For just as in the other place, He signified the mischief to be twofold, in both laying up here, where moth corrupts, and in not laying up there, where the watch kept is impregnable; so in this place, too, He shows the loss to be twofold, in that it both draws off from God, and makes us subject to mammon.
But He sets it not down directly, rather He establishes it first upon general considerations, saying thus; No man can serve two masters: meaning here two that are enjoining opposite things; since, unless this were the case, they would not even be two. For so, the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul, Acts 4:32 and yet were they divided into many bodies; their unanimity however made the many one.
Then, as adding to the force of it, He says, so far from serving, he will even hate and abhor: For either he will hate the one, says He, and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. And it seems indeed as if the same thing were said twice over; He did not however choose this form without purpose, but in order to show that the change for the better is easy. I mean, lest you should say, I am once for all made a slave; I am brought under the tyranny of wealth, He signifies that it is possible to transfer one's self, and that as from the first to the second, so also from the second one may pass over to the first.
2. Having thus, you see, spoken generally, that He might persuade the hearer to be an uncorrupt judge of His words, and to sentence according to the very nature of the things; when he has made sure of his assent, then, and not till then, He discovers Himself. Thus He presently adds, You cannot serve God and mammon. Let us shudder to think what we have brought Christ to say; with the name of God, to put that of gold. But if this be shocking, its taking place in our deeds, our preferring the tyranny of gold to the fear of God, is much more shocking.
What then? Was not this possible among the ancients? By no means. How then, says one, did Abraham, how did Job obtain a good report? Tell me not of them that are rich, but of them that serve riches. Since Job also was rich, but he served not mammon, but possessed it and ruled over it, and was a master, not a slave. Therefore he so possessed all those things, as if he had been the steward of another man's goods; not only not extorting from others, but even giving up his own to them that were in need. And what is more, when he had them they were no joy to him: so he also declared, saying, If I did so much as rejoice when my wealth waxed great: Job 31:25 wherefore neither did he grieve when it had gone. But they that are rich are not now such as he was, but are rather in a worse condition than any slave, paying as it were tribute to some grievous tyrant. Because their mind is as a kind of citadel occupied by the love of money, which from thence daily sends out unto them its commands full of all iniquity, and there is none to disobey. Be not therefore thus over subtle. Nay, for God has once for all declared and pronounced it a thing impossible for the one service and the other to agree. Say not thou, then, it is possible. Why, when the one master is commanding you to spoil by violence, the other to strip yourself of your possessions; the one to be chaste, the other to commit fornication; the one to be drunken and luxurious, the other to keep the belly in subjection; the one again to despise the things that are, the other to be rivetted to the present; the one to admire marbles, and walls, and roofs, the other to contemn these, but to honor self-restraint: how is it possible that these should agree?
Now He calls mammon here a master, not because of its own nature, but on account of the wretchedness of them that bow themselves beneath it. So also He calls the belly a god, Philippians 3:19 not from the dignity of such a mistress, but from the wretchedness of them that are enslaved: it being a thing worse than any punishment, and enough, before the punishment, in the way of vengeance on him who is involved in it. For what condemned criminals can be so wretched, as they who having God for their Lord, do from that mild rule desert to this grievous tyranny, and this when their act brings after it so much harm even here? For indeed their loss is unspeakable by so doing: there are suits, and molestations, and strifes, and toils, and a blinding of the soul; and what is more grievous than all, one falls away from the highest blessings; for such a blessing it is to be God's servant.