“‘No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” – Matthew 6:24
The conviction continues but I think many times this verse is misunderstood.
Jesus does not say here that it is wrong to want both service to God and material wealth. What He does say, in crystal-clear terms, is one cannot place ultimate priority on both at the same time. At some moments in life, one must choose which is more important. Christ’s calling forces those who would follow Him into such choices.
Scripture puts this in the context of servanthood. It doesn’t work for a servant to be co-owned by two independent masters—this is why such a thing isn’t practiced. The servant can only prioritize one or the other. They might be “loyal,” in a sense, to both. But separate masters will command the servant in different, competing directions. As a result, the servant will naturally grow to hate or despise one of the two, while growing to love and be devoted to the other.
Jesus is casting human beings as slaves either to God or money. He uses the Greek word mammōna, which comes from the Aramaic word for wealth. Those who surrender themselves to following Jesus become servants of God for life (Romans 6:17–18). Those who prioritize building wealth for themselves on earth surrender themselves as slaves to materialism. As slaves depend on their masters to provide everything that is needed, those devoted to money or to God also depend on their respective masters to provide for them. The demands of those two masters will always compete.
So, Jesus concludes, a person cannot serve both God and money. This does not mean that someone who serves God whole-heartedly will not have money or possessions. Jesus is not suggesting that Christians must be poor, or destitute, or flee from any kind of luxury. It doesn’t mean that being a Christian is incompatible with being “rich.” What He means is that a person sincerely serving God will not organize their lives around acquisition of wealth. Money, for a righteous person, is just another tool given by God to be used for His purposes.
Similarly, this does not mean someone who lives for money can never acknowledge or honor God, in any way. However, there can only be one “most important” thing in any person’s life.
What’s your most important thing?