“True Loyalty is ultimately about a relationship,” wrote Lisa Bradner of Forrester Research. “It’s easier to build a relationship with someone than it is with something.”
Christianity is not about our commitment to an ideal, dedication to a religion, or devotion to a philosophy. It’s about loyalty to a person. The Lord Jesus Christ.
The word “loyalty” quickly surfaced in my study for this week’s Sermon on the Mount. Our lesson is a single verse, Matthew 6:24.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
In Paul Earnhart’s fine little book, Invitation to a Spiritual Revolution, he entitles the chapter on this section, “The Impossibility of Divided Loyalties.”
Paul reminds us that Jesus later condemned the Pharisees for being “lovers of money” (Lk. 16:16). In His Mountain Message Jesus cuts to the heart of the issue. It’s all about loyalty.
Whom will you serve? God? Or Mammon?
The word “serve” means “a slave to.” The word “Master” is often translated “Lord,” which William Barclay says “denotes absolutely ownership.” He suggests that we would “get the meaning far better if we translate it: No man can be a slave to two owners.”
“Mammon” was a common Aramaic word for material possessions or wealth in general. The Bible teaches that obtaining wealth itself is not sinful. But it becomes wrong when money becomes our Master. And our loyalty is to mammon instead of the Lord Jesus. Francis Bacon was right when he wrote, “Money is a great servant but a bad master.”
So, the issue revolves around loyalty.
Loyalty speaks to our allegiance. To our commitments. To our piety. To our devotion. To our faithfulness. To the One in whom we place our total faith, hope, and trust–Jesus Christ.
Loyalty issues itself in obedience to our Lord. A loyal servant obeys his master. A loyal soldier follows the orders of his commander. A loyal employee complies with his employer’s directives. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15).
Loyalty in marriage means total, absolute and complete faithfulness. Your wedding vows likely contained some version of this pledge: “forsaking all others for you alone…until death do us part.” A husband that is faithful to his wife 75% of the time is not loyal. So, it is in our relationship with Christ. Just like there is a special physical and emotional intimacy in marriage, so we sustain a spiritual intimacy with the Lord.
“If loyalty is to mean anything,” observes Gary Henry, “we must remain loyal even when it is difficult. If our convictions are for sale, then we’re not people who can be trusted. And if the only time we root for the home team is when it’s having a winning season, then our support means very little. Real loyalty maintains its allegiance through thick and thin!”
To continue Gary’s analogy, there may be times when it seems that the Lord’s side is losing. That the devil and his followers are winning. That the world is rooting against us. That serving Christ and following His Scriptural instruction is not only unpopular but is unreasonable, irrational, and erroneous.
It is then that our integrity, courage, and conviction must be coupled with our loyalty to the Lord and serve only Him. It is a decision of the heart, mind, and soul.
In the spirit of Joshua’s challenge, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.”
God or mammon?
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman