By Emily Cavins
“You cannot serve two masters: God and money.” (Luke 16:13)
How many times have we heard that? Automatically our hearts pound a bit as we guiltily recount how much money we have wasted on carmel foo-foo lattes or on makeup guaranteed to erase all our wrinkles. We wonder if we have slipped into the dark side and should be lumped with the evil Wall Street executives who purported only love of money.
In examining Jesus’ parable about the dishonest servant, we tend to focus on the part about the “two masters.” But what if we focus on the word “serve” instead? Could that help give this phrase a different perspective?
The servant in the parable, though commended by his master for being clever, was still considered to be dishonest. First for squandering what wasn’t his, and then after he was caught, for smooth talking his way to becoming a hero among those who owed a debt to the master. This servant was actually serving himself rather than any master.
I propose that we can exchange the word “money” for “self,” in the parable, to get a new perspective here. This can help us distinguish which master we are serving.
If I am serving myself, I’m surely not serving God. It’s impossible to do both at the same time. Each action I do serves either my personal agenda or God’s agenda. By making this distinction, it’s easier to see which master I am serving and weigh my actions accordingly.
Suppose I want my life to be easy, free of responsibility, and full of pleasure. That sort of existence pawns things off onto others and tramples on the poor and needy. That is the complete opposite of what God calls us to do. To serve God is to serve others. If the choices I make are solely to make myself happy, rich, or more important, I have chosen to serve myself.
Recently, Jeff and I went to a movie called the Minimalism: A Documentary About Important Things, which features two young men who had high-paying jobs but felt empty. They decided to downsize and basically got rid of everything they owned except for a few well-chosen items. Incidentally and probably unknown to them, St. Francis of Assisi already started a minimalist movement. These young men claim they now feel happy and free, which was their main objective. But under it all, they are still serving themselves in their self-made poverty.
If I downsize to make myself happy, that still isn’t serving God, unless I have the attitude of St. Francis who chose to be poor to serve the poor. And then I become happy because I am helping others, not solely because I pleased myself.
Let’s pause for a moment and take a “selfie.” Now let’s send it out to everyone and see how many people like it. Or should we instead take a “Godie”? What would that picture look like? It probably wouldn’t show up at all, because it would be that prayer for a hurting friend, that extra hug for a loved one, that extra check for a charity. It would be the acts of kindness we do because we serve God and not ourselves.
We can be more clever than the misled people of this generation who are engulfed in seeking self. Even more than money, people are seeking self. A beautiful scripture to keep in mind is “seek and you shall find” (Matthew 7:7). But remember, it means to seek God, not self.
About the Author:
Emily Cavins received her BA in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology from the University of Minnesota and has participated in several excavations in Israel. She leads annual pilgrimages to Israel and other Bible related destinations with her husband Jeff Cavins. Emily’s current project, Gen2Rev Storybook: A Walk through the Catholic Bible, introduces children and educators to salvation history and makes a vital link between the Bible, the Mass, and the Catholic Faith. To learn more about Emily’s work, visit her on Facebook or on her Catholic Family Night website.