“. . . cannot serve both . . .”

“’You cannot be a slave of two masters; you will hate one and love the other; you will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.'” (Matthew 6:24)

I had passed through this downtown for at least thirty-five years without ever noticing this sign on the side of the building. The narrow gap between the two buildings and their location at an intersection where one would be turning probably contributed to my never having seen the sign. I guess I must have glanced at just the right moment to glimpse the sign during my trip a couple of weeks ago. I had to go back and take the photo. Seems like it must have been an interesting store – bedroom furniture in the front of the store and caskets in the back. Pick out what you need for nightly rest and eternal rest, all without leaving the store. I guess you could say the store specialized in “rest.”

The owners and operators of the store were what we might call today, “bi-vocational.” Neither the sale of furniture nor undertaking was enough to offer a living in and of itself, so the owners were obliged to combine the two trades into a single business. It must have been a little awkward if someone walked through their front door and the owners didn’t know if the customer was there to purchase household furniture or a funeral. It also must have been difficult when both sides of the trade suddenly got busy at the same time.

I’m convinced that all of us are somewhat bi-vocational. We spend every day juggling not one or two, but even many “trades” at the same time. Unless we live in a monastery or convent we are required to pay attention to many, many tugs on our lives. (Even the cloistered brothers and sisters have to take time from their spiritual disciplines to ply whatever trades put food on their tables and roofs over their heads.) “Balance” is the word of the day, isn’t it?

When Jesus used the metaphor of “master and slave” he was asking in a sense, “Who owns you?” Maybe today with the painful history and presence of slavery it might seem better to ask, “Who holds you?” or, “In whom or what do you invest in each day?” For the most part I believe we all start out with good intentions. In other words, we take on things with good purpose in mind. We want to have a family and so we start one. We want to support a family and so we seek meaningful employment. We want to enjoy life to it’s fullest so we pursue hobbies and other interests. For a variety of reasons too many to enumerate here we can begin to get hooked by one of more of our investments and begin to favor one or more over and at the expense of the others. We begin to become “unbalanced.”

Signs that we’ve reached some state of imbalance might include criticisms from others, depression, a hyper-intense devotion to one aspect almost with the sense that if we can just do it better or make it bigger the rest of life will be fulfilled, an angry defensiveness when others offer observations, or an almost constant uneasiness and lack of peace – just to name a few. When we find ourselves exhibiting some of these signs it’s time for us to stop and remember Jesus’ call to balance.

Jesus calls us to what we need the most – to be loved and to love. From the awareness of God’s love for us we invest in love by loving God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and our neighbor as our self. All our “trades” should be somehow directed toward the goal of investing in loving. Maybe you’ve never thought of life that way before, but I offer it for your consideration. I pray that God will help me so order my life that all my endeavors will be geared toward an investment in loving. How about you?

Blessings and Peace
Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church
Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Help save lives! For more information on my book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit
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~ by revgenelson on July 9, 2014.

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