By CK Persons
“No one can serve two masters. A person will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). Is it true? (Part 1) How can a kinky person interested in power exchange be Catholic as well? (Part 2)
To answer these questions adequately, it is first vital to know the context of this quote from Matthew’s gospel. The Jewish community that wrote this gospel inserts these words in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). This sermon, so to speak, is the first of five discourses in the gospel, which call to mind the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Torah (Law, way of living). Put simply, sayings from Matthew 5-7 are very important to the Matthean community – and to the entire Christian community today.
Matthew 6:24 echoes the most central Jewish way of life, the Shema: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). As Jews, the readers of Matthew would have known the Shema quite well. The central invitation is to love God – which necessarily implies love of neighbor, especially the most vulnerable (the widow, orphan, and stranger) – to love completely. It is also important to note that the Greek word “mammon” means wealth or riches.
So is it true that one cannot serve God (i.e., complete love of God and neighbor, especially the poorest) and wealth? I honestly do not know. There are very intelligent and generous people who claim that it is not true. Some wealthy persons are amazingly generous with their resources. One central way that they serve God is by sharing what they have with others. I’ve been quite inspired by such generosity. But there is no shortage of very (and not at all) wealthy people who can care less about society’s neediest. What I know for sure from my own experience is that I find it very difficult to focus my attention on the needs of others when I am consumed with making money, for instance. Such difficulty is probably why the very next section of Matthew’s gospel invites the community to trust completely in God (Matthew 6:25-34). Although I tend to doubt that a focus on riches necessarily precludes one from serving God and (poor) neighbor completely; I can at least say that love of God is exceptionally difficult when wealth is a person’s primary focus in life. What is your experience?
(Next month’s column will address the second question above: In light of Matthew 6:24, how can a kinky person interested in power exchange be Catholic as well?)