Who’s Your Master? – Matthew 6:22-24

Pastor Scott L. Harris
11/1/1992; February 7, 1999

Who’s Your Master?
Matthew 6:22-24


Don Richardson is a name that some of you may recognize. He & his wife Carol were missionaries to Irian Jaya in the 60’s. He told the story of their work in the book, “Peace Child.” Some of you are familiar with that story. But Don Richardson wrote more on missions that just the story of his own work. He also wrote a book entitled, “Lords of the Earth,” which gives an account of the work of Stan & Pat Dale among the Yali tribe in the Heluk Valley of Irian Jaya, Indonesia.

The Yali people were deeply imbedded in a religion of demon worship called Kembu. It was a religion based on fear. They lived in terror of what the spirits would do if they were not pleased. It was also a religion of hatred and revenge, murderous raids on enemy villages, and cannibalism of those they could catch and kill.

Stanley Dale was a Australian that first visited New Guinea while in the army during WWII. It was then that he first saw the high mountain ranges of the interior and set his mind that some day he would return to bring the message of God’s love to the people who lived in those remote areas. After the war he completed his Bible education, got married and began his training for his goal of reaching the unknown tribes in the highlands. From 1947 to 1960 he worked with tribes in the lowlands. Finally in 1961 he & Bruno Leeuw made their trek into the Heluk Valley and made contact with the Yali tribe. Stan Dale believed that even the most violent Yali cannibal had a soul worth saving because it was made in the image of God.

The work went well the first year as the team built their homes and air strip, learned the language and moved their families in. As Stan began to translate sections of Scripture and tell it to the Yali people, tensions began to mount in the tribe. Some of the young men were interested in what was being said. The older men saw it in direct contradiction with the religion of their ancestors, but Stan & Bruno continued on. A few began to understand the message of Christ. The next year they began explorations into neighboring valleys to start bringing the message of God’s love to them as well. When the Dale family went on furlough the left behind a small band of tribal Christians.

The following year the Dale’s returned. The band of tribal Christians had grown and the work seemed to be blossoming. But as the gospel was blossoming in the upper end of the valley, those in the lower end of the valley were still in darkness. Two of the young Yali Christians, Kekwara & Bengwok, went down the valley and were attacked while preaching. Neither returned. At the news of their deaths, Stan Dale went to the villages himself, and there suffered 5 arrow wounds. He was helped back to camp, then flown a mission hospital. It would be a week before they knew that Stan would survive the injuries. Two months later, Stan Dale returned to his work among the Yali. He was determined that the work of God must continue. He strengthened the church in the upper Heluk valley and the new believers spread the gospel east into the next valley where it was warmly received. This angered the shamans in the lower valley and to the west and they made threats against Stan Dale should he enter their area again.

After two years the burden for the salvation people in the lower valley prompted Stan Dale to try once again to reach them. On Wednesday, September 18, 1968, Stan Dale, Phil Masters and four tribal helpers began their trek into the Seng Valley. They were greeted by armed warriors when they reached the first village. The immediate crises was avoided and the next day they decided to return, but already the neighboring villages had been told and their warriors had agreed that these bearers of a strange religion would have to be killed.

The warriors were following them. Stan was at the rear. He stopped and faced them. Stan called to his Yali friend, Yemu, “Leave me,” and he raised his staff, not in anger, but as a barrier to the advancing tide of warriors. A priest of Kembu (the demonic religion) named Bereway slipped around behind Stan and at point blank range shot an arrow in under his upraised right arm. Another priest, Bunu, shot a bamboo bladed shaft into Stan’s back, just below his right shoulder.

Yemu was crying now and shouting at them to stop. As the arrows entered Stan’s flesh, he pulled them out, one by one, broke them and cast them away. Dozens of arrows were coming at him from all directions. He kept pulling them out, breaking them and dropping them at his feet until he could not keep ahead of them. Nalimo, the village chief, reached the scene after some 30 arrows had found their mark in Stan’s body.

“How can he stand there so long?” Nalimo gasped. “Why doesn’t he fall? Any one of us would have fallen long ago!” A different kind of shaft pierced Nalimo’s own flesh – fear! “Perhaps he is immortal!” Nalimo’s normally impassive face melted with sudden emotion. Because of that emotion, Nalimo said latter, he did not shoot an arrow into Stan’s body.

Stan faced his enemies, steady and unwavering except for the jolt of each new strike. Yemu ran to where Phil stood alone. Together they watched in anguish at Stan’s agony. As some 50 or more warriors detached from the main force and came toward them, Phil pushed Yemu behind him and gestured speechlessly, run! Phil seemed hardly to notice the warriors encircling him. His eyes were fixed upon Stan.

Fifty arrows – sixty! Red ribbons of blood trailed from the many wounds, but still Stan stood his ground. Nalimo saw that he was not alone in his fear. The attack had begun with hilarity, but now the warriors shot their arrows with desperation bordering on panic because Stand refused to fall. “Perhaps Kusaho was right!” Perhaps they were committing a monstrous crime against the supernatural world instead of defending it, as they intended. “Fall!: they screamed at Stan. “Die!” It was almost a plea – please die!

Yemu did not hear Phil say anything to the warriors as they aimed their arrows at him. Phil made no attempt to flee or struggle. He had faced danger many times but never certain death. But Stan had shown him how to face it, if he needed an example. That example could hardly have been followed with greater courage.

One again, it was Bereway who shot the first arrow. And it took almost as many arrows to down Phil as it had Stan.

Yemu and the 3 other helpers stayed only until they knew that Phil could not survive, then they turned and ran for their lives. One thought burned in Yemu’s mind, “if they kill us too, there’ll be no one left to tell their widows what happened, or where they fell.” Yemu did make it back safely to tell what happened.

Only a year later these same people were reached with the gospel of Christ by missionaries that replaced Stan Dale and Phil Masters.

What enabled men like Stan Dale, Phil Masters and the two Yali Christians, Kekwara & Bengwok, to risk and lose their lives in trying to take the gospel to a violent and hostile people? How were and are so many others able to spend their lives in similar tasks, forsaking the comforts of their homes to go live in foreign places with foreign people in a foreign culture?

The answer is that they saw clearly who their master was, and they served Him.


Last week we began our study of this first of three prohibitions – negative commands – found in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 6:19-34 Jesus teaches that we are not to be seeking after the things of this world, but seeking after God’s kingdom and His righteousness trust that He will provide for us the things that we will need Last week we focused on the first part of this section of Scripture, vs 19-21. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in an steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Jesus’ point is very practical. If you value the things of this earth, regardless if that be fame, fortune or power, you will find that when you try to save them, they will either be destroyed, corroded or stolen. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth. Instead, put your time, energy and finances into storing up treasures in a place where they will not be eaten, they will not corrode, and they can not be stolen.  (See: Where is Your Treasure?).

How do you lay up treasures in heaven? Not by giving to charity, though that may figure into it, but by what Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. By a change of heart that values living for God over living for self, of desiring and working toward the expansion of God’s kingdom more than your own.

Think again about Stan Dale. Where was his heart? Easy to point out isn’t it, because his life, his time, his energy, his finances, and his blood, all went into reaching people for Christ. We know Stan Dale’s heart because we know what he treasured.

Did you take a look at your check book after the last week’s sermon to see where your finances went? Did you plot out your week to see where your time was spent? If you did, then you know what you value the most in life and that reflects your heart. I hope last week’s message has caused all of us to seriously think through these issues and repent as needed.

Last week we briefly went over verses 22-24, but this week I want to concentrate on them because they are at the center of this issue. Do we see clearly? Who is our master? In the verses prior Jesus gives us a command about where we lay up our treasure. But that command will mean nothing to us if Jesus is not our master. In the verses following Jesus tells us to seek God’s kingdom and righteous trusting that He will provide. But that command and promise will be of little comfort to us if God is not our master.

“The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

How Well Do You See

Our eyes are our only means to detect light and therefore our only source of vision. If we have a clear eye (or single eye as in the KJV) we will see everything properly. We will see what is around us and respond properly. However, if the eye is bad, then there is no means for light to enter the body and it is full of darkness. We will stumble around not knowing our way. If the eye is unclear then the perception given is false. What we see will be distorted and that will lend to a worse problem of believing the distortion to be the true reality. That is a more dangerous darkness than blindness.

Is Jesus giving a lesson in physiology here? No. The idea of the eye being used in a moral sense was quite prominent in Jewish writings. The usage here is giving reference to the spiritual eye through which spiritual light enters and illuminates the whole personality. The word aplouV translated here as “clear” or “single” is set in opposition to the word ponhroV translated as “bad” or “evil.” Both are words that speak of morality rather than physical health. In fact, aplouV is simply not a word that would be used to refer to physical health. Jesus is contrasting the person who sees things from a clear, godly perspective as opposed to the person who sees things from an evil perspective.

We find a similar analogy to this in 2 Corinthians 4:4 when Paul says that the gospel is “veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. “ The person does not understand because they cannot see. Some in this position are totally given over to evil and revel in that darkness. Such are the Satanists. Others are blind, they know they are blind, and they are seeking help to find their way. They may yet come to see the light because Christ is the great physician and will cure the spiritual blindness of those that seek Him and call on Him. But what about those whose “light is darkness.”

This may very well be a reference to the Scribes and Pharisees. Worse than someone who is blind and knows it and therefore seeks help to overcome it are those whose vision is distorted but they will not acknowledge it. These are those that claim to know the truth, they claim to be righteous, but they in fact do not know the truth and they practice unrighteousness. Jesus said of the Pharisees in Matthew 15:14, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” They claimed to know God and show the way to Him, but were in fact leading the people away from God, and because of their distorted view of reality they refused to listen to the truth.

Such was the case of the priests and followers of the Kembu religion that killed Stan Dale and Phil Masters. They claimed they knew the truth about the world and morality and they lead their followers into the brutal murders of two righteous men believing all they while that they were doing what was right.

Let me add that until a person with distorted vision is willing to acknowledge the problem they cannot be helped and will continue in their foolishness.

My eyesight started deteriorating in Jr High, but I never recognized my need for glasses until a math teacher kept me after class to ask me why I was copying from my neighbor’s paper. I said I couldn’t read the blackboard from my seat (in the front row). He said I should have my vision checked and called my parents to let them know. It was not until then that I recognized I had a problem seeing. Glasses corrected my vision. The same is true spiritually. People may think they are doing great even though their morals are all twisted. They have be told the truth by someone who does see properly, but until they believe the report, they will not be willing to have their moral vision fixed by the corrective lens of Scripture.

How well do you see? Do you value the things of God, or are you still blinded by the things of this world and pursuing them? Do you see clearly through the corrective lenses of Scripture, or do you continue to pursue your own will in your own way for your own benefit? If you are, then you will find that you have two –

Incompatible Masters

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had an eye problem. They thought they could serve two masters. They thought that they could serve God and keep their eyes on the world’s goods at the same time. Jesus says plainly in Matthew 6:24 that this is an impossible task. The two masters are incompatible with each other. They are opposites. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

The word, “serve” here does not bring out to us the strength of the word it represents. The strength of the word is better seen if we said, “to slave for.” “No one is able to slave for two masters.” A slave is owned and controlled by his/her master. Paul says it plainly in Romans 6:16, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are a slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” The very nature of the slave/master relationship precludes it from being anything but singular for the slave. A master can have many slaves, but a slave can only do the will of one master.

If you value the things of this world and are pursuing after them, then you cannot pursue after God and visa versa. You can not love God and the world. The Apostle John brings out this point in 1 John 2:15-17. “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not form the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.”

The verse puts it plainly, if you love the world or the things in it, then the love of God is not in you, and what you love is going to pass away. But if you love God (as evidence by keeping His commandments, John 14:21), then you will not love the world and you will abide forever.

The religious leaders loved money (Luke 16:14) and the approval of men (John 12:43), so they hated God and crucified His Son, Jesus Christ, because He disrupted their lucrative temple trade business when He cleared the money changers and sellers from it. Jesus detracted from their popularity both because others were following Jesus (jealousy) and because Jesus exposed their true nature before the people (embarrassment). They held to their pride and efforts to gain materially and despised God come in human flesh.

Jesus is not opposed to the righteous owning things. In fact Scripture consistently associates material prosperity as one of the blessings that result from righteous living. The scriptures do not tell us that money leads to evil, but that the love of money that leads to all sorts of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). It is not the possession of wealth that Jesus is against, it is being a slave to mammon. Mammon is most likely derived from a word that means, “that in which one trusts.” It is from that sense that its usage by Jesus to represent “property“, “earthly goods” always has a derogatory sense of the materialistic, anti-godly and sinful. It is what a person trusts in and values more highly than God and trusting in Him. It is an impossible task to be a slave to both God and mammon.

Slave to God vs Slave to Mammon

There are countless examples of both slaves to God and slaves to mammon.

Moses was a slave to God. Hebrews 11:24 tells that “when he had grown up, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach or Christ greater than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.”

Demas was a slave to Mammon. Paul says of him in 2 Timothy 4:9,10 “Make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”

Daniel was a slave to God. Scripture records several instances in which Daniel’s decision to serve God was in direct opposition to the easy choice of serving mammon. Most well know was his refusal to obey the kings edict and cease from his daily practice of praying three times a day. For this he was thrown into a den of lions, but was protected by God.

The rich young ruler in Matthew 19 was a slave to mammon. Jesus offered him the way to heaven and called him to follow him, but as verse 22 says, But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property.”

The churches of Macedonia were marked by their sacrificial giving for the kingdom of God. Paul remarks about them in 2 Corinthians 8:2, “in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.” Though they were impoverished, they gave abundantly for the cause of Christ.

Judas was a slave of mammon. This was seen in John 12:3-4 when he protested about Mary anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume. John says of this protest in verse 4, “Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.” Though he had been with Jesus for three years, his love for money was greater, and he betrayed the Lord for 30 pieces of silver.

All the Apostles were slaves of God. They gave up their jobs and positions to follow Jesus and spread the Gospel. Matthew gave up a lucrative career as a tax collector and Paul, his position of high esteem in the religious community.

Ananias and Saphira were slaves of mammon and it cost them their lives. The conspired together to lie about what they were giving to the Church. They were free to give or with-hold anything they wanted, but they lied trying to seek more acclaim among the brethren. They wanted the praise of men for being generous and godly, but they also wanted to keep their money.

There are many more examples from recent history as well. Tragically, there are many examples of those who found out that you cannot serve both God and mammon, and they choose mammon. There are the Bob Dylan types who have their “fling” with God and return to the same debauched life as before. The Jim Jones types that twist their theology over the years so that they can satisfy their craving for money, possessions, power, and pleasure. There are those like Jeff Levy and Lisa Dunn, two people Diane and I knew from Bible Studies years ago that gave an initial appearance of being on fire for the Lord, but the years revealed their hearts. Lisa turned her back on God and was on her third marriage last we heard. Jeff went apostate before the end of college saying that living the Christian life was too hard. The Christian life is impossible without the Holy Spirit. There are the tragic cases like the young man I counseled with some years ago that was in near continual depression partly because he would not say no to his twisted sexual passion and partly because he would compromise his convictions in order to get ahead in his career.

Each of these are people chose to be slaves to mammon and sin rather than God.

But there are also thousands of others who have chosen to serve God rather than gain for themselves mammon. There are examples such as Eric Liddel of Chariots of Fire fame, who refused to run in his favored Olympic track event because it was to be run on a Sunday. He eventually one an Olympic Gold Medal in another event. He rejected job offers in England and went to China as a missionary, eventually dying in a Japanese prison during WWII. Christian professionals who forgo a relatively easy and well-paying career to serve as barely paid missionaries in foreign lands. That is true of several of the missionaries we support. It is also true of Andrea Osterc who could have easily gotten a paying job here in the States. Instead she is in Nairobi, Kenya teaching at a mission school. There are the many, many unknown Christians, who like Stanley Dale, do see clearly right from wrong and good from bad. They know that they are slaves to God, so they deny themselves and obey the Lord. They sacrifice of themselves and remain faithful. They seek His kingdom, not their own.

Who’s Your Master?

(If you would like to receive Pastor Harris’ weekly sermons via e-mail, Click here)

Grace Bible Church Home Page |  Sermon Archives

For comments, please e-mail  Church office