Divided Loyalties

No worker can serve two bosses:

He’ll either hate the first and love the second

Or adore the first and despise the second.

You can’t serve both God and the Bank.

When the Pharisees, a money-obsessed bunch, heard him say these things, they rolled their eyes, dismissing him as hopelessly out of touch. So Jesus spoke to them: “You are masters at making yourselves look good in front of others, but God knows what’s behind the appearance.

What society sees and calls monumental,
God sees through and calls monstrous.
God’s Law and the Prophets climaxed in John;
Now it’s all kingdom of God—the glad news
and compelling invitation to every man and woman.
The sky will disintegrate and the earth dissolve
before a single letter of God’s Law wears out.
Using the legalities of divorce
as a cover for lust is adultery;
Using the legalities of marriage
as a cover for lust is adultery. (Luke 16:13-18)

You can do all the right things, follow all the rules, and still be wrong. The religious leaders in Israel were concerned that they always did the right thing. Not because they wanted to be right, so much as they wanted to protect themselves and their reputations.

So they consistently missed the point of the law, which is something that escapes the notice of all legalists everywhere. Legalists like the Pharisees were really only concerned with figuring out how not to get into trouble for whatever it is they did.

Jesus pointed out that this attitude arose from a divided loyalty. To illustrate the problem, he used as an example how they treated their wives. The religious leaders knew that adultery was forbidden and that adultery meant having sex with a woman they weren’t married to. But what if they wanted to have sex with a woman other than their wives? They found a way. They would divorce their current wife and then marry the other woman. When they tired of the other woman, simply repeated the process. They could then have sex with whomever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and they never broke the law. The religious leaders were very good at making the law work for them.

And that was the problem: it was all about them. They didn’t love God. They didn’t love other people. They were misusing the law for their own selfish purposes. Their loyalties were divided.

Who do you serve? God or yourself? You can’t do both.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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