Two Horses and One Rear End!
One of my favorite movies is Sweet Home Alabama starring Reese Witherspoon. Reese’s character, Melanie Smooter, married young. After a series of painful events, she left her childhood sweetheart (now husband) in Alabama and headed for New York. There Melanie pursued a life that she hoped would fill her hurts—and for a while, it did. She met a new man in New York who wanted to marry her. The problem was her husband in Alabama would not divorce her. He wanted her back knowing they were supposed to be together. She fought him tooth and nail and finally, he signed the papers.
But as she walked down the aisle to meet her new husband, her lawyer stopped her. She asserted, “He signed the divorce papers!” The lawyer replied, “Yes, he did. But you did not.” Melanie was aghast. Subconsciously, she had two loves and as a result, forgot to sign. Her dad spoke up and said, “You can’t ride two horses with one rear end, Honey!” Her father’s words hit her like lightning. She had already given her heart—her whole heart—to her first husband. She ran away from the wedding to tell her first husband they were still married because she did not sign the papers.
Melanie’s heart had become a war zone between two loves, two masters, and only one could be the victor. The same is true of followers of Jesus. He will not accept mixed service between Him and the love of the world. Followers of Jesus can’t ride two horses with one rear end.
Jesus knew money would be a struggle for His followers. That is why God the Father sent Jesus to reveal His heart on the matter and warn His children that they could not serve both God and money (Matt. 6:24).
A slave is committed to the will of his master. No slave can commit his whole will to two masters; his service would be divided. There would always be one master he liked better and to whom he would be more devoted. Eventually, the slave’s heart would become hostile toward one master. Moses described an example in the book of Exodus of a servant who willingly became a bondservant out of extreme love for his master. It is a picture of the type of devotion God desires:
And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him to the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.— Exodus 21:5–6, NKJV
In ancient biblical times, when a servant voluntarily served his master, he was called a “bondservant.” After approved by the judges of the land, the master would take the servant to a doorpost and put him against it. He would take an awl—a sharp, pointed object—and pierce the servant’s ear with it. The pierced ear would serve as a notification to the whole world that this person was a bondservant for life because he loved his master and chose to be his master’s slave. The slave’s needs became his master’s responsibility; service to his master was the slave’s only responsibility.
Throughout the New Testament, the word “bondservant” or “slave” or “servant” was symbolically used to describe a person devoted to Jesus. Subsequently, that person’s needs become Jesus’ responsibility.
Paul declared many times that he was a bondslave of the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, Paul began his letter to the Romans saying, “Paul, a bondservant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1 NASB). Although Paul was a free-born Roman citizen and had a great deal of status and security as a Pharisee, he counted it as worthless so that he could lay hold of knowing the Lord Jesus and making Him known. He made his choice and stuck with it with his whole heart until the end of his life.
Fear, Money, and Godly Preparation
Sometimes people are devoted to making money out of fear. It has never been God’s plan that His children walk in fear. That’s why He has devoted half of Matthew 6 to calming those concerns. Jesus taught His disciples how to prioritize money in their lives by faith, and how to trust Him, not the money:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.— Matthew 6:19–24, NIV
Jesus was not teaching it is wrong to save money, for according to the Bible even ants know how to store up for the winter (Prov. 6:6–8; 30:25). Rather, Jesus taught His disciples to guard against treasuring up material things and making them their security. Those things are temporal, while heaven is eternal. Jesus was encouraging believers to give thought and care beyond their retirement to their eternal retirement by sharing what they have with those who have less; He will reward those who do. Those whose hearts treasure money will be attached to money.
He was also encouraging His followers to have single vision. If the “eye” of a person’s heart is focused on one thing—the Lord—his or her whole body will be full of light. If not, they will see double, and it will be like walking in darkness; it will cause a lot of stumbling.
Think of a tight rope walker. He stays balanced with a bar, but he also keeps his eye on a single focal point in front of him. If he looked at two focal points, he would have a difficult time going straight and making it to the end without falling. Eventually one focal point will win and cause him to lose his balance and fall. That is why the Lord and His kingdom must be the believer’s single focus:
Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?— Matthew 6:25–27, NIV
Parents take care of their kids. My eight-year-old does not worry if I will buy him winter boots or feed him. He pleases me, and it is my responsibility to provide those things for him. It increases his trust in me. I love that he assumes that when he rolls out of his toasty bed in the morning, there is cereal to eat, and he can fill his little belly. Yet children of God fret, thinking God doesn’t care about their needs when in fact, He cares more.
God only asks that His children put His kingdom first; He longs for His children to seek Him with their whole heart and be solely devoted to Him. He will add all that they need. So, don’t worry and give in to the battle of having double-vision, focusing on both money and God. God will provide.
Trust God for Provision
Corrie ten Boom travelled the whole world in God’s service. She would lay out a map and ask Jesus where she was to go. He would instruct her, and she would make her plans. Many times, she had to trust that funds would be available when she was in need. Often when she was about to leave for a different country, not knowing how she would be able to board the plane she had booked, someone would provide the funds (in those days people could book a flight but pay when they were about to board). It made for some stress, but her faith grew enormously as she learned to believe and trust in God’s good character to provide for all He guided her to do.
One day, God spoke to her during a prayer time that she was no longer to ask churches or any person for an offering. She was troubled by this, not knowing how the Lord would provide. Nonetheless, she trusted. That day in the mail she received a letter from a person close to her who had been praying regularly for her. This person wrote, “The Lord has shown me that you are not to ask any more for an offering but to trust the Lord.” That was the confirmation that Corrie needed to be sure of the Lord’s leading.
God knew it was better for her to lean only on Him with an undivided heart and not to trust in man to provide. This allowed her to fix her attention completely on service to Him and not worry if her messages were well received or not. It allowed her to travel anywhere, to any church or group of people that needed her and the Lord’s messages, without thought of payment. Her heart was free to be completely devoted to Him.
A Modern-Day Repentance
There is a concerning trend taking place today even among seasoned preachers and teachers. The explosion of the Internet and social media and the subsequent surge of marketing has opened the door to greater access to finance; this has led to an increase in Bible teachers worldwide charging money to take “courses” on their teachings. These are not schools of ministry but teaching messages that God has given them by the Holy Spirit. However, when Jesus sent out His disciples, He told them, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8 NASB).
Jesus should be the believers’ model and Scripture their plumb line. When Isaiah the prophet testified by the Holy Spirit about what the Messiah would do, he said:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.— Isaiah 61:1, NLT
When John sent his disciples to confirm Jesus was the messiah, Jesus declared to them:
Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen- the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good news is being preached to the poor.— Matthew 11:4–5, NLT
One aspect of messianic proof was not the miracles Jesus did, but whether He preached to the poor. Jesus never waited for people to pay a fee or a tithe at the local synagogue. He went out to the hills and spoke from boats at the edge of the shores of the Sea of Galilee so that multitudes could come—rich or poor. There is no record of Jesus charging people to hear Him speak. But there is a record of Him instructing His disciples regarding possessions:
Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you for the laborer is worthy of his wages.— Luke 10:4, 7, NASB
His followers were to take the gospel and freely give it, trusting in God’s care for their needs as they went. People donated food and shelter. Jesus even received finances from high-society women and those who had been blessed by His ministry (Luke 8:3). But He never required anyone to pay.
Jesus’ mission was to represent the Father, and fathers do not charge their children for their wisdom. Recall that your mission is the same as His:
As the Father sends me, I am sending you.— John 20:21, NIV
As Jesus sent them into their international ministries to teach, make disciples, and baptize, He said:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.— Matthew 28:18–20, NIV
Many of the Lord’s ministers have books that God has blessed and turned into bestsellers, but they do not charge to take a “course” on the book. They simply teach the Word and upload it to the Internet or other media. Those who wish to go through the teaching in more depth or at a slower pace than a sermon can purchase the book. But the whole world has free access to what the Lord has freely given them, and they, in turn, are making disciples internationally. The body of Christ must return to Jesus’ model of discipleship, and freely give what the Holy Spirit has so generously given.
I wish to point out that there are ministers that charge for a “course”, but you can still find their teachings on YouTube or other media for free. It is more that the learner is paying for formatted material. They have been incredibly generous in sharing what the Lord has given them.
When our children were little, we had to pray for every jug of milk and loaf of bread. We were avid tithers and givers. God met our needs, but the last thing we could afford was a “course” on faith or trusting God. Yet, it is these people who are struggling, like we were struggling, that need to be strengthened with biblical teaching during difficult times.
Despite this age of rapidly changing technology, it is time to return to preaching the gospel to the poor. As the kingdom is put first, everything will be added by the Father (Matt. 6:33). In doing so, believers’ hearts will not be divided between meeting the needs of those they are called to serve and their own needs and desires.
A Matter of Heart, Not Money
There are people God selects to work in the business world to amass wealth for the sake of the gospel or the needy. It is as much a ministry before the Lord as being a pastor or missionary. They love God and serve Him by making money for His purposes, and their hearts are devoted to Him. One such man was asked by God to give 3.5 million dollars. It was his entire profit, and it had taken a great deal of hard work to accumulate. He swallowed hard, wrote the check, and started from scratch. His heart was devoted to the kingdom and he was a servant within it; he understood that his gold and silver were God’s.
A few short years later he had more than surpassed what he had given. He could truly be trusted with wealth, the heart of God, and true riches—eternal souls.
God wants your whole heart, too. When you trust, seek, or love money, it divides your heart, creates instability, and pulls at your devotion. Commit to God that you will stop cheating and “riding two horses with one rear end!” When your heart is undivided, you will be free to serve God wholeheartedly, trusting His incredible character and that He will provide and care for you.
Reflect with the Holy Spirit
- Lord, if I was riding two horses with one rear end, what would those horses?
- How can I put Your kingdom first and free my heart to serve You wholeheartedly?
- How is believing in Your awesome provision setting the stage for a new adventure in trusting You
This teaching devotional is part of a series based on Tyrelle Smith’s book: From Double-Minded To Destiny. Each week we will publish more on how you can remove doubts, insecurities and fulfill God’s plan for your life in a greater way.