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A Proliferation of Masters

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (New Testament Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13, “No servant …”)

These words were spoken nigh 2,000 years ago, and perhaps never before in history, till our day, have more people been attempting to do this very thing—to serve two (or more) masters. I do not speak in main of the ageless dilemmas that have burdened servants and employees,* such as:

▪ Do I say or do things on behalf of my employer that violate my personal integrity and moral values?
▪ Do I have to work on my Holy Day to keep (or get) my job, or to avoid being an inconvenience to my fellow employees or bosses?
▪ Do my employer’s business practices to which I contribute through my time and energies violate my sense of fairness and justice?
▪ Do I turn a blind eye to right and wrong because I need/want that pay-cheque?
▪ Do I tolerate personal injustices and abuses for the sake of employment?
▪ Have I taken employment that offends my spirit and purpose in life for the compensation and amenities because I fear, “What will become of me?” if I don’t or for the mere fact that the pay and benefits were better than an alternative that would have nourished by soul?
▪ Etc., etc.

Employees have always been at risk for such conflicts of interest. But, in today’s world, at least four other masters have become so pervasive, there is scarce a living soul that is not juggling at least two—not to mention comparable pressures on companies and even nations!

Master Two as mammon through debt.

What does debt impel us to do? Have any of the Ten Commandments or other moral imperatives given way to the stresses of debt? What can debt cause us to put at risk or lose? Home, family, friends, integrity, compassion, security, peace of mind, trust in God? What would our answers be to the bulleted questions above were we to substitute “debt” for “employer”?

As well, how many companies have succumbed to debt? How many nations have compromised their sovereignty on account of it? Bartered away the wellbeing of their citizens?

Master Three as mammon through the desire for power or fame.

What do government officials or private business leaders do, refrain from doing, consent to, deny, and so forth, for the sake of gifts, donations, assurances, alliances, perks, privileges, re-election, reappointment, etc.? What do the powerful and famous do to retain power and fame? Has the achievement of them ever been a personal temptation? Have we become so inured to the status quo of mammon in our politics, business, entertainment, sports, and even religion, that we discount the servitude and consequent devastations to our democratic, creative, spiritual, and moral values?

Master Four as the mammon of investment pursuits.

In this day of increasingly unregulated finance capital, how many persons or fund managers buy shares, stocks, bonds, financial instruments, etc. without the slightest regard for anything but maximized returns? This Master is perhaps the most subversive of all, because as owner of the investment, we appear to be the master, when in reality, the “pursuit of profit” becomes the Master. We take the “three monkey” stance of refusing to see, hear, or speak evil of how our money is employed to build upon itself. We profess to be good Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Confucians, or other moralists, yet do we “innocently” invest our surplus or leveraged capital in plans and programs that violate our beliefs?

How much public good have we sacrificed for private gain? How many public and private costs have our investment strategies shunted to public accounts to increase the bottom line? How informed are we about the ways and means of our investment portfolios? Do we prefer not to know?

Master Five as the mammon of ideology.

How many of us are so fixated on some idea, person, or thing that perceived “good” ends claim to justify foul means? So convinced or zealous we won’t consider further facts or contradicting witnesses? How many of our politicians bow to the party line knowing they are harming their constituents and their country? Must others obey law, use common sense, be reasonable and conciliatory, while we can be excused through rightness or rank? Do our wills and insights supersede all other wills and insights? Do we discard moral strictures to promote or protect our ideology?

Who and what are the masters in your life?

*(including, maybe especially, latter-day CEOs, CFOs, CAOs, etc.)