Serving Two Masters, or the Case of the Missing Moral Leadership

This article from the WSJ is not surprising but eye opening. The jumping off point is President Obama meeting with the Dalai Lama and the Chinese response.

But China’s angry response to the news that Mr. Obama will meet with the Tibetan spiritual leader tomorrow in Washington goes straight to the point. “If the U.S. leader chooses this period to meet the Dalai Lama, that would damage trust and cooperation between our two countries,” said Zhu Weiqun, a Chinese Communist Party official at a Feb. 2 press conference. “And how would that help the United States surmount the current economic crisis?”

The background is that the US owes China a bucket-truck full of money, and China is one of the few places that has the ability to buy more of our nation’s debt. As a nation we like to support things such as religious freedom and self determination, we also like to spend more than we make. When confronted with the choice of reduced spending, or quietude on freedoms, which path does the nation choose?

The Bible and specifically the Gospel of Luke is pretty clear both what it would expect Caesar to do, and what Jesus asks us to do. Luke 16:10-13 – you can’t serve two masters. Luke 22:24-27 – gentiles and great men lord it over their people.

The lord was a patron – “the friend of the people” – and his clients were obliged to him. In the west, under the teachings of the church, that kind of vassalage, while not going away, had to be hidden. Read the quote from the Chinese official again. That kind of vassalage is coming back. He is shockingly blunt – a patron state telling a client state to look where its bread is buttered.

The message of freedom in Jesus is that we have no real Patron but the Father in heaven. Instead of serving the things of this world – serve God first. Serve the God who came to serve us. Serve the God who adopted us into his family. In the church we are all heirs and children of God. That is a much different status than a client. It recognizes the true differences between creator and creature.

You can’t serve two masters. Either it’s the hierarchy of Caesar and money or it’s the household of God. We owe Caesar and money respect, but they should not be our master. We should also not be surprised when the American Ceasar chooses to protect client relationships. If I were the Dalai Lama, I would not expect more White House visits.

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