“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Mt. 6:24.
Benin, on the Gulf of Guinea in Africa, developed into a major slave trading center in the 17th century, becoming perhaps the largest in Africa. Almost a million Africans left their continent through Ouidah, sold into slavery in Europe and the Western Hemisphere.
In order to evade the slave traders, some fled into the waters of Lake Nokoué and established the town on stilts, Ganvie. Apparently the slave traders would—or could—not fight on the water and would not pursue their prey into the lake. Established 400 years ago, Ganvie is now home to between 20,000 and 30,000 residents.
I can’t image the lifestyle adjustment that was required in order to adapt to the new living conditions. Food sources, shelter, transportation, recreation—daily activities—all must have dramatically changed to acclimate to their new surroundings.
The ancestors of Ganvie’s residents went to great—extreme?—measures to avoid the evil of slavery. As I rode through this township, I began to ask myself:
What am I willing to do to avoid slavery?
The horrors of human trafficking and slavery—centuries ago and today—are obvious. No debate or arguments are needed to convince anyone that they do not want to be victims of this horrendous human endeavor. And yet, every day billions subject themselves to subtle forms of slavery.
Jesus reminds us that we cannot serve two masters. In His example, Jesus warns us against serving mammon, “an Aramaic word meaning wealth or property.” And yet, despite His warning, materialism is ubiquitous. I find it very easy to be lured by this form of slavery. It’s hard not to want more—more money, bigger homes, better cars—and it’s hard not to envy those who appear better off than I am in their material wealth.
And there are other subtle forms of slavery, attractive snares lying in wait for victims. Am I willing to take Ganvie-like measures to avoid these traps?
- Materialism: Do I seek fulfillment through the acquisition of goods and materials—or with the collection of things—or am I content with what I have and do I use my blessings to serve Him? Am I willing to surrender my desire for more and trade it in for a desire for a closer relationship with Him?
- Lust: Do I let me eyes lead my head to whatever tempting images the media—or other broken souls—lay before me or, or do I avert my eyes and pray for these victims ensnared in the slavery of self-image and lust? Am I willing to give up those things that can lead me astray, like TV, internet or movies?
- Body: Do I elevate this temple of the Holy Spirit to the platform of divinity, seeing my fitness as my god rather than a gift from the one true God and a means to offer His praise and thanks? Am I willing to acknowledge Him as the source of my health?
- TV: Do I waste hours and days at the alter of the “idiot box” (as my Mom called it), or am I willing to pull the plug so I can use my precious time to serve Him and His better? Am I willing to spend time in silence in His presence (being still and knowing He is God), rather than filling my time with noise?
What stilt village will I build to escape the slavery of sin?
As an aside, I am often uncertain of my posts as I draft them. Is this what God wants me to do? Am I serving Him well with this? Do I come across as humble or arrogant? Do I draw people to Him or repel them? Today I experienced one of those moments when God gives me a clear sign. Riding through the bustling streets of Cotonou, we came to a stop at a traffic light. As I glanced around, this sign snagged my attention: