God and Mammon
Published in REVIVE, Nov 2018
“You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt.6:24)
Life is a bundle of choices. We are confronted daily with choices between good and evil, truth and falsehood, faith and unbelief, the broad way and the narrow way. The choices we make today determine the kind of future we will experience. Among life’s many choices of the day, the one that every believer faces on a more deceptive scale is the choice between serving God or serving mammon. Sadly, many believers do not realize that while they think they are serving God, most of their services are actually being consumed by God’s arch-enemy, mammon.
The word “mammon” refers to the idolization of money and wealth to supplant the place of God. While it may be true that “money answers everything” (Eccl.10:19), in the sense that most of our basic requirements can be bought with money, it is false to assume that money is everything. In fact, the Bible tells us that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim.610). God’s word warns us not to “trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). The Bible warns us: “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” (Prov.23:4,5). In fact, “people who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1Tim.6:9).
Many years ago, a pastor of a growing church sarcastically asked me what the definition of “leader” was. Before I could say anything, he replied, “A leader nowadays is someone who has money.” I think he was right in describing the false mentality of many who, instead of serving God, are actually serving mammon when they easily switch organizations, leaders, and places just for the sake of monetary benefit. One pastor was asked why he had left ministering at a particular village and moved on to somewhere else; his prompt reply was, “There were not many customers over there.” Shocking as it may seem, it is heartbreaking to God when the church Christ died for is treated as a business center and the believers are treated as “customers”. The words of Jesus resound, “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” (Luke 19:46). Sadly, “they are experts in greed-an accursed brood! They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness” (2Pet. 2:14-15). In short, those who serve for money only serve mammon.
The same is true regarding all those who come to church or switch churches not because of Christ but because of social acceptability, luxurious facility, haughty spirit, and the secret love for mammon. It is true regarding everyone who hates giving to the work of the Lord. It is true regarding everyone who is fascinated with material things rather than being zealous after the Spirit of God. Those who pursue Christ for things that perish will be eternally destitute of God. But, they who pursue Christ because for them “to live is Christ and to die gain” will love His appearing and will be where He is. Jesus said, “”Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him” (John 6:27).
The Problem is with the Heart
Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt.6:21). The Bible talks about a rich young man who came to Jesus to enquire how he may get eternal life. When Jesus talked about keeping the laws related to fellow humans (do not steal, do not kill, etc), he replied that he never violated them. Then, Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matt.19:21). The Gospel tells us that when the young man heard this, he left with sadness, because he had a lot of wealth. Obviously, it was difficult for this rich young man to part with his wealth now, though it is a common fact that when a man dies he can take none of his savings along with him beyond the grave. Jesus exposed it that this rich young man loved his perishing wealth more than eternal life. He valued pursuing mammon more than pursuing Christ. Instead of regarding wealth as a thing to use for the good of all, he loved and hoarded it for no lasting gain. The problem was with his heart.
Jesus commanded His disciples, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt.6:19-20).
The Wise Invest for Eternity
Jesus told the parable of a disloyal property manager (steward) who squandered the wealth of his boss (Luke 16:1-15). His boss called him to fire him and instructed him to give an account of his management before he was removed from the position. The disloyal manager began to think, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg–I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ So, in accordance to his own cunningness, he called each of the debtors who owed to his boss and helped them each get a reduction on their debts. Obviously, he was trying to secure a better future once he realized that his present job position was not secure anymore. He was unlike the rich young man who, even though he knew that his wealth could not buy him eternity, persisted in pursuing his perishing wealth. This disloyal manager gave up all desire for mere wealth; rather, he used his present position to make more lasting friendships, in his own earthly way. The boss appreciated his wisdom. Even worldly people know that it is foolish to just live for the present moment or just for money, that it is foolish to not make plans for the future. When it comes to the matter of eternity, Jesus teaches us to not love, squander, or worship mammon, but use it wisely in order to have a place in eternity. In fact, bad management (wastage) of money is as wrong as hoarding up of money for covetous reasons (rendering it useless).
“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore, if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:10-11).
This begins with understanding that all wealth belongs to God and we are only stewards (wealth managers) of whatever is entrusted to us here on earth. Those who acknowledge God in all things and live a life free of covetousness and worldly worries will have a more fruitful life of discipleship. Their heart is free of “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things” (Mark 4:19). They do not idolize the world but use it properly- “those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (1Cor.7:31). They focus on doing good, and are rich in good deeds. They are generous and willing to share. In this way they “lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Tim.6:18-19).