“No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon”. – Matthew 6:24
You cannot serve God And wealth (Mammon). Commanding us, not to be anxious for our food, drink, clothing or future, Christ asks us to trust God. The Gospel tells us that our lives are more than material things and that God cares for us.The word mammon comes from a word in Aramaic which simply means wealth or profit. Mammon was not the name of a deity in antiquity. Actually what we know about mammon is what Jesus told us about it. Jesus uses the name to denote a master of the heart of man, when that heart is consumed by self-interest and pride.
This is what makes his teaching so difficult for us today. We are part of society in which greed is covertly considered a good thing. No body says so too loudly but everyone knows it’s true. To a large extent capitalism is based upon the principle of self interest. As an economy model I do not know any other that surpasses capitalism. There is a danger when capitalism becomes the basis for the spiritual life, when self-interest is not only a necessary principle for free market but the foundation upon which our hearts are built. We derive our sense of identity and mission and value; the law of our personal, communal and spiritual life is founded on money. Economical success becomes equivalent in our minds to the blessing of the kingdom of God. Our sense of security derives from our wealth and not from our God. Then the leaven of greed leavens the whole lump; then the love of money rules over the use of money; then our trust is in money instead of God.
And that may be a very subtle virus. Wealth is very tricky. It seldom presents its ugly face directly unless taken by surprise. It has a very persuasive voice that easily appeals to our deepest yearnings. It promises pleasure, comfort, security, worldly glory, happiness and even goodness and blessing. It lures us to trust in it for our future, to justify our hardness of heart to others with all sorts of rationalizations. It promises all this if only we give it our unconditional allegiance by pursuing our own self-interest first in all we do, while we stop caring for our neighbors as ourselves and God above all things.
Money is the lord of self-interest, profit and wealth. And we say what is wrong with that? Every normal human being must have a degree of healthy self-interest and learn to fend for himself, pursue profit and wealth as much as he/she can. Yes, that is true. But there is a problem. Self-interest, profit and wealth are not the purpose God created us for. We were not made to serve things or ourselves. We were created to serve God, and self-interest, profit and wealth must be crucified with Christ – that is, brought to the service of God and not vice versa.
When how much we get defines how much our life is worth; when making money, because of its potential to satisfy our temporal needs, becomes the predominant purpose and preoccupation of our lives, we have fallen victims of slavery to money. The sad thing is that this may happen to us while we are not aware. As the Lord said: ‘Take heed, and keep yourselves from all covetousness’: We must take heed because there are many aspects of our lives that may be and have been under the influence of money for a long time.
Money forces us to worry trying to answer all questions regarding food, clothing, future, until we secure enough money when we won’t have to worry about anything, anymore. Worrying is exactly the opposite of that which the Lord tells us. The Lord clearly says ‘be not anxious about these things’. And that we cannot serve two Masters. So let us be honest with ourselves: Are we not anxious about these things? We often think that the only way for us to stop being anxious about such things is by working hard to secure a big stock of all of them, and then we can say to our soul, like the foolish rich man of the parable, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry – Luke 12:19. But that night, God told him: ‘You foolish one, this night is your soul required of you; and the things which you has prepared, for whom shall they be?’ Luke 12:20
Money is important and we need to have enough of it in our lives. However, there is another way to live responsible lives upon this world. We should pursue lives of stewardship instead of slavery. It is called the way of the cross, the way of faith, the way of love, trust and thanksgiving. It means learning that our lives are not defined by what we have, but by what we do with what we have in the service of Christ. It means learning to be content with whatever the Lord has in store for us good or bad. Learning to be good stewards of all God puts in our hands little or much. Working hard while trusting God in his plan for our future, both in the abundance as with the scarcity, caring for our neighbor as ourselves, putting our gifts in Gods service, not only to help ourselves but caring also for others.
The truth is that a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses – Luke 12:15. Life is more than clothing, eating, drinking and money. Wealth is not the greatest good. It is just a tool and as all tools it should be in our hands and not in our hearts. Wealth is not the greatest rest, it is not the greatest happiness. It is not the ultimate blessing or the unconditional sign that God is with us.
There is a richness, of which wealth knows nothing. It is the richness of the abundance of faith, and charity and compassion and love and peace. It is the blessedness of a heart filled to overflowing with the grace and goodness of the Lord. Such a heart can be deprived of all the benefits of this world and is still content, because of the greatest riches of the spirit, which cannot be taken away, which remain for ever. And this is where a catastrophe like the Tsunami, Katrina and Earthquake may come to help us. It gives us and opportunity to examine our priorities, to see where the treasure of our heart really is. Which Master are we pursuing? In which God do we trust? Is it God or wealth/mammon?
All the evil related to the human side of wars, catastrophe, problems within churches and parishes can be traced to the demon of self-interest, and egotism. The principles that govern God’s people according to his righteousness are directly opposite to the demon of wealth. Wealth cares for things over people. God cares for people over things. Wealth cares for comfort over kindness, while God for mercy over affluence. Wealth cares only for self. God cares for self and neighbor. Mammon cares for money. God cares for stewardship. Mammon loves temporal glory. God cares for eternal glory. Mammon cares for appearances but God cares for truth.
Our church has run into trouble because it has ignored the teaching of Christ. Whenever the righteousness of the kingdom has been compromised by worldly interest and temporal glory the Church of God has suffered loss. We have abandoned his true worship. Our church is in the forefront when it comes to charity but we are still at war with our neighbours. The elder generation might tell us that we do not understand the sentiments attached to all the faction fights that go in the Church. True peace and love can never be restored when the Gospel is compromised…however high the stakes.
‘Seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.’ No one can serve two masters. We must chose between the justice of the kingdom or the service of mammon. We cannot serve self interest first and the kingdom of God at the same time. All of us are charitable by nature and we do a wonderful job but let me take this opportunity to make a humble request to my young brothers and sister who have jobs. Please GIVE openly and freely. Never has anybody in history become a pauper because of his/her charity. God loves a cheerful giver. This is a time to examine ourselves and reassess our priorities, to order them according to the values of the kingdom. Let us renew our vows and commit our whole lives to the honor and service of God and his kingdom.