Mammon

Matthew 6:19-24

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
As any good Dave Ramsey-ite would be quick to tell you, there are few topics the biblical authors have more to say about than money. You can relax, I’m not asking you for any. Comprising some 2,000 plus odd references and 11 of Jesus’ 39 parables, you might be right to say that God thinks money is an important thing to talk about. Probably because it’s so dangerous. Not because it’s a sin to have or to make too much of it, nor is the opposite true. But because the more you have or the more you need, the more it occupies the thoughts of your mind and the affections of your heart, and the more easily it becomes your god. You may have heard, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

When the Bible talks about money, it usually means more than just money. It’s what is meant to be conveyed with the King James sounding word “mammon”. Mammon isn’t just money that you have or spend or need; it includes the broader. It may not be money at all, but whatever fills the blank for you in “When I just have ______, then I’ll know I’ll be okay.” It’s the picture you have in your head of what will bring you security and self-sufficiency, the treasure that you long for or that you store up for yourself.

But aren’t financial security and self-sufficiency good things? Shouldn’t we want that? Yes, they are, and we should, but it’s rarely bad things that we make into idols. It’s usually good things that tempt us to worship them instead of God. Mammon, though it may be good things, carries the tempting illusion a grandiose independence and self-sufficiency. It tries to convince us that we can be our own god; that we can take care of ourselves.

So the trouble isn’t in making money or saving for the future. The problem is when we put our trust in what we can earn or in what we’ve stored away. This is what God was teaching the Israelites fresh out of Egypt when he told them not to gather more than one day’s worth of mana except before the Sabbath (Exodus 16). Because if they picked up enough for tomorrow too, they wouldn’t have to trust that God would give them what they needed tomorrow. The mana was their mammon.

This is what God was teaching the kings of Israel when he commanded that they should not have many wives or keep many horses (Deuteronomy 17:16–17). Because for kings, many wives meant alliances with foreign powers and many horses meant chariots and cavalries. If they had military allies and mighty armies, they might fool themselves into thinking they didn’t need Yahweh to protect them.

This is what Jesus was teaching us when he says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.” Because no matter the growth of your 401k, no matter what promises the FDIC might offer, no matter how frugally you can keep a budget, moths and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal. Your mammon can’t save you, and it makes a lousy master anyway. But over all things Christ is Lord. Make him your treasure, give him your heart, fix your eyes on his light. You will be his people, and he will be your God.

Keep working to the glory of God, remembering that your earnings are not your own, but gifts of his grace. Keep enjoying the fruits of your labor, tasting and seeing that the Lord is good. Give generously and joyfully, for much you have been given. Keep balancing your budget, but do not be anxious about tomorrow. Keep saving for the future, but trust in God for your daily bread.

Reflect

  • How can you put your trust in God instead of in your own work and savings?
  • What does the lordship of Jesus mean for the way you handle money and plan for the future?

Pray

  • Read the next section of the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 6:25-34 and pray as you feel led.

and/or

  • Listen to the song linked below and pray through the lyrics.

My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love
At the cross

My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross

I rejoice in my Redeemer
Greatest Treasure,
Wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other.
My soul is satisfied in Him alone.

As summer flowers we fade and die
Fame, youth and beauty hurry by
But life eternal calls to us
At the cross

I will not boast in wealth or might
Or human wisdom's fleeting light
But I will boast in knowing Christ
At the cross

Two wonders here that I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed - my ransom paid
At the cross
Taylor Whitson, August 18, 2020
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