The Rich and Mammon
This is the 2nd part to the series on "the rich."
When the rich young ruler was unable to release His wealth, Jesus said to His disciples:
“Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Not only did Jesus say it is hard, but reaffirmed his previous statement to say it is impossible for a rich man to enter His Kingdom. This would be the case since it’s impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. These are extremely powerful words by Jesus, which would also echo his words earlier:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or your will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money (mammon).
If one claims to follow Jesus, and yet lives a rich lifestyle, then that one is deceived and will not inherit the Kingdom.
To become rich affluently and materially is a false gospel. Rich charlatans re-interpret Scripture from the pulpits, particularly in the areas of tithing and giving (as mentioned in part 1), and thus overstep and ignore Jesus’ words. These behaviors justify a position to support self-preserving ministries; Of course, they scoff at those who question as being “judgmental”, because it threatens their salaries and way of life. This love affair with mammon is what Scripture calls greed.
One of the subtle ways the rich hide their mammon worship in America is, with “loving and good intentions,” give thousands and millions of dollars to charity to help the poor, but in return, receive recognition at banquets and in the media, compete with other high rollers in the honor-receiving pecking order, pull political strings to support their agendas, and then receive a hefty tax break from Uncle Sam on April 15th to get it all returned. What is the result? The rich actually get richer and rise in affluence as stated earlier.
The rich cannot possibly give out of their need with these behaviors of false humility and self-interest because then they would no longer be rich. The words of Jesus once again speak powerfully:
"Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watch the crowd putting their money into the temple treasure. Many rich threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all that she had to live on.”
We would be hard pressed to find a fundraising event where the smallest donors, having nothing beyond their basic survival needs of food, shelter and clothing, are honored for giving out of their abundance to help their fellow human who is also poor. When do we see these people honored at fundraising events? Virtually never. It doesn’t fit the box of Jesus. Instead, institutions serve the rich and they are honored for giving out of their wealth and mammon is glorified.
Wolfgang Simson states that our world needs “deliverance from the institutional lies of globalized greed.” This is in all areas of life; whether in government, business, church, personal economy, etc.
In Wolfgang’s Starfish 3.1-3.3 video series, he makes the following observations, transcribed and paraphrased here:
What is the world’s biggest and highest value system? It is the maximization of gain through competitiveness. “Make money and make lots of it,” shouts Mammon. The system of competition is driven to get the biggest and best share of the market. It does everything it can to maximize its label for membership, sales, respect and influence in the world for its consumers (consumerism and materialism). This is the “Babylonian” system of the world that functions in the kingdom of darkness (where the love of money = the root of evil).
What is biggest and highest value in Jesus’ Kingdom? Love (agape = unconditional). It is living by The Way of self-less, sacrificial service without any self-interest attached. This is the epitome of the Kingdom personified in Jesus Christ Himself.
Here’s the issue though. Many Christian’s build their lifestyle on the same materialistic, false securities that the world is built upon and they think they are “safe,” attempting to serve both God and mammon, and thus fall prey to what Jesus says in Mark 4:19, “the deceitfulness of riches.” The result is unfruitfulness (which may even profess a false appearance of being fruitful because of the abundance of money). This is like trying to mix oil and water.
Financial advisors will even tell the world how to be free and independent, living off the interest of wealth. This has nothing to do with the Kingdom of Jesus, a false freedom where anyone can do what they want with money, with whom they want, and if they want (within the boundaries of the governmental law of course, but those even further captivated by greed will find loopholes inside and outside the country for investments).
Instead, real freedom is a close, voluntary relationship with our liberator Jesus Christ, to be free to do as you should (obey what He says), not as you want. We are not free to do as we want because we are the King’s property. The King’s property includes the money He entrusts us with, intended to be used for His Purposes, and according to His Kingdom economic principles.
When people in the world look around themselves, they wake up and go to bed, and mainly worry about one thing, money…is there enough money? There are two, evil spirits driving this captivity of worry.
1) Fear of Loss (Will there be enough? Will I make it?)
2) Greed (More is always better, if I have $1 Mil what about $2 Mil?).
Do I work in such a way that I am paid well enough to be “comfortable” and have more? It will never be enough because the spirits of fear and greed, driven by Satan, deceives the carnal appetite into more, and many times at the expense of others (esp. the poor).
Mammon is like the finance minister of Satan, preaching a false gospel: if you have money and have a job, why do you need God? You can do what you want, go where you want to go, have life “your way.” Mammon says, “I shop, and therefore I am.” Satan will tell you that you have the power to acquire because you have money in your pocket and you will feel powerful going into the supermarket.
Ever thought of supermarkets as “temples” where people enter to become powerful in the religion of mammon?
The problem is, many so-called Christians, particularly those in the West, have aligned themselves with this system, and their message and behavior has become powerless for real Kingdom fruit. They rely on the same system of economics that the unbeliever is living in; a system of worshipping mammon, which is idolatry.
One may notice that those who want to “get rich” try and use God as their global financial servant. Who then is center? Not God, but themselves. God will not be mocked.
When will believers learn to be content with God’s provision, who meets our needs through work, and calls us to give from our abundance? If we already have everything we need in Christ, why do we feel the need to continue to aquire? If we seek His Kingdom first, the rest will be taken care of. Will we trust Him?
Here are two Scriptures to keep in mind:
1 Tim 6:6-10
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take
nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich
fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and
destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered
from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will
not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
Or, do we want the newest gadget, the latest fashion, the nice car (that does more than a reasonable quality car, to get us from point A to point B), and the mansions? Soon, they become status symbols for living out of our abundance. The desire for the better paycheck, bonus, and perk, in order to aquire more screams at our carnality, and then we find ourselves in misplaced contentment, false security, and desire for more significance. In this case, evil is worshipped and separation from God is certain.
In Reflections on the Sermon on the Mount: The Spirituality of Discontentment, Bong Manayon, a pastor in the Philippines states:
“The subtlety of mammon is that is come to us as something good, something essential to daily living as gifts from God. Early Christians were drawn to relics and art forms that were intended to remind them of God who provides security and significance. Once those relics [in and of themselves] met those needs, they turn into what we call “religious idolatry.” Practical things are then turned to for security and significance” rather than God Himself.”
Manayon continues, “Mammon is intrinsically insecure, unstable, and volatile, we will also reflect that instability if we serve it. So, the rich become appropriately paranoid and the lovesick becomes irrationally possessive.”
Instead, true believers find grace in Christ, to let go of the fear of loss and greed and learn to be content with the needs that God has promised to provide by trusting Him. Not trusting Jesus leads to paranoia and possessiveness, but trusting in Jesus gives us the freedom to let go of everything we fear to lose.
Choose this day, whom shall you serve?
If mammon is not the way to live, then what are the economic principles of Jesus’ Kingdom believers in Christ are to live by? Stay tuned for the next two articles on “Believers and Giving.”