The Spirit of Mammon

While cleaning out some old article drafts, I discovered one that was written in February 2008. I never published the article, but I thought it’s contents were as relevant today as they were the day I wrote them.

 

money worship

 

There are 2 subjects that garner much debate within the church – money and sex. Most folks want more of both, and others think both will drive to straight to hell. I don’t subscribe to the theory that the poorer you are, the holier you are. In fact, I agree with Deuteronomy 8:18 – God allows us to gain wealth so that we can be the blessings to the nations that He has ordained us to be (in proper context, Moses was admonishing the children of Israel to remember God as our eternal Benefactor). I don’t agree, however, that God wants us to be wealthy so that we can horde all of our riches and seek Him for more while ignoring the needs of others.

Paul DID NOT say that money was the root of all evil…he said:

1 Timothy 6:10 (New American Standard Bible)

For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Mammon is the personification of money worship and greedy pursuit. Money is simply a commodity of trade, but when it becomes an idol that is worshiped, coveted, and pursued with lust and desire, then it becomes mammon – and dangerous to anyone who possesses it. For centuries, the church – and specifically the black church – knew what to do with money. Our ancestors could squeeze a dollar until it hollered, and still have something left over to give to someone else.

But we began to subscribe to the “American dream” – the house with the white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and the Chevy in the driveway. We didn’t sway from the Word of God (per se), but we began to find comfort in seeking scriptures to justify our pursuit of material wealth – and we generally study those scriptures out of context. Thus, we invited the spirit of mammon into the church.

Again, there is nothing wrong with money – or material possessions. The problem is that we focus so much on “stuff” and take our eyes off of Him and His Kingdom, and then the spirit of mammon begins to have influence over our lives – even our worship. We praise God like we’re loosing our minds after we get the raise, but we moan and roll around on the alter when we’re not approved for the car loan. We go and lay hands on the house we want (because the “man of God” told us to do it), but we question God when we discover that our credit score is in the low 500’s.

The spirit of mammon fools you into thinking that you’ll walk in the same anointing as your “spiritual father” if you “sow” into his life. Of course, you want the Bentley, the large house, the jewelry, etc., so you believe the lie – when, in fact, all you’re doing is furnishing his opulent lifestyle.

The spirit of mammon would be rendered null and void if we didn’t feed it with our wanton greed. If we were passionate about the things of God vs. the stuff of the world, then that fowl spirit would die of hunger. As I’ve stated before – I like nice things, just like everybody else. I don’t, however, allow my desire for nice things to skew my vision – or my focus of advancing the Kingdom of God.

For many years, the story of the rich young ruler has been used in church to advocate the “poverty = holiness” lie, but if you explore the account in it’s entirety you’ll see what Jesus was really trying to say:

Matthew 19:16-30 (New American Standard Bible)

 16 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?”

17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

18 Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY; YOU SHALL NOT STEAL; YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS;

19 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?”

21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.

23 And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, t is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

24 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 God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?”

26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27 Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”

28 And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

29 “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.

30 “But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.

On its face, it appears as though Jesus was saying that rich people wouldn’t enter heaven. When you really explore the text, a more accurately analysis is that people who trust in their riches couldn’t enter heaven because they trust their wealth more than they trust their God. Theologians have suggested that since the disciples were businessmen before Jesus “drafted them”, they worried that they would suffer the same fate as the young ruler, but Jesus assured them that they’d regain anything they sacrificed for the advance of the Gospel.

Don’t allow the spirit of mammon to keep you from your eternal assignment. Enjoy the wealth that God has given you the ability to earn, but remember – it is a resource to help advance His Kingdom…it is not your primary source.

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3 Responses to “The Spirit of Mammon”


  1. 1 Pastor Jim July 8, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Well said. This gives me pause in many respects.

    As a pastor who should know/live better, money does entice me – a lot. Because it promises security outside of having to trust God. I KNOW Jesus recognized money as the most powerful idol to compete for God’s rightful place (‘…where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…. You can’t serve both God and Money.’) but often I toy with it. I want to be secure and blessed. Mammon tries to fool me into thinking I’m Superman and it ain’t kyptonite!

    I think your analysis of the ‘American Dream’ is worth underscoring too. So often the church – every kind and style – is too often lulled into thinking God is only a small part of the financial equation and that the American Dream is our paradise.

    The God of the Bible is not a god of part of your life.
    The American Dream is not heaven.
    O Church do not let false teachers sell us short on who God is and where He is taking us!
    He is Sovereign Owner of all Heaven and earth. And graciously gives us His resources for His plan!

    Okay, sorry, I got to preachin’ there….
    Maybe I need to hear the gospel again?

  2. 2 Uzza July 8, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    The more you give the more you shall receive. Seek heavenly treasures.

    To obtain wealth in this world, man must work. You work long hours to establish wealth, and in most cases must continue to work to maintian that standard of living that the world entices you into with riches. We’re going on a crusie this weekend, therefore I will miss gathering with the Saints and teaching my Sunday School class, oh! and next week, I will be going to a technology conference on a new pices of equipment that I am considering purchasing for My business. The wife and kids are going to New York for the weekend. Don’t worrry Pastor, I’ll put an extra $2,000 in the offering tray this week…………Man cannot serve two masters!

    What happened to let your moderation be known unto all men?(Philippians 4:5)

    God places us as stewarts over His riches because we have shown to be faithful in a few things therefore God blesses us to be responsible over many things (Matthew 25:21), because we recognize that we own nothing! We are slaves to The Master. We have learned to be content with much and to be content with little. We also recognize that we are in this world, but not of this world. The treasures we seek are heavenly and not earthly and therefore foolishness to man, for we know that God will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory. Now, what are some of His riches? Proverbs says that she is more precious than diamonds and rubies and all our desires cannot be compared unto her. She is Wisdom. Another of God’s riches is spelled out in Philippians 4. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. What better riches, than to have a peace that will guard your hears and your mind.
    How about Love? 1 Corinthians 13
    1If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,[b] but have not love, I gain nothing.
    4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    8Love never fails.

    In 1 Timothy 6:10 there are two states of being that Paul makes reference too: 1) Love of Money and 2) Longing for Money

    The world uses money as a commodity of trade. God uses money through His servants to gain His Glory!

    See, I believe that Paul was telling us that Loving money is a root of all sorts of evil. Then he goes on to say that longing for money has caused some to wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. Loving and Longing for Money. When you are loving money, you are already there, when you are longing, you are on your way towards loving money.

    I’m not sure that I agree with your analysis of Matthew 19:16-30.

    Your statement was; “On its face, it appears as though Jesus was saying that rich people wouldn’t enter heaven.” That is not exactly what the Scripture says. Jesus said that it is “hard” and in the next verse, Jesus expressed exactly how hard it is for a rich person. In 2009 there are a cloud of witnesses to the very statement that Jesus is making. It you look at the lifestyles, beliefs and attitudes of the rich and famous one can attest to the truth of Jesus words.

    Truth accredited to the Word of God, God will always make a way out, and in verse 26, Jesus provides the way for the rich, through God.

    Now I don’t see them as businessmen, nor do I see Jesus reassurring them a return of that which was lost, but assuring them of what they have found! Jesus assurred them that they would received more that they could hope for or imagine! Thrones in Heaven and eternal life!. God’s Word says in Matthew 10:39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. They were given treasures that are eternal.

    Therefore, I think Jesus was saying it is hard for a rich man because faith in Christ is required to complete verse 29 in this passage of Scirpture. A rich man who feels that he already knows how to and has accomplished accquiring earthly treasures, will be willing to let go of them based on a promise from God! They operate in tangibles. Now faith is the substance (treasures) of things hoped for and the evidence (tangibles) of things unseen. That is foolish to the Rich man!

  3. 3 Rachel July 14, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    A great post! If you look in God’s Word – He desires to bless His people physically as well as spiritually – many have gotten it into their head that riches is bad – period. (because they have listened to preachers instead of seeking God’s truth from the Holy Spirit through rightly dividing the Word.) Therefore their faith is inherenlty in a God of lack – and that isn’t who God is.

    God desires good things for His children – but as you said it can’t be about the stuff. In my own life, when we first started seeking God – He stripped us down in every way then started to build us back up in every way with Him as the center of our lives. When you let God do the building then you can enjoy the blessings for what they are – His gifts to you – and you don’t get attached by them. It is a great freedom to have but not be attached.

    Rachel


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