FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
SERVING GOD AND NOT MAMMON
November 10, 2012
Jesus warns us, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Lk 16:13c). God makes absolute demands on us (to love Him with our whole being), but money also is a demanding taskmaster. Many people are enslaved by money and riches, and would literally kill to have these. So Jesus tells us to choose. We cannot have both. “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Lk 16:13a-b).
But we do need money in life, and money is actually God’s provision for our material well-being. Money itself is neutral. It is our posture toward money that will either bless or destroy us. What then is the right posture toward money?
First, we are merely stewards of what belongs to God, including our money. Money is “what belongs to another” (Lk 16:12). As such, we need to be trustworthy with the money God entrusts to us. What does that mean? We use money for God’s purposes and not our own. Of course God’s purpose will also include our own material provision, as children He generously provides for, but we need to look to the needs of God’s work and the priorities of God’s Kingdom.
Second, we must not trust in money or wealth. Jesus talks of “dishonest wealth” (Lk 16:9). Literally this means “mammon of iniquity.” According to the NAB footnote: “Mammon is the Greek transliteration of a Hebrew or Aramaic word that is usually explained as meaning ‘that in which one trusts.’ The characterization of this wealth as dishonest expresses a tendency of wealth to lead one to dishonesty.” Again, people steal, cheat, fight, maneuver, deceive and even kill in order to have more money. As such, mammon stands in the way of our walking the path of Jesus.
Third, in order to assure that the desire for money does not take hold of us, we must trust in what God intends for us, whether sufficiency or great wealth, and not seek riches for its own sake. We must be content with having the basics of life, looking at more than that as already a bonus. Like Paul, we should be able to say: “I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, or living in abundance and of being in need.” (Phil 4:12).
Fourth, while recognizing the dangers of money, we do not keep away from it, but, as said above, we use money for the work of the Kingdom. Jesus says, “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth” (Lk 16:9a). The work of the Kingdom–salvation, helping the poor, promoting mission, building resources for evangelization–is what constitutes true wealth. If we are true stewards, and if we do not put our trust in money, then God can use us, and our money, for the work of His Kingdom. The converse of course is also true. “If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?” (Lk 16:11).
Fifth, as we use our (God’s) money not for ourselves but for others and for the work of the Kingdom, we must trust that we will never be deprived, that we will not need to do without. God will take care of our needs. “My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:19). The Master takes care of His servants and stewards.
Sixth, we must have faith that if we heed Jesus’ words, if we fear the Lord and greatly delight in His commands (Ps 112:1), if we can be trusted with money, then we will be blessed, including financially. “Wealth and riches shall be in their homes; their prosperity shall endure forever.” (Ps 112:3). God indeed will entrust us with money, both for our own personal needs and for the needs of the Kingdom, including lavishly giving to the poor (Ps 112:9a).
Seventh, when we share what we have with others, especially those in need, then we will have more rather than less. We have less money but more in the things that truly count. There is “profit that accrues to (our) account” (Phil 4:17b). We will be entrusted with true wealth (Lk 16:11b), that is, the work of the Kingdom. And ultimately we will possess the Kingdom itself, at the end of time, when we “will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” (Lk 16:9c).
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