Money, Part 1: God and Mammon
Luke 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Most of us misread this scripture. Many of us are so familiar with it, and haven’t yet let this word have its deepest work in us, that we kind of tune out when we hear or read it. We “understand” that this word from Jesus means that we have to decide (either once for all or continually) if we are going to follow God or follow riches.
Clearly that’s a challenge for all of us, and one of which we need to be continually aware. The siren call of wealth (or even trying to guarantee a certain financial picture) is alluring and full of traps (see tomorrow’s entry). But since we all know that chasing money is really idolatry, and that serving God means seeking His kingdom first (before riches), we feel as if we understand this word—even if it’s tremendously challenging.
But Jesus didn’t say we have to choose between God and mammon in these verses, though He clearly wants us to. What He said was that we could not serve God and money at the same time—that is, we are not able to. Otherwise, we will either hate the one and love the other, or be loyal to the one and despise the other. The true challenge to Christians of our age (and of our culture) is that so many of us are trying to serve both God and mammon at the same time. And Jesus says that can’t be done. If we think we can do it in balance, we’re just kidding ourselves.
How many of us want both God and money? Most of us, of course. That’s not the issue. The issue is who is going to be master. God knows we need money, and when used under His guidance and according to His provision, it’s a great thing. When we put mammon first and try to fit God in wherever we think we can, then things are out of whack. In fact, if we do that, this word tells us that we are “hating” and “despising” the Lord. This is something most Christians don’t feel emotionally and are not convicted about and therefore are sure they are not doing. But if love is a choice and not an emotion (which many of us have learned), then so is hating and despising. We are repulsed by the thought, but that’s how bad making mammon our master is.
It’s been attributed to several people, but a godly observation is that “Money makes a great servant but a terrible master.” That’s simply an observation of what Jesus is talking about. We simply have to deny the incessant wisely. Since He’s given us all things richly to enjoy (I Timothy 6:17), He wants us to enjoy money and its benefits that come as we put Him first.
He isn’t telling us in Luke to make the choice, and it should be Him. He is saying that it’s impossible to choose to follow both the call of money and the call of God at the same time. Facing that truth shatters illusions of thinking we can balance the two calls, and tells us plainly that one call will win out. Which will it be?
Prayer: Lord, it’s been easy to try and balance the two calls in my life. Forgive me for doing that, and help me to see the folly of it. I confess that I need to trust You at a much deeper level than I thought.