Mammon is the false god of money and materialism. Since I have spent considerable time in the chains of this tyrant and have come to know him well, I thought a review of just what this liar demands from us might help open the eyes of others who are not yet totally enslaved.
What Does Mammon Require From You?
- Your youth
- Your prime years
- Your old age
- The best hours of your day
- Your relationships
- Your faith and trust
- Your contentedness and peace of mind
Mammon Requires Your Youth
When we are young, our hearts are open. Simple things bring great pleasure and enjoyment – ice cream, soap bubbles, butterflies, playing in the snow. As we age, our attention turns from simple things and we begin to focus on what we don’t have – just like in the Garden. Our innocence is gradually lost as our hearts are drawn away from God and his generosity. We are bombarded from an early age with images and enticements for toys and baubles. In my day it was the Sears “Wish Book” and toys in cereal boxes – now it’s a 24/7 barrage of commercialization aimed at children 365 days a year. Once we reach school age, the power of peer pressure kicks in as we begin to compare what we have to what other children have, and find ourselves lacking. Covetousness establishes a foothold in our hearts as Mammon begins his indoctrination process.
Mammon Requires Your Young Adulthood
After a decade or so of this conditioning, we are ready for the next stage of our training. Covetousness has established a strong desire for the things we don’t have, but how are we going to get those things? The path that is laid out for us by society is labelled “Education”. Education, in the modern sense, is a euphemism for the process of preparing yourself to make money. Of course, we are told that the money we make is not an end in itself, but only a means to buy the things that we “need” (it’s still not socially acceptable to openly covet, so we call the things we want “needs”). Long gone from American society is the concept that the purpose of education is to improve the mind, or to learn more about the things you love, or to prepare yourself for a life of service to others. And so we embark on the journey of Education: the goal of our junior high years is to get us ready for college-prep classes in high school…our high school years are focused on getting good grades in those college-prep classes, scoring well above average on the college entrance exams, and participating in lots of extracurricular activities to make our college applications look more impressive to the admissions office. If we’re really gifted and work really hard, maybe we’ll even get a scholarship! (You can think of a college scholarship as a discount in Mammon’s club membership fees.) Once we get that coveted spot in college, Mammon is kind enough to allow us to decide for ourselves which area of specialization we will be trained in – you see, Mammon does not care what you do, as long as he is the reason you do it (he is very gracious in that regard).
The college experience then becomes the capstone of our training program as acolytes in Mammon’s service. That GPA needs to be as high as possible in order to make the best impression you can on those job applications, so the pressure is on. Your focus is on study and grades, but at the same time your funds are limited, so you feel the pinch of what you don’t have even more acutely. This sharpens your hunger all the more, so when you finally get that degree and that first job, the desire to indulge in all the material things you have worked for so long is irresistible…
Mammon Requires Your Prime Years
Now that those paychecks are rolling in, Mammon opens up his cornucopia of wares…the challenge becomes not how to get the money to buy what we want, but how to limit our appetites to buy only what we can afford. The details of this passage of life vary from one person to the next, but the overarching plot goes something like this…job, car payment, apartment, smartphone, utilities, student loan payment, falling in love, getting married, having children, buying a house, buying a bigger car, etc. At each step of the way, the temptation is powerful to buy a little more than you can actually afford, since credit is always available for those who have a steady job. So the issue becomes not “do I have the money to buy this?” but rather “can I afford the monthly payment?”. One by one, the monthly payments add up and combine with occasional unforeseen expenses to create a monthly shortfall now and then, so a credit card comes in handy.
About five years in to your 30-year mortgage, with car payments and a monthly credit card bill, you realize that you are trapped. You can not get out even if you wanted to… but of course you don’t want to, because you like your job and you enjoy having your own house and driving decent cars and buying nice things for your kids, etc. After all, isn’t this what everybody does? But, realizing that this debt thing might be getting a little out of control, you start looking at some options to help you “get ahead”. Maybe you could work some overtime – a couple hours a day at time-and-a-half could really add up, you know. Or maybe you could go back to school in the evenings to get your masters, and that would probably get you a promotion and a raise. Or, maybe you could put the kids in daycare so the wife could go to work – she’s not getting any use out of her degree now, is she?
Once you start seeing your time as something to be bartered away, and your spouse as a potential source of more income, and your children as burdens to be managed instead of blessings to be treasured, you have crossed a line. You are now fully enslaved.
Mammon Requires The Best Hours of Your Day
Alarm goes off at 6:45, hit the shower, eat a quick bite, jump in the car and get to work by 8:00 if the traffic’s not too bad. Work in your cubicle all day with a half-hour lunch at noon, back in the car around 4:30 for the 40-minute drive home. In the door about 5:15 with “Hi, honey – I’m home!” Let’s see – that’s 10 and a half hours that I’ve devoted to Mammon worship today. Relax a little before supper, eat, talk to the kids and the wife, read the paper, cut the grass, maybe watch a movie or a ballgame, then hit the sack. Let’s see – that’s about 5 and a half hours spent on my “real” life. That means out of 16 waking hours, Mammon got 10.5, or about 65 percent. And tomorrow, I’ll get up and do it again. And again the next day. And the next, and the next. But wait! There’s always the weekend! That’s right, let’s not be too hard on Mammon – not only do we get our evening hours to spend with our families, but we get ALL DAY Saturday to spend with them doing whatever we want! And not only that, but we get our Sunday SABBATH to spend with our Lord! (or at least a couple hours in the morning – before the football game comes on.) So you see, Mammon is very considerate of our needs, and even allows us to worship other gods – as long as we don’t get too fanatical about it.
Mammon Requires Our Relationships
Once we’re enslaved, Mammon begins to change the way we view the relationships we have with other people. You see, for the Mammon worshiper, everything has a price associated with it – even people. So instead of seeing the other person’s needs and asking ourselves “How can I help?”, we ask ourselves “What will it cost me?”. Every relationship becomes a trade-off, or an investment. Time is the currency, but money is the ultimate measure of the cost.
I mentioned earlier how, in our devotion to making more money or having more things, we can start to view our children as burdens. This may be because we see their care and provision as being too expensive; or because we see the time required to properly care for them and train them as preventing us from doing something more worthwhile – like getting a job. Either way, Mammon has robbed us of precious relationships with our children by transforming those relationships into cold calculations of cost and return on investment.
It works the same way with our friends and neighbors. Relationships that should be fruitful, based on meeting one another’s needs out of a genuine concern and caring, become transformed by Mammon into transactions. “I’ll help him out with his car so that he’ll owe me a favor in return.” Or “I could help her out with a meal since her kids are sick, but who has time for that?” Your relationship to Mammon transforms every other relationship.
Mammon Requires Our Faith & Trust
Once we become so heavily invested in Mammon worship, it becomes really difficult to disengage. As the years go by, we want to see our investments pay off – literally and figuratively. We continue to place our trust in our own ability to earn a living and provide the things that we need – but it’s not really us that we’re trusting, it’s the systems of the world that we have bought into. It’s the credit system and the banking system and the Education system and the government’s social safety net. It’s the corporate system that employs you and provides you with health insurance and life insurance and reimbursement for even more education and a 401K plan for your retirement. Your faith in these systems is rock-solid, and so you double-down on your investment – you train your children to follow the same path. What other choice is there? Mammon has kept his promises so far…
Mammon Requires Your Peace & Contentment
But what has been the cost? Have you found peace – true peace – in this way of living? Has your pursuit of Mammon brought you any lasting contentment? If we do have a surplus of stuff, then we worry about maintaining it and preserving it and investing it and protecting its value. If we don’t have enough, we must constantly worry about getting more so there will be enough. But the truth is, with Mammon, there is never enough.
Mammon Requires Your Golden Years
As you approach that promised land of retirement, are you at peace? Or are there some little nagging doubts in the back of your mind? “Maybe I should have spent more time with the kids…maybe we shouldn’t have moved around so much…maybe we should have stopped to smell the roses…” Was there another way to live, a path not taken? Are you worried about the possibility of medical expenses or a nursing home stealing away your life savings? Or a stock market crash wiping out your security? Will the Social Security and Medicare systems still be there when I need them? Perhaps the most hurtful realization of all is when we’re old enough to retire from the pursuit of Mammon, we may be too old to physically do the things we always wanted to do with that free time we never had enough of. We will find, in retirement, that our best years are gone.
God & Money
words & music by Jill Phillips
Here’s a video of a live performance of this song by Jill and her husband Andy Gullahorn
No one serves both God and money
We all know because we’ve tried
We’ve dressed up nice and poured on lots of perfume
To cover up the death on the inside
No one serves both God and money
Cause they’re both wanting the same thing
Only one can have your full attention
And the heart and mind and soul that you will bring
No one serves both God and money
They are like the East and West
You’re either facing one or facing the other
So you decide which one you love the best
You decide which one you love the best
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
– Matthew 6:24
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
– Matthew 13:44-46
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
– Matthew 16:26
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
– Matthew 4:18-22
Like the song says – you decide which one you love the best.