Jesus concluded a lesson in Luke 16:1-13 with the categorical statement, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Mammon is a word that has roots in Aramaic and Latin and Greek languages and generally means what one trusts and is commonly considered one’s wealth. Jesus referred to “the mammon of unrighteousness” (v.9) indicating that it is possible to use one’s material wealth in wasteful, unrighteous living. He was not indicating that mammon, or wealth, was an unrighteous thing but that it could be used in such a way and it might even be a substitute in one’s life for God, i.e., money could become to any person a god that is worshipped rather than the living God who alone is worthy of worship.
Having read the admonition that Jesus leveled at His disciples, one’s mind naturally turns to the issue of money, its use and abuse and its place in the life of a believer who is instructed by the Lord to lay up treasures in heaven where “neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal.” (Matt. 6:20)
Thinking about mammon (wealth) for a moment, here are some tidbits that have surfaced that may introduce the subject of our attitude toward money:
“Christ is not against men making money, but against money making men.” Or, “It’s good to have money and the things money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.” (George Horace Lorimer)
Whereas those previous two statements are worthy of serious contemplation, note the fallacy of this maxim on money: “Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make proper use of the other five.”
So, having hopefully engaged your thinking on the subject of “The Believer and His Mammon,” please give consideration to the following Biblically based principles regarding money:
- Riches in and of themselves are not evil. Joseph of Arimathea who begged from Pilate the crucified corpse of our Christ was said of Matthew to be rich. Many of the Old Testament patriarchs and kings were wealthy; it was commonly thought by Jewish men and women of faith, based upon passages such as Deut. 28 and based upon life experiences that wealth was a sign of God’s favor;
- Riches are temporal and, as the wise King Solomon warned, they are apt to make themselves wings and fly away as an eagle to heaven. (Provs. 23:5) In 1923 it was said the seven most successful financiers in America met in Chicago and amongst themselves controlled more money than the United States had in its Treasury. But, a mere 25 years later, three of those men had committed suicide, two had died penniless, one had been released from Sing Sing prison, and the other had been sent home from the penitentiary because he was at the point of death;
- Riches cannot guarantee satisfaction. Read Ecclesiastes chapters one and two and note that King Solomon immersed himself into every luxury that could be experienced by the human senses, barring none, sparing no expenses for he had a limitless budget from which to draw and his conclusion was that though “whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them… (2:10) all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.” (2:11)
- Having riches is apt to make it harder for a person to get to heaven. Jesus said it so that no one need dispute it: “Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:24,25) A London newspaper offered a prize for the best definition of money. Here was the winner: “Money is an article which may be used as a universal passport to everywhere except heaven and as a universal provider for everything except happiness.”
- Using wealth wisely is a matter of being faithful. This was the point of a story Jesus told His disciples about an unwise and unfaithful steward who was called into account for his mismanagement of the owner’s business. Jesus applied this account when in verse 11 He asks His listeners “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:11) A child once visited his grandparents in Haiti and witnessed an elderly woman at a missions post who had walked miles for a meal turn around to share her food with a young girl. Mentioning this to his grandmother, the veteran missionary replied, “Son, the very poor are much more generous than the very rich.” That lesson never left the child who grew up to be a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus. Faithfulness in what we have, little or much, is what is required of us and using what He has entrusted to us in a generous, unselfish way is how a believer can be faithful even in the use of “unrighteous” mammon;
- Using mammon wisely here will pay off hereafter, Matt.6:19,20. Jesus said in His sermon on the mount that it is possible to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth or treasures in heaven. When we employ the “unrighteousness” mammon (wealth, money) that we have earned (not speaking of how we have earned it but that it is just mundane money used to pay bills and subsist in this unrighteous world where we receive “wages” of unrighteous mammon), we can either lay up treasures here on earth which will eventually be stolen or rotted with rust; or we can lay up treasures in heaven by the faithful and wise investment of that same money and in so doing lay up treasures which will never rust or rot. Did you ever see a $ on a tombstone? Probably not. Who wants to be eulogized for amassing money or for loving it? But you probably have read on many a tombstone “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness….” (Matt. 6:33)
- One cannot serve God and Mammon, Matt. 6:24. Jesus: “…for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.”
- Jesus exhorts us to “make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” (Luke 16:9) Simply said, Jesus is telling us to use money honestly earned here in getting the gospel out, sending missionaries, printing tracts, supporting His church so that people will get saved through the wise investment of this “unrighteous mammon,” knowing that when you fail (die) they, the people (friends) who got to heaven because of your wisely invested mammon in getting the gospel to them will receive you there as a “welcoming committee” as you experience your abundant entrance unto your eternal reward and abode.
In conclusion: “Labor not to be rich….” (Provs. 23:4) “Charge them that are rich in this world that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God.” (I Tim. 6:17)
“Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery, if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.” (Ps. 62:10)