One such major stronghold1 today, which is much more insidious and sinister than many known religions of the world, which in modern times has become more ubiquitous is the stronghold of money. Interestingly in Matthew 6, Jesus talks about worshipping money or Mammon as a major and only alternative to worshipping God.
This is a very interesting, serious and revealing statement. Talking about riding two horses, Jesus pits serving or worshipping God over against serving or worshipping money or Mammon. This suggests that possibly the only thing that could be a serious rival to God in the life of man, is Mammon.
I wonder, if Jesus was talking about our times. For I do not know of any other issue or of any other time in the history of man, that money held such universal sway over his life and activity as much as it does today. No doubt it started a few centuries earlier. No other issue or cause receives the same universal devotion and allegiance as money does. No other cause – neither religion, language, nationality, race – holds such widespread appeal as money. All other causes and issues divide but money makes us one in our seeking of it. In fact we do not see it as a rival for God instead many see in it an opportunity to serve God, including many Christians! Certainly it can be used to serve God but often it becomes god in itself and demands our time and effort more than we give to God.
As God promises, money also promises us everything we need, especially our most basic needs of sustenance, security and identity. In today’s world more than ever before in our history as humans, it has become possible to meet almost all our needs and more with money. For all practical purposes, it appears that you just cannot do anything without money these days. A statement which is similar to what Jesus said, “You can do nothing without me”. On the other hand money seems to be an omnipresent and omnipotent force all around us, almost in supernatural and divine proportions.
Is it any wonder then that so many pay allegiance to it every day, at least for 10-12 hours of the best part of the day in seeking it. It is no wonder then, that just as there are temples for gods and goddesses at every street corner and in every neighbourhood, there are temples of Mammon everywhere, not just in the form of financial institutions (banks) but also as shop-fronts, businesses and money-making corporations. These temples are more widespread, ubiquitous yet unobtrusive and appear to be less sinister than the shrines and temples to gods and goddesses. We actually see them as necessary and convenient.
All other causes, issues, vices and even spiritual strongholds need to be sustained with money. But money itself feeds upon our need for security and identity therefore we do not see it as a stronghold. In fact money keeps our need for identity and security alive and burning stronger and stronger, so that we strive and seek for it more. There is possibly a symbiosis between money and our needs.
Richard Foster writes, “When Jesus uses the Aramaic term Mammon to refer to wealth, he is giving it a personal and spiritual character… he is personifying mammon as a rival God… Mammon is a power it seeks to dominate us.” He writes that money has the ability to inspire devotion and that it has spiritual power to win our hearts and seek our allegiance. “These strange facts make sense only as we come to understand the spiritual reality of money. Behind money are invisible spiritual powers, powers that are seductive and deceptive, powers that demand an all-embracing devotion.”
Today in many contexts it appears that churches and ministries seem to be thinking that money is essential for ministry. A sentiment which neither our Lord nor any of the 12 apostles would support. I believe, unless we show to the world that we DO NOT depend upon money by demonstrating that ministry or mission cannot be done by money alone, I wonder if our message carries any weight. We undercut our own authority when we think that Christ and money are necessary for missions. As I wrote earlier in a different context, “When has mammon become necessary for the building of the Kingdom of God?” Unless we come up with simpler and smaller ways of doing God’s work, we would be unwitting instruments in the hands of the enemy of our God2.
We must also remember that many things that we consider as essential or necessary are not necessarily so. St. August wrote in his ‘Confessions’, “Because my will was perverse it changed to lust. Lust yielded to became a habit. Habit not restrained became a necessity”. So possibly, many things that we think are necessary have their roots in a perverse will.
If you are one of those who thinks that you cannot live without money and that you are spending a major part of your life to acquiring it or you think that church, mission and ministry cannot be done without money, I think you are already sold out to Mammon! And whosoever you might claim to be, your position would be no different from that of Simon Magus in Acts 8. You have no part in the Kingdom of God. Unless you repent and repudiate the power of Mammon in your life, you will end up in the same place where Mammon is destined to. I would say, unless you go and sell all that you have and come and follow Christ, there is no hope for you, my friend!
1. This is part of a larger article on Spiritual Strongholds.