“Choose for Yourselves this Day whom You Will Serve.” Josh 24:15
The Bible clearly states that we are all ‘serving’ someone (or something). It may be our self-centred Self that we are serving, it may be our ambition/striving to succeed, it may be a vision we are pursuing (ours or God’s), it may be a pursuit of money, or we may serving in the same way as Jesus did. He declared : “I am come to do the will of Him who sent me.” (Jn.6 v 38)
Both Matthew and Luke report an astonishing statement from Jesus on serving:
“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.” Mtt 6:24 NKJV
Many Bible translations (KJV, AMP, ASV, RSV and others) use the original word ‘Mammon’ in this verse, as Jesus did, while others (incl. NIV, CEV, MSG, GNT) translate the word Mammon as ‘Money’ to make it easier for today’s readers. Mammon was actually the Aramaic name for the Philistine god of finance.
Why did Jesus use the name Mammon when he clearly identified his Father as being the only God?
Do you recall the first of the Ten Commandments? It says: “You shall have no other gods before me.” In reality no other gods exist, apart from our creator/father. However we create them in our minds and give them power when we choose to serve an alternative to the one true God. As I said before, by nature we are all created to serve someone or something.
Why did Jesus use the name Mammon if he knew it was the name for a god that didn’t exist?
The answer appears to be that Mammon does exist!
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph 6:12
If you check your Bible you will see that ‘Money’ is printed in many with a capital ‘M’ because translators today recognise that Jesus was actually contrasting the names of the two spiritual powers, God and Satan. Jesus is actually saying that there is a god of finance. He was called ‘Mammon’ by the people of the day but we would recognise his power came from ‘Satan’. When handling ‘money’ we need to recognise that Satan is attempting to capture a gift that God has given to us to use in His service.
What is the outcome for making Money one’s god?
“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” 1 Tim 6 v 9-10
Because of this many Christians choose to avoid dealing with money as much as possible, like the third servant in the Parable of the Bags of Gold, whom Christ castigated (Mtt 25:14-30).
But money is a gift of God to be used in His service when we use it correctly, like the first two servants in the parable, the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37), or the churches of Macedonia (2 Cor 8:2).
“So that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed”. 2 Cor 9:8
How to deal with money and materialistic desires is a subject that interests everyone - Christian and non-Christian equally. It is not an easy subject. There is good reason why the New Testament contains a whopping 2,084 verses dealing with stewardship and accountability for money, compared with only 215 verses about faith, and 218 about salvation!
Jesus concludes this teaching saying:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat and drink, or about your body, what you will wear …
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Mtt 6:25, 33
I used to think that ‘His kingdom’, and ‘His righteousness’, were two separate conditions that had to be met. I figured that the second would be much harder than the first. Then I read in the book of Romans that God had already given me the gift of ‘righteousness’ for free, when I accepted his free gift of salvation. When we choose Him, He clothes us in a robe of righteousness. (Is.61 v 10) “His righteousness” talks to me of my relationship with Him. “His kingdom” talks of God’s active presence throughout the world, in which we are a part. You cannot have one without the other. It’s a package deal! The important fact is, we are not to serve Money instead of God. We are not to worry about things such as food and clothing, but seek God’s kingdom & righteousness first. He will provide for us what we need because He loves us.
Too often we say we will serve God rather than Mammon, and then choose to do things our way and put ourselves first with no thought of God’s Kingdom and His righteousness. Jesus said there is no third alternative - there is God’s way and there is Mammon’s. Who are we serving?