As in the song "Lawyers In Love" we have a land, a nation with too many in high places willing to do anything for money neglecting people, honor and principle but a change is coming. No more falling for the lie of living only individualistic and independent lives leaving us divided and conquerable by powerful special interests but a people, a nation collaborating for the greater common good in various groups all across the nation. A land of people working together to help one another with a vision moreover as Jesus would have us be. Love, Mercy, Forgiveness, Kindness....something about another Land. The change is coming

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Money Or God......Must I Choose?

If we have more money than we need, imagine all the good we can accomplish when we share it with the have-nots. We can clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and offer a way out for fellow human beings caught in the poverty trap. Some people would argue that the lack of money, not just the love of money, is the root of all evil. Indeed, money makes the world go round.

A classic track from Pink Floyd’s 1973 bestselling album The Dark Side of the Moon is simply entitled “Money”. It reflects society’s obsession with money. We all live in a money hungry world. And if poets, songwriters, and artists are modern day prophets, then this song seems to be making a mockery of money. Yet as you listen to the tune, it is quite bright and cheery, perhaps expressing the illusion that money can buy happiness. No wonder this song was a hit and the album actually made Pink Floyd filthy rich rock stars back then.

Money, get away
get a good job with more pay and you’re O.K.
money, it’s a gas
grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
new car, caviar, four star daydream
think I’ll buy me a football team

Money, get back
I’m alright, Jack, keep your hands off my stack
money, it’s a hit
don’t give me that do goody good bulls***
I’m in the hi-fidelity first class travelling set
and I think I need a Lear jet

Money, it’s a crime
share it fairly but don’t take a slice of my pie
money, so they say
is the root of all evil today
but if you ask for a rise it’s no surprise that they’re
giving none away, away, away.

So money matters to everyone. If we have it, we can enjoy this life much better. If we have a lot of it, we can even lift the disadvantaged, the underprivileged, and the deprived above the squalor of mere subsistence.

This attitude presupposes that money is an object that we can produce and use. Jesus sees money differently when He says in Matthew 6:24 (NKJV), “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.”

Jesus calls money mammon, an Aramaic word that usually means “money” and also can mean “wealth.” Here Jesus personifies money and considers it a sort of god. However, neither the Jews nor Gentiles of His day knew a god by this name. In other words, Jesus did not use a pagan god to show that one must choose between the true God and a false god. Jesus gives this term a force and a precision that it did not have in its milieu. This personification and deification of money also means that it is something that claims divinity. What Jesus is revealing is that money is a power. This term is not to be understood as merely a “force,” but in the specific sense in which it is used in the New Testament.

Power is something that acts by itself. It has spiritual meaning and direction. Power is never neutral. Money as power orients, moves, and controls. Power is also personal. And just as death often appears in the Bible as a personal force, so here with money. We must not minimize the parallel Jesus draws between God and mammon. God as a person and mammon as a person find themselves in conflict.

When Jesus uses the word serve, He is talking about action, choice, and decision. Jesus describes the relation between us and God or mammon the same way: it is the relationship between servant and master. Mammon can be a master the same way God is; that is, mammon can be a personal master. What Jesus is saying is that when we are oriented, moved, and controlled by money, we are held as a slave – emotion, mind, and will – in the grip of a power from which we cannot deliver ourselves. The strange thing about accumulating money is that it makes us want more. Solomon, a wise and rich man, makes his case in Ecclesiastes 5:10-12, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.” Money is meaningless and yet we serve it.

Notice also Jesus says that we cannot serve God and mammon. What Jesus is saying is that these are absolutes. If mammon is controlling us, then we are really godless, even if we talk about God and talk to God all the time. The subtle danger here is that we are following a materialism that thinks it is godly! So the ultimate question is not “What do you confess?” but, “Whom do you serve?” It is either God or mammon, it cannot be both. Every Christian is either serving God or serving mammon. We are not doing both. We cannot do both, that is the point that Jesus makes. To love money, to be attached to it, is to hate God.

Love for money is not a lesser relationship. Jesus also says in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” It is not a curse to be rich as some may teach. In fact, material riches are often seen as God’s blessings in the Old Testament. God does not condemn the rich for being rich although He certainly hates false gain, wrong motives for getting rich, and the lack of compassionate generosity among the wealthy. So we must remember as we harmonize various perspectives on wealth from the Scriptures that at the end of the day, God is not after our money, bank accounts, check books, stock options, and assets. He is after the heart that writes the checks and manages the bank accounts. The rich young ruler in Mark 10 went away sad because he could not put Jesus first in his heart.

Ultimately, we follow what we love most intensely into both our earthly and eternal destiny. To love money is to be condemned to follow it in its eventual destruction. The Apostle Paul warns us in 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” This is not some popular morality. It is an accurate summary of the conflict Jesus is talking about. Insofar as the love of money is hatred for God, it certainly is a root of all the evils that accompany separation from God. The Apostle Paul stresses that those who are possessed and controlled by the love of money have lost the faith.

Our attachment to money pushes us with it headlong into pain, loss, and grief; instead of peace, joy, and wholeness. This warning applies both to the poor (who want to get rich) and the rich (who want to be richer). Be careful, or you will find yourself in the black hole of greed. Money can never satisfy those who love it, but instead, offers frivolous goods and anxiety. The struggle for wealth brings with it dissatisfaction, not a better life.

Do you ever notice that there is no cause and effect between well off and well being? In fact, the more we strive for money and success, the less likely we will be happy. So even if we gain more than we can ever spend, we still lose in the end. To live well is not the same as to be well off.

Therefore allegiance to God must penetrate our finances. What are we to do? We need money to buy and sell and to live. How do we maintain allegiance to God when we receive and have money which is mammon’s channel of power? You cannot serve God and money. But you can sometimes serve God better with money than without it.

Jacques Ellul in his book Money and Power suggests, “The ultimate expression of a Christian attitude toward the power of money is what we will call profanation. To profane money, like all other powers, is to take away its sacred character.” To profane money is to bring it back to its simple role as an object. Can you have $5 million in the bank and not love it? The answer is yes. And we do so by going directly against the law of money which says that one’s money is for one to grow it, increase it, and hoard it. The one act for which money is not created for is to give it away.

Again to quote Ellul, “Giving to God is the act of profanation par excellence. An object which belonged to a hostile power is torn from him in order to be turned over to the true God” (Deut 26:1-11). When we give money away, we profane it and declare that it has no power over us. In fact, the very words of Jesus to the rich young ruler – “You must give it all away” – are also meant for us.

Giving sets us free, while hoarding entraps us. Giving allows us to store up treasures in Heaven rather than here on the earth. Giving to God and to human needs proves that mammon has no hold on us when we realize that both the rich and the poor own nothing and we will all leave this world as bare as we came.

Someone said, “Riches, like leeches, can suck your soul dry and leave you bloodless.” Perhaps that is how mammon rewards its devotees. Money or God? I pray that every day I will choose wisely.

-Michael Tan

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