Dt. 15:11 π Dt. 18:15-18 π Mt. 6:19-21 π Mt. 6:31-33 π Mt. 6:33 π Mt. 7:23 π Mt. 26:7-10 π Mk. 6:41 π Lk. 9:23-25 π Lk. 12:15-21 π Jn. 6:9 π Jn. 6:14 π Jn. 6:28-29 π Jn. 12:8 π Acts 2:44 π 1 Cor. 7:17 π 1 Cor. 7:20-24 π 1 Cor. 10:24 π Eph. 5:27 π Phlp. 2:4 π Phlp. 4:11-12 π 1 Ths. 4:11-12 π 2 Ths. 3:6-15 π 1 Tim. 6:6-10 π 1 Tim. 6:9-14 π Jas. 2:1-10 π 1 Jn. 1:9
Because of man’s fallen nature, he has a virtually unshakable allegiance to social standards that are based, not on a divine perspective nor even on valuing honest work, but on the belief that real achievement consists in imitating and emulating the wealthy leisure class, those individuals who visibly proclaim their “superior” status by ostentatious display and even waste of their resources (money, possessions and time). This fleshly allegiance competes with the way of Christ.
With the exception of the instinct of self-preservation, the propensity for [inclination toward] emulation [competitive, rivalrous imitation] is probably the strongest and most alert and persistent of the economic motives...
The accepted standard of expenditure in the community or in the class to which a person belongs largely determines what his standard of living will be... To accept and practice the standard of living which is in vogue is both agreeable and expedient, commonly to the point of being indispensable to personal comfort and to success in life. The standard of living of any class...is commonly as high as the earning capacity of the class will permit - with a constant tendency to go higher. The effect upon the serious activities of men is therefore to direct them with great singleness of purpose to the largest possible acquisition of wealth, and to discountenance [disdain, look down upon with disapproval] work that brings no pecuniary [monetary, financial] gain. (Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class, Macmillan, 1899, p. 85,86)
This big-worded insight into economic theory offers a way to recognize and be set free of the deceptions the ruler of misusing wealth (the spirit of mammon, riches, wealth) has inflicted upon our culture and the world. Again, the method of this spirit is deception, not coercive force whereby the spirit enters our soul and forces us to pursue material comforts and securities. The goal is to cause us to love, pursue or misuse wealth at the expense of our relationship with God.
Let’s begin with remembering what the work is which the Lord requires of His true followers. The people Jesus had fed with the five barley loaves and two fishes and who recognized Him as the Mosaic Prophet (see Jn. 6:9 , 14 ; compare Dt. 18:15-18; top ) asked Jesus,
“What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” ( Jn. 6:28-29; top )
His answer exposes the opposing natures of God and mammon. Believing in Christ - an inner, spiritual activity - produces no outward monetary gain and demonstrates no financial superiority. In fact, in many cases it means monetary loss and material deprivation, especially of luxuries and comforts.
Jesus further instructed His followers, in relation to what to eat, drink and wear (the things after which the Gentiles seek) to
...seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. ( Mt. 6:31-33; top )
Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us,
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. ( 1 Tim. 6:6-10; top )
Though many misguided individuals have taken up well-paid positions of purported “leadership” in “Christian” circles, and the modern notion of doing the work of God is very different from Jesus’ definition, the truth is that the work of God has nothing to do with acquiring wealth or gaining pecuniary advantage. Rather it is more often about giving away wealth and advantage.
The one who is intent on gaining wealth or achieving financial success in the eyes of himself or his neighbors or his peers is not seeking first God’s kingdom or His righteousness. In fact, his desire to enjoy wealth is in direct opposition to Christ’s command to deny one’s self and forsake the world. ( Lk. 9:23-25 ) Whereas Christ expects us to pour out our treasures on Him ( Mt. 26:7-10; top ), the ruler of misusing wealth’s strategy revolves around stirring up the love of money that drowns out our love for God - either through waste or misuse of wealth or through excessive pursuit of it. Thus, the world and all its participants look down with disapproval on one who refuses to use all his energies to “get ahead” and the one who desires to give his all to attain to the high call of Christ also gains the direct enmity of the spirit of mammon.
The key words the ruler of misusing wealth uses to manipulate the beliefs of men is “enough” and “more.” Especially in our excessively affluent culture, the definition of the word “enough” has suffered many revisions. One “Christian” employer employs a number of people, paying them well (double or more than the so-called poverty level) - but he calls this “supporting” his employees and their families. Another employer underpays and exploits the staff and dismisses them as lazy and unwilling to work - and then wonders why no one will stay on to work there! Both of these employers are victims of mammon’s deceptions regarding how much is enough.
Our standard as followers in Christ is to be sufficient for today. If we have food, clothing and shelter for today, then all that is left for us to do is to exercise our godliness and contentment. God is very capable of supplying all of our needs even when we cannot see where that supply will come from. As we actively seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, we will have all the basic necessities of life supplied to us by God ( Mt. 6:33 ) - either through diligent work done in obedience to God’s leading ( 1 Ths. 4:11-12 ; 2 Ths. 3:6-15 ), through mutual sharing within the body of Christ ( Acts 2:44 ) or, if necessary, through miraculous provision. ( Mk. 6:41; top )
In our modern affluent culture, however, “enough” now includes that ostentatious display and even waste that keeps us comparable to our neighbors and peers on the endless treadmill of emulation of the wealthy leisure class. We must have our own well-built home decked out with all the modern luxuries (electric lights, running water, two-car garage, etc.) or something is perceived to be “wrong” with our relationship with God. In actuality, the opposite is true. If we believe we have to have all those comforts and luxuries to live, something is truly wrong with our relationship with God because we are not walking in the light of truth and reality. We must learn to be content with God’s definition of enough or we are a victim of the spirit of mammon’s deceptions. (see Phlp. 4:11-12; top )
“More” is a word that can be like a black hole in space. It is an ambiguous, relative term that can never be achieved. No matter how much you have you can still get more - even though you really cannot get more because what you have and what you are getting right now will not be more - there is still more to get! This is why those who live to get “more” can never be satisfied. As a goal in life it is unattainable and any goal that we substitute for obeying Christ may yet bring us out from under His grace and make us eligible again for destruction. The only more we may safely pursue is more of Him - and even that must be attained to on His terms, His timetable and His schedule.
The question of whether one is misusing wealth in God’s eyes is not really a question of how much one has. Indeed, some of the worst mis-users of wealth are the poorest of the poor as they sacrifice all their time, energy and even their family to obtain some otherwise useless symbol of status and prestige. The question is not “How much?” or “How little?” but rather “How is it used?” The only time “How much?” becomes a factor in our spiritual lives is when we become victims of mammon’s deceptions. When we buy into mammon’s re-definitions of “enough” or fall into the trap of pursuing “more” and fail to recognize what incredible abundance we actually have - a deception very effective against people who look only at their current cash on hand or at the upper layers of the leisure class to measure their wealthiness - the wealth we have been given and misused upon ourselves (precisely because we have failed to see ourselves as wealthy) will be a factor in God’s judgments against us. Indeed, one of mammon’s most effective deceptions is to cause us to say to ourselves, “I’m not rich. I can barely take care of myself, let alone help anyone else!”
Jesus taught about the foolishness of wasting one’s resources on one’s self. He said:
“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” ( Lk. 12:15-21; top )
The rich man had numerous options available to him. What wouldn’t fit in his old barns could have been shared with the poor who live everywhere and in every time. ( Dt. 15:11; Jn. 12:8; top ) He could have even used his new barns to feed others instead of just himself. Either of these would have laid up at least some treasure with God. Instead the rich man considered his comforts of more importance than the needs of others around him. He “needed” his new barns more than some around him needed houses and food. This man died in his selfishness and then he had no say whatsoever in who got his goods. He had stored away his fortune but another would benefit by it and he had no reward in heaven either.
This is why Paul also writes,
Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. ( 1 Cor. 10:24; top )
Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. ( Phlp. 2:4; top )
The one who hoards his resources to himself and strives to gain more at the expense of others is a foolish man who has exchanged godliness with contentment for the pursuit of the beggarly elements of this dying world! Let he who has ears hear.
Paul gives us another glimpse of the contentment we should walk in as followers of Christ when he writes:
But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the ekklesias. Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, let each one remain with God in that calling in which he was called. ( 1 Cor. 7:17 , 20-24; top )
This is directly antithetical to man’s fleshly tendency to attain ever higher on the corporate, financial and material scales. And it also brings up a question every believer in Christ should ask of himself: “What calling was I in when the Lord called me? Am I still in that calling? Have I been faithful to His calling on my life? Or have I left His calling behind so that I could pursue some agenda of my own?” If we find we must honestly answer that last question with a yes, we are risking having Jesus say to us on the last day, “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness. You followed your own agenda - doing what was right in your own eyes - not Mine. Reap your own rewards for I cannot give you Mine.” (see Mt. 7:23; top )
Whether we have fallen under the control of the ruler of misusing wealth (mammon) because of our greed (pursuit of more for me and mine) or a misplaced desire for security (trusting in our possessions rather than in the provision of God), the way out is the same: we must cease pursuing wealth and, instead, pursue God.
But you, O man of God, flee [the destructive consequences of desiring to be rich] and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing... ( 1 Tim. 6:9-14; top )
Let us note that this command is to be scrupulously (not sporadically, haphazardly or occasionally) adhered to by all (not some) who would be the mature, spotless bride for whom Christ will return. (seeEph. 5:27; top )
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ( Mt. 6:19-21; top )
If we would but heed these two passages, the spirit of mammon would have little effect on us. Yet the New Testament has much more to say in this regard. James wrote,
My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. ( Jas. 2:1-10; top )
Practicing partiality - and emulation and imitation of the wealthy is a form of partiality - can bring us back under the curse that comes from violating God’s laws. This is the paradox that true believers face where law is concerned: If we try to live by obeying law (and not by the Spirit of God), we put ourselves back under the curse of the law. If we break one of God’s laws, we also come back under the curse of the law until we openly confess our sins to God and receive His cleansing from all unrighteousness. ( 1 Jn. 1:9; top ) Here James tells us that even though we be perfect in every other regard, if we show partiality toward the rich and against the poor, we are back under the curse of the law. And we will be open to more demonic assaults and further deceptions as well.
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