Perhaps you know a few people who look upon your Christian faith as a kind of “pious crutch” — a fairy tale useful to those too weak or too indecisive to grab what can be grabbed.
They don’t trust God. They trust money in the bank. What about you?
Some of Christ’s most piercing words were all about money – or better said, about the tendency we have to trust money more than we trust God.
One need only recall his statement: “You cannot serve two masters!” He seemed to be saying that you have to choose. The choice is between “God and mammon” – mammon being more complicated than mere cash in your pocket.
Mammon compared to mere money is like a loaf of bread compared to a sack of flour. Mix up the flour with the right ingredients, bake it for an hour, and you get bread.
Mix up money with the right ingredients, bake it in the oven of business and politics, and you get mammon.
The main ingredient that will get you from a bag of flour to a loaf of bread is yeast. The main ingredient that will get you from a pile of cash to the mammon of this world is greed.
That is why Jesus told his disciples: “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees”. The Pharisees were the ones who laughed at Jesus because “they loved money”. In St Luke’s gospel, we find them laughing at Jesus precisely because he said: “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
What is the surest sign that, almost without realising it, you have become a slave to mammon? You are ready to lie to get more money and you think nothing of lying in order to get more money. Lying becomes the “right thing to do”.
Did you ever notice the “extra” commandment Jesus added to the Ten Commandments? A rich young man asked him which commandments he needed to obey Jesus goes through the usual list: You must not kill, you must not commit adultery, you must not steal, etc. Then he added one extra: “You must not defraud.”
Jesus had to insist because many people – perhaps even more so today– were making the mistake of thinking there’s nothing wrong with fraud – nothing wrong with telling a lie to get more money. That is exactly what constitutes fraud: cheating someone in order to convince them that they have to give you money.
As we come to the end of the year, perhaps the best New Year’s resolution to make is the resolution Zacchaeus made when he converted: “If I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times the amount!” Remember how Jesus praised Zacchaeus and think of how he will praise you.