This past week, it was announced that 12 billionaires in the USA are collectively worth over $1 trillion. Twelve men are worth more than most countries of the world. At the same time, millions are out of work and have difficulty finding food and paying rent. What does this mean? Is this a part of God’s design for the earth and its economy? Is this the result of another system? I found myself asking this question as soon as I saw the news clip about the increase in wealth of the billionaires. Is this something we should celebrate or be appalled by? I am not against having wealth but to accumulate massive amounts of wealth and the announcement not be followed by massive donations to help those in suffering, due to the pandemic, had me questioning if this is what Jesus meant when he talked about “mammon”. Here is the scripture where Jesus talked about the subject:
“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. 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. The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 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.” – Matthew 6:24.
My conclusion was that Jesus was saying there are only two economic systems in the world – the Kingdom economy and mammon. I also surmised that there are only two purposes for money and wealth:
• Meet needs and some desires; and
• Establish the Kingdom on earth (which in turn ensures that everyone has, at least, their basic needs met).
When you receive or achieve wealth, you can consume it on your lusts and pleasures and get to the point where you can have billions of dollars in the bank while people starve. Or you can achieve wealth and make sure that everyone around you has a better life because you are a good steward of resources. In the old testament, God stated, “I have given you the power to get wealth to establish the covenant.”
From Jesus’ words, if one becomes consumed with wealth, he or she could end up serving “mammon”, which results in thousands of people, including the homeless, dying because they cannot afford healthcare and basic needs while others sail around on yachts and private jets. He clearly indicated that this was not a system he endorsed – it was not and is not God’s plan. Capitalism has its good points in terms of spurring innovation and causing people to strive to achieve but capitalism is not of God. If we look at God’s system that Jesus talked about, we would notice that he believes in being fruitful, multiplying, investing and bringing returns but not a system where people are deprived and dying while others participate in financial constipation, where tons of money is backed up in a corner and not circulating.
Mammon is when a drug can cost $5 and it is sold to poor people at $100 to $200. This is what a “mammon” attitude can do.
How does mammon contrast with the “Kingdom economy”? I believe, in the Kingdom economy, Jesus would consider healthcare as a need, not a luxury; and housing and food as needs, not a luxury. The greatest problem with wealth in the world today is not a lack of resources, but who has the wealth and who they are serving. Food is a need, housing is a need, healthcare is a need. Every government in the world should automatically provide these necessities to those who cannot afford them with the stipulation that if they can work, they work for it because God is a God of productivity. The popular scriptural refrain is “if a man does not work, he should not eat”. Productivity should always be tied to provision, as long as the person is able-bodied. The truth about life is that if people have their basic needs met, they are much more productive, and it is easier for countries to function. It actually becomes better for business because no one is idle. The dictionary definition of mammon is “wealth regarded as an evil influence or false object of worship and devotion”.
Mammon is a system where some countries have nothing because their leaders hoard the resources while the people die of starvation.
If people’s needs are met, it is easier for economies to function and for persons to be successful in business. In the Kingdom system, no one lacks.
There is nothing wrong with business, making a reasonable profit and accumulating wealth; the problem begins when you acquire wealth and your God is mammon. No good thing comes from a God called mammon because it is the worship of money.
So, my question to you today is: what type of mentality do you have? You don’t have to be rich to have a mammon mentality. During this season of great financial distress, each of us should look inside and ensure that we help those in need. What are you doing to help others during this season?
If you hold on to something that you should give away, that’s mammon. If you are in a position to help and you do not help, that is mammon. Let us all remember to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper and not become a victim of mammon. The world and The Bahamas need people who are about distribution, circulating and helping rather than hoarding.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.