Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Trapped by Mammon

What exactly is mammon, I'm wondering? Whatever it is, it's important enough for God to talk about it:
No one can serve two masters. He will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.--Matthew 6:24

Well, whatever mammon is, it's opposed to God. That's probably important.
The Greek for mammon, strictly speaking, is money. So I can't love both God and money. OK. I get that. But look at the context....the verse cited above falls in a section that discusses far more than only monetary wealth.

Do not worry about your life--what you eat or what you drink or for your body, what you put on...Which of you by worrying can add one moment to His life? ...Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.--Matthew 6: 25, 27, 33

So it's about more than money. It's about everything around me, all the props of my life.
Seek first the kingdom of God, He says. Not anything or anybody else.
OK. I get that, too. But how hard can it be? I know God is more important than anything else, don't I? I can get by without a lot of money, or a closet full of clothes or even a long life. No problem.

Not, at least, until I think about the one thing I can't get by without.
I am why I want all that stuff in the first place. 
I am taking care of me. I am finding security. Security outside of God.

And that's the problem.
It never was the stuff. It's me.
If I have that stuff, I don't need to depend on God. I get to depend on me.
All the stuff of life, all the money and everything else, make good servants of God, but poor masters. And the same principle applies to my own body, my own desires.
If I give them up, I'll shortly become hungry or cold or bored, but if I'm honest, it's not the hunger or boredom I mind so much. It's the weakness. It's the vulnerability. It's the loneliness. 
I mind that a lot.

Why do I do this? Why do I spend so much effort taking care of myself, using the stuff around me to build a big wall of protection?
I know this--if I'm protecting myself with my stuff, that means that I am not trusting God to do it.
There's no other answer that makes sense.

I have to learn to trust Him. Him alone. Without the stuff.
He challenges me to this:
Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see whether I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be enough room to store it.--Malachi 3:10
And there's only one way to learn this.
To stop protecting myself. That's what the stuff was doing in the first place. It was shielding me from hurt or want or disappointment or failure, but that's the problem. It is in only those places that God can show me His power. In depending on everything else, I'm preventing God from doing the one thing I want Him most to do.

But without my stuff, I panic.
I have spent all my effort in building my own reputation, paying my own way, bearing up with my own shoulders.

St Francis taught us a prayer that can help strip away our layers of protection:
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

In the end, this is what God wants me to say:
The Lord has become my protector.--Psalm 18:19
But He hasn't become my protector, has He? I have been my only trusted protector. Otherwise I wouldn't care about stuff so much.
Me. My stuff. My own. I have to, somehow, come to the end of it. And when I do, if I have no more strength, maybe I can, finally find God's.


  1. We are always the problem aren't we? There was a verse my pastor shared yesterday that relates to this but I'm not finding my notes at the moment but it spoke to how we need to put God before ourselves. Great post. Thank you for sharing with TWW. Blessings.

    1. Thanks, Beth. I am constantly faced with the seeming impossibility of putting God before myself. Yikes. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. What a great post, if only we could focus and realize that if we put God before ourselves he will show us in so many ways that He always put's us first.
    Have a lovely rest of the week.

  3. I know all about that big wall of protection. It's hard to tear down. It's a daily walk of putting God before my stuff--trusting, as you said.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Pamela. Sometimes, in spite of what we know about God and His sufficiency, it helps to hear from fellow travelers.