Money – God and Mammon

Readings for this week May 23 – 27
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Money Booklet cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Day 1  – Seek First

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 6 19-24, 33

As we begin a series on money, you will find this week’s readings full of questions. Whether you discover answers may largely depend on some serious soul searching and examining of priorities. Jesus had a lot to say about money; in fact he had more to say on money than on heaven and hell combined. In 39 parables, 11 touch on money. In the gospel of Luke, 1 verse in 7 hits this theme.

This passage in Matthew sits within the Sermon on the Mount (Ch5-7) and is in many ways the inaugral teaching on the Kingdom of God. As followers of Jesus we receive a righteousness (right standing)  before God that is a gift, part of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, and nothing to do with any effort on our part. But Jesus also talks about acts of rightousness (6:1) which are part of our experience of growing in righteousness. The key verse for this whole section comes at the end of chapter 6 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Jesus has announced a kingdom, is about to make a way to belong to that kingdom, and is now outlining the type of lifestyle that is appropriate for members of his kingdom. Belonging to God’s kingdom and this whole teaching from Jesus is based on learning to love God. It is about relationship and therefore about allegience. Jesus is saying that it is also possible to have a relationship with money. It’s often been said that ‘Money talks.’ Perhaps it is more accurate to say that ‘Money gives orders!’ It is our job to choose whose orders we are going to follow.

Questions to Consider
Is God concerned with money?

Why is this one of the most difficult subjects for Christians to discuss?

How can we have a relationship with inanimate things like money and possessions? How would I describe my relationship to money right now?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, this is an area that most of us struggle with. Please help me to take an honest look at my attitudes, fears and expectations around money, and be open to you speaking to me about my priorities, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2  – Bumper Stickers

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 6: 19-21

Two bumper stickers sum up the prevailing attitude to money for most people in the western world. “He who dies with the most toys wins!” and “You can’t take it with you.” There is an underlying belief system here that says that somehow possessions give their owner some form of power and prestige, and that what happens in this world is all that matters. Jesus contradicts this set of values by pointing out that material treasures can so easily lose their value and slip through our fingers, being eaten away, decaying, or by being stolen out from under us. The things themselves may not be bad, but Jesus is warning against the greed of hoarding things up for ourselves in the belief that this will somehow protect our future. Jesus does advocate storing up treasure in heaven which cannot be corrupted or lost like earthly wealth can.

The Jews didn’t refer to a future afterlife as “heaven.” Jesus spoke of God’s kingdom, the place where God is right now, as a present reality (albeit experienced only in part). So we should not conclude that Jesus is saying not to worry about this life, just get ready for the next one. Rather he is saying that if you are learning to love God and serve him right now, and learning to make his priorities your priorities, you will have treasure here and now that cannot be destroyed but will go on into eternity. How is this done? “Learn to live in the presence of the loving Father. Learn to do everything for him and him alone. Get your priorities right” NT Wright. This is a heart matter, as Jesus indicates by saying that what we treasure will form ties to our ‘heart’, our real inner person.

Questions to Consider
When was the last time I listed my priorities in life?

What is the most valuable thing in my life?

What do I believe money will give me? In what ways am I “storing up”(v19)?

How do I evaluate appropriate provision from hoarding?

Prayer
Father God, you know my every need. Show me where my reliance on money starts to diminish my trust in you as my ultimate Provider. Help me take stock of what I place value in and where I find my security. In Jesus name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3  – Mammon

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 6:19-24

Some translations have “You cannot serve God and money” while others have “You cannot serve God and Mammon.” Originally the word mamon (with one m) meant material possessions, and was used in the sense of entrusting wealth to some one for safe keeping. Over time it changed to something that people put their trust in, and became Mammon with a capital indicating it was regarded as nothing less than a god. In this sense Mammon, material possesions, have usurped a place in our lives that they were never meant to have, a place only God should occupy. The same point is made when people talk about “The Almighty Dollar” – too close to the appropriate title of “Almighty God.”

It is all too easy for us to lose the sense of Jesus’ teaching when he talked about serving two masters. This is nothing like having two employers and dividing our time between both. The “serve” that Jesus is speaking of is the service of a slave who belongs entirely to one master. The slave has no free time, no options, no bargining rights; the owner demands exclusive service. This is why Mammon, or money, is personified as  a rival god. There is something in money and possessions that can have the power to draw our allegience away from our committment to God. It is a power that acts upon us. Jesus uses stong words here; loving one and hating the other. This implies not simple emotional reations but a pattern of living.

Questions to Consider
How can money undermine my need to trust God as my provider?

How can I ensure money has only an appropriate place in my life, not a usurped place owed to God?

How would I define the concept of “serving”?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, I am so grateful for all the blessings you give me, the greatest of which is the opportunity to know you. I want to commit all of my life to serving you and serving those you love, through the help of your Holy Spirit, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Rich – Who Me?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 49: 16-30

In the west we struggle to maintain an appropriate view of rich and poor. We can all point to someone better off than us and assume that when the Bible gives warnings about the dangers of material wealth, it is talking about someone else. But the truth is we are all “the rich”. When we hear statistics like 600 million children living in extreme poverty or that almost half the world live on less than $2.50 per day, none of us can deny that we are part of “the rich” in this world. If you are reading this on your phone, on your computer, if you have food in the cupboard to feed yourself beyond today, then you are indeed rich.

Humility and gratitude should follow as we acknowledge just how blessed we are. Yet it is all too easy to get tired in knots worrying about our income levels, our investments, our retirement, our need to update cars and phones… the list is endless. Money then becomes the power Jesus alludes to, as it dictates so much of our thinking and our actions. Think through some of the hooks which draw us into materialism:

1.       Security. We want to feel secure and money will mean I am taken care of.

2.       Personal Worth. We link money with success and how we value someone’s contribution to life.

3.       Power. We believe money helps us get what we want. It gives us a sense of control over our own fate, and often power over others.

4.       Independence. With enough money we won’t need to rely on anyone else. In effect we can become our own god.

5.       Pleasure. Money enables us to indulge any fantasy and we believe it will make us happy.

Questions to Consider
How easy is it for me to acknowledge that I am rich? How does it make me feel? What responsibilities does this imply?

Is there one of these areas that causes me to rely too heavily on money?

What is Jesus’ answer to each of these areas?

Prayer
Gracious Father, I acknowledge all the blessings that have come into my life from your hand. May I be someone who looks for ways to bless others, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5  – Protective Principles

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 6:19-24

William Barclay suggests three principles to help us keep money in its rightful place in our lives; not letting it take the place that is owed to God alone.

1.       All things belong to God. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” Psalm 24:1. “For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it” Psalm 50: 10, 12. Whatever has come to us is on loan and we must use it as the owner would have it used. In other words, hold things lightly.

2.       People are always more important than things. Wealth is not wrong in and of itself. But if it comes at the expense of others or treating people as things, this is wrong.

3.       Wealth is always a subordinate good. Money is necessary for an honourable independence and for the betterment of our family and other people. But when it becomes a measuring stick, our primary desire, or first weapon of choice, it has ceased to be an instrument for good and has taken the place only God should occupy.

“One thing emerges from all this – the possession of wealth, money, material things is not a sin, but it is a grave responsibility. If a man owns many material things it is not so much a matter for congratulation as it is a matter for prayer, that he may use them as God would have him to do” William Barclay.

Questions to Consider
Where have I spent my time?

What have I invested my life pursuing?

Where have I spent my money?

Evaluate: “Good accounting – whether of time, relationships, or money is a good gauge of our values.” Do I take this responsibility seriously?

Prayer
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.  Book of Common Prayer.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)