Don’t worship Mammon. Jesus tells us this (Matt. 6:24). So, if you work for money, beg for money, play for money, dance naked for money – which of these counts as worship?
Well, since you cannot serve two masters, it seems that “work” for money probably counts as an answer to that question at some level… and anyway, both statements are part of the same teaching on Jesus’s lips at the same time!
Do I think I am going to settle that question in this blog post?
In fact, I am quite sure that the resistance to my suggestion above is so high that by far most of the readers I had for the top three lines are gone now. Therefore, if you are still reading here, I will assume that even if you remain unconvinced, at least raising the question is worthwhile.
The LOVE of money is the root of all kinds of evil (I Tim. 6:10). Greed is listed among sins like sexual immorality, idolatry, drunkenness (I Cor. 5:11). Luke would have us envision the poor filled up while the rich are sent away empty (1:53). And when asked how to obtain life in the Age to Come, Jesus tells at least one rich guy to sell everything, give it all to the poor, come follow…. (Mark 10:21).
As you can see, Jesus’s attitude is pretty tough of money. The Bible in general is tough on money. It’s never ruled out completely as sinful in and of itself, but then neither is slavery (but we in the modern west have all but eliminated that!).
So, how does Jesus get his money? Does he hold a job down at the Sea of Galilee beachside Long John Silvers? Or does he have Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Levi all quit their jobs to follow? Are they working for the money?
Sure enough, there is an occasion when Peter and Jesus, it seems, need to pay a temple tax with some cash they do not have on hand (Matt. 17:24-27). But it makes its miraculous appearance in the mouth of a fish Peter catches. So, it is obvious that Jesus CAN fund needs by out-of-this-world means, in case anyone was wondering.
We probably should give the nod to St. Paul’s insistence that a minister earns his wage (I Tim. 5:18). But we must also give the nod to the fact that St. Paul himself abstains from drawing personal financial support from the church, and opts to make tents (Acts 18:3).
Back to Jesus, though, we know he employs a money-keeper among his disciples, alright. But that person is Judas – the betrayer. And so, once again, money keeps falling short of the glory of God in one way or another all through.
That said, we should not ignore the fact that Jesus apparently needed someone to carry the money bag, after all, the group had one! But where does this money come from? Are the boys robbing banks like Robin Hood? No, not exactly. However, I think it is important to recall that Jesus is crucified among thieves as a thief (Matt. 27/Luke 23). Not that he is one, but the distinction seems hard to make out – for various reasons.
Actually, to my mind’s eye, Jesus travels a circuit in Galilee keeping one or two steps ahead of the authorities for the most part ALMOST like a bandit. I think of Billy the Kid having hideouts all over New Mexico and locals and villagers supporting him with food and supplies – always eager for him to return, yet quick to warn him when the heat was on so he could leave. And while Billy or Robin had a way of taking from the rich to give to the poor, Jesus had a way of healing the sick and preaching to the poor that put him in a category ALMOST like the bandits he was crucified with.
In Luke 8, we find at least one source for the cash Jesus keeps on hand. It is the women. The women who follow him and his group of freshly unemployed fishermen, tax collectors, and the like. (A group that for all appearances LOOKS like a band of bad boys and bandits!) These women follow him after he heals them of various ailments and demon possessions. And they then chase after him, throwing their money at his feet, it seems.
And you know what?
That sounds typical to me. How many dead beat losers are being supported by their women? It seems almost too obvious when you stop and think about it. Who is paying rent at the trailer park? How many men do you know down in the hood that fancy themselves weekend DJ’s but can’t rub two nickels together, but they got one, two, or three women keeping them afloat?
I bet it rubs you a bit raw to put Jesus in that company. But I am not the first, as I said, he gets crucified with thieves as if he were one.
But it ain’t no LOVE of money! And it ain’t no fund raiser either….
So when I watch ministers raise tons of cash by holding sales and fund raisers, I think, WWJD? And I don’t see the connection. When I watch missionaries share a vision for their work and churches make contributions, this sounds a lot closer to me. I am aware that St. Paul also gathered contributions to take to the poor in Jerusalem. There is no indication that he had a bake sale, but that out of the gratitude of the hearts of those he served for the Spiritual blessings they gained from Jerusalem, they then sent physical wealth back there to bless that poor church in return.
I am not trying to draw some stark conclusion with this. I merely hope to broaden our perspective.
I can easily imagine a host of issues arising that we would approach differently if our perspective was enhanced.
Should I give money to a beggar?
Should I insist a bum “get a job”? (Remember the Nazis told the Jews that work would make them free!)
Should Fat Beggars raise money for ministry?
Do we even NEED money to do ministry?
Will there be money at all in the Age to Come?
What exactly constitutes LOVE of money and/or WORSHIP of Mammon?
What exactly is greed?