Reflection by Pastor Shawn:
In Luke 16:13, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
The word for “money” is “mammon”—which has connotations of not only cash but also of wealth; in fact, the broader concept of wealth is the focus. In this verse wealth is personified. It is the god, Mammon, who is a seductive competitor to the one true God for our allegiance. Mammon threatens to draw us away from God (see Mark 4:18-19).
Now, it’s not a matter of giving God and giving wealth their proper places in your heart. That’s how it works with say, a parent, spouse, sibling, or child—both God and the family member should be given the allegiance that is proper to each. But Mammon is different. Mammon and God both make mutually exclusive claims on you and your life. Mammon says that your wealth must be preserved and protected. Mammon says that your means and your money will secure you “the good life”. God says that your wealth and money must be held loosely and given freely. God says that following him alone is “the good life”. Jesus puts the point on it: “You cannot serve both God and money.”
Money is not an indication of God’s favour on you. Poverty is not a sign of God’s displeasure with you or of your unfaithfulness. Piety does not lead to worldly wealth. In fact, worldly wealth is toxic to our sinful hearts. It’s a threat to us, so much so that Jesus says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25) And, for example, when salvation does come to the rich man Zacchaeus, he gives up much of his wealth (Luke 19:1-10). Serving God is incompatible with serving money.
This point is also made in the Gospel reading for this Sunday, Luke 16:19-31, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. In the story there is a great reversal: the rich man held on to his comfort and wealth in the here and now but in so doing risked ending up in the most dreadful of fates in the hereafter.
Our gospel reading from last Sunday, Luke 16:1-13, along with other passages like Luke 12:16-21, tell us a very important lesson about money and wealth: use it wisely, shrewdly, even. Don’t trust in it, but instead, use it to accomplish Kingdom purposes. Give it generously and freely to build up eternal riches. The Christian knows that money is not valuable but it sure is useful. So use it for what matters. Give your surplus to help the poor. Use your wealth for the Kingdom of God. Use it to serve God!