Mammon And Me

There's a reason why God gave each one of us a conscience, and there's a reason why Acts 24:16 says what it says, and there's a reason why Martin Luther himself said what he said so famously.


Acts 24:16 (ESV) So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.

"Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason…my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."
*- Martin Luther

Well, I did what needed to be done this week.

No, it wasn't easy even though I know it was most certainly the right thing to do.

You see, Mammon and me met nose-to-nose this week in a heavyweight fight. You do know who Mammon is, right? In Luke 16:13, Jesus spoke about "mammon" (the Aramaic word for "riches").




Luke 16:13 (ESV) No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

1 Timothy 6:10 (ESV) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Sure, we've all heard those verses read several times on various Sunday mornings over the years I'm sure, but have you personally ever come face-to-face with those verses, or been confronted by that reality, to the point where you were nose-to-nose with Mammon?

I have. On more than one occasion too. The most recent was only a few days ago, and though I emerged victorious thanks to His grace and help, I emerged bloody and beaten down by this world and the worldly who prefer to live for the Here-And-Now rather than the Hereafter.

Thankfully, I know the truth.

Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV) 19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Colossians 2:2-3 (ESV) 2
that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Colossians 3:3 (ESV) For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Ok, so how should a Christian view money and wealth then?

The Christian view of wealth should always be derived from the Scriptures. There are many times in the Old Testament that God gave riches to His people. Solomon was promised riches and became the richest of all the kings of the earth (1 Kings 3:11-13; 2 Chronicles 9:22); David said in 1 Chronicles 29:12: “Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.” Abraham (Genesis 17-20), Jacob (Genesis 30-31), Joseph (Genesis 41), King Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:5), and many others were blessed by God with wealth. However, they were a chosen people with earthly promises and rewards. They were given a land and all the riches it held.

In the New Testament, there is a different standard. The church was never given a land or the promise of riches. Ephesians 1:3 tells us, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Christ spoke in Matthew 13:22 concerning the seed of God's Word falling among thorns and “the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (NKJV). This is the first reference to earthly riches in the New Testament. Clearly, this is not a positive image.

In Mark 10:23, "Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’” It was not impossible -- for all things are possible with God -- but it would be “hard.” In Luke 16:13, Jesus spoke about “mammon” (the Aramaic word for “riches”): “No servant 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.” Again, the imagery here is of wealth as a negative influence on spirituality and one that can keep us from God.

God speaks of the true riches He brings to us today in Romans 2:4: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?” These are the riches which bring eternal life. Again, this is brought out in Romans 9:23: “And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” (NKJV). Also, Ephesians 1:7: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." Referring to God giving mercy, Paul praises God in Romans 11:33: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” The emphasis of the New Testament is God's riches in us: “That you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians1:18b). God actually wants to show off His riches in us in heaven: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6-7).

The riches that God wants for us: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Ephesians 3:16). The greatest verse for New Testament believers concerning riches is Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” This statement was written by Paul because the Philippians had sent sacrificial gifts to take care of Paul's needs.
1 Timothy 6:17 gives a warning to the rich: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” James 5:1-3 gives us another warning about riches that were wrongly gained: “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.” The last time that riches are mentioned in the Bible is in Revelation 18:17, speaking of the great destruction of Babylon: “In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!”

To summarize, Israel was given earthly promises and rewards as God's chosen people on earth. He gave many illustrations and types and truths through them. Many people desire to take their blessings, but not their curses. However, in the progression of revelation, God has revealed through Jesus Christ a more excellent ministry: “But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).

God does not condemn anyone for having riches. He gives grave warnings to those who seek after them more than they seek after God and trust in them more than in God. His greatest desire is for us to set our hearts on things above and not on things on this earth. This may sound very high and unobtainable, but Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV). The secret is knowing Christ as Savior and allowing the Holy Spirit to conform our minds and heart to His (Romans 12:1-2).

That's our firm foundation established in the truth of God's Word.

So what happened? In short, I was faced with a decision involving money. More specifically, did I love mammon more than I love God and His Word (and how it has informed and shaped my conscience)? But what was that decision, you ask?

Accept a job offer with a well-known international organization, "take a step forward" in my career, and enjoy two to three times the pay with health benefits for my family (we don't have coverage right now where I work). However, could I accept that job offer after having discovered that my new employer is entangled in several scandals that are waist-high while leaving unsuspecting consumers high-and-dry?

For me, it was a no-brainer, but I'll be honest -- it still hurt to walk away.

I mean, all I had to do was show up to the final interview and go through the motions and the job was mine! That's it. Play my part, jump through a hoop, and get ready for a new life.

Yeah right! Sorry. I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and to be able to sleep at night. I want my kids to know that Daddy isn't a hypocrite.

Now, you have to understand that our circumstances are pretty tight, which is to say that they're no different from your own circumstances probably. I'm the sole income provider for my family of four, we're working hard to try and eliminate debt and build a savings account, and we're living paycheck-to-paycheck.

We constantly praise God for His abundant blessings in this life though we admittedly struggle quite often with the sins of covetousness, greed, and jealously.

That being said, please know that I'm not looking for pity. I simply want to share my story in the hopes that the Lord might use it as an encouragement to others.

As a Recruiter, my final interview consisted of presenting a 23-page PowerPoint presentation to see how I would sell their company (and any open positions) to others who expressed an interest. As usual, and in putting that together for several days prior, I dug in deep to learn as much as I possibly could about the company and the industry.

Of course, due to my line of work, I have to look at all the potential "negatives" that could come up in the recruiting process regarding a company/industry/position to anticipate having a recruit bring them up. The goal is to acknowledge them and address them honestly instead of ignoring them and acting like they're not true. And you never, ever spin the truth either!

So, I was planning to work some info I had found into my presentation so I could show them that I would be able to respond to a candidate's concerns and objections. Like I said, part of my job is to address the valid "criticisms," "negatives," and "objections" head on so it wasn't surprising to find some of the usual kinds of things you'd expect in my line of work.

However, what was surprising to me was to learn about several questionable practices they regularly engage in -- like withholding Death Benefits from grieving families who lost loved ones in military service so they can earn as much interest as possible on the amount and/or "pension swapping" which can lead to retirees losing all or part of their pensions entirely!

I even learned that there are a couple of Bills that have been proposed in both the NYS Legislature and in Washington DC to address these shameful practices and that they are directly aimed at this particular company alone!

On top of that, the federal government has just made some significant regulatory changes to this company's operating status let alone to the entire industry itself. So, even if the fraudulent practices weren't discovered by me, then I still would've been left with short-term and long-term risk, risk, risk. I'm usually not risk averse, but I'm not stupid either.

It seemed like an easy decision, but it was oh so tempting to make excuses, to rationalize, and to just look the other way since they weren't doing those bad things to me or my family or someone I know. The Subtle Serpent strikes again!

When that didn't work, I had some family members and friends get upset. I guess they were hoping that this would finally be what me and my family "really needed" to "get out of the hole" we were in I suppose. Um, I'll stick with Jesus Christ and His Word and Sacraments, thank you very much.

Weird, huh? Placing your security and trust in Mammon instead of God. Sadly, each and every one of us has been guilty of that to some extent at one time or another. I know I have!

Some of those same people even went so far as to say that I'm "principled to a fault," but so be it. My conscience is clear tonight. I just wouldn't feel right trying to promote/sell an organization that was basically doing the very same things I've had done to me before (stealing/withholding money that was rightfully earned). How could I sleep at night? How could I look the other way just because the Whats-In-It-For-Me part meant a bigger paycheck plus benefits? It just wouldn't be right and I'd be a hypocrite of the worst kind.

So, that's one story from this past week. That decision alone would've made any week "challenging" for any Christian, but this was just one reason why I've been referring to this past week as the week When A Conscience Calls... because on three separate occasions I found myself in a situation that demanded I obey my conscience (Acts 24:16) regardless of the personal cost to me and my family.


I know it sounds dramatic, but this is no hyperbole. Please refer to the upcoming posts for specifics and please pray for me and my family.

In a Lutheran Layman's terms, Mammon and me have never gotten along really well. She can keep her money! I have Jesus Christ, His Word, and His Sacraments!

[NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with Lutheran doctrine -- in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word -- so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray. Thank you in advance for your time and help. Grace and peace to you and yours!]

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2 comments:

  1. Kudos to you for not getting involved with an unethical company.

    However, this isn't about "Mammon" and God at all. It's just basic ethics. That is a decision that a Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Hindu, etc. could just as easily have made, for the same reasons.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jesse,

    Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.

    You're absolutely right to say that Buddhists, Atheists, Agnostics, and Hindus can make "ethical" decisions...but then they must acknowledge the true source of "morality" (i.e., the true source and definition of what's "right" and "wrong") Himself, which is the Lord God Almighty, correct?

    Thus, due to that reality, and by the mere fact that I am a Christian who writes Christian material for this Christian blog of mine, it IS most certainly about "mammon" and God.

    Grace And Peace,
    Jeff

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with...Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all mature spiritually (myself included) then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!