No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon. Matthew 6:24
“What we gain when we give comes in many forms. First of all, when we give, we recognize, both implicitly and explicitly, that life is not a process of exchange and equivalence, but of abundance and generosity… Exchange and equivalence is a zero-sum approach, the notion that I what I give I lose to your gain. It implies a closed system. Abundance and generosity implies an open system, one in which the creative power of God is ever active, so what we give we gain… Mammon is good at arithmetic, and balancing the books, but very bad at divine economics. Mammon’s economy is based on the principle of ‘beggar your neighbor’. But in divine economics, where there is abundance and generosity, there is no zero-sum approach. Instead, we see an economy that facilitates mutual flourishing and the common good…What we give we gain…
Giving builds links with people whom we may not know and can never reach or meet in any other way. Relationship is hugely important in giving, but it’s not indispensable. We can in fact start relationships simply through our generosity… Money is part of the God-given economy of abundance which enables us to show solidarity and to build relationships… In God’s economy, the value of the person is not set by the money we give them, or the value of a nation by the aid it receives. The value is set by the very fact that we give, especially when we give sacrificially. The value of the aid, especially when it is difficult to spare, creates links that are far deeper than the money itself buys…
We need to train ourselves to see the world in terms of abundance and generosity… We should see money as an instrument that enables us to build relationships of abundance and grace. Abundance and grace call us to be generous and trusting, in a way that builds links and relationships. Trust in the economy of God leads us to seek to give because to do so is gain. The gain may be less tangible than our money was, and the revolution in our thinking that is required is enormous. We start with small steps, and will find that Mammon first shudders, then falls from the throne. No longer will his reign be supported by our own wrongful attitudes and the structures that dominate how we measure value and importance in our world.”
Justin Welby in Dethroning Mammon: Making Money Serve Grace (London: Bloomsbury, 2016) 107-129.
My recent study of the Old Testament idea of Jubilee has revealed that it finds fulfillment in Jesus Christ in the community of faith in the New Testament. It has also surfaced that archenemy of Jubilee is Mammon. This lead me pick the brain of Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to discern how to help people dethrone it!
Central to the idea of Jubilee is God’s ownership of everything and desire for everyone to flourish. He values all humans equally and shows it by telling us to depend on Him for daily bread on earth and to trust Him to prepare a place for us for eternity. Our penchant is to possess, and the call of Jubilee is to give. Giving dethrones Mammon.
Mammon desires to own that which only God owns. It feeds on taking and accumulation. It thinks life is found in ‘having’ that house, that experience, those shoes, that car. Worst of all, Mammon whispers that you can have whatever your heart desires today with debt. It makes empty promises and then enslaves unsuspecting victims.
To grow in generosity this Advent, with the archbishop I say to take small steps. Celebrate Jubilee in tangible ways. If you have debt, say no to one or more purchases so you can live within your means to have margin to give and speed up the process of paying off debt.
For those with no debt, pray about helping someone else pay off what they owe remembering what Jesus did for you. As a child we use to play a game called freeze tag. Only those who were free could set others free. It’s a picture of our role in God’s abundant economy. Go! Help set others free this Advent. Convert whatever you own into the currency of the kingdom through giving and you will gain. Declare Jubilee and dethrone Mammon.
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