SLAVE OF GOD OR OF MAMMON?
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 CH 24:17-25; MT 6:24-34 ]
In the gospel yesterday, Jesus made it clear that “where your treasure is, there will your heart also.” So today, we are confronted with a decision to choose God or Mammon. This is the crux of today’s Word of God, “No one can be the slave to two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and money.” What we choose in life will determine our happiness because our focus is dependent on what motivates us in life. If God is whom we choose, we put God as the center of our life in all that we do or say. If Mammon is what we choose, then it becomes the controlling factor in all our thoughts, words and actions. So what is driving us each day in life?
In the first place, we must clarify what it means to be a slave. The first thing we take note is that a slave is the property of the master. He lives entirely for the master. His whole life, all his energy and talents are at the service of the master. All that he owns belongs to the master, his time and his whole life. He claims nothing for his own. The corollary of this also means that he lives from the master. His life is dependent on the master since he lives for his master. Since he has nothing that he could claim as his own, the master is the one who looks after him and cares for him since he is serving him. Otherwise, the slave would be too weak to serve the master and take care of his needs. So there is this mutual relationship of loyalty and fidelity to each other. If the master does not treat his servant well, he will suffer ultimately.
Analogously, in our relationship with God, He is our master and we are His servants. If we consider God as the treasure of our lives, then we would live for Him and Him alone. He is the sole determinant in whatever we do or say. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness.” This entails living for God and His kingdom of justice, love, mercy and compassion. When we put God and His kingdom values in our lives, then all our energy, talents and resources, all our will and devotion is to make these values of the kingdom prevalent in the world. In this way, we live for God and for the service of humanity.
All that we have belong to God and therefore our possessions and wealth are only means, not the ends. They are used for the glory of God and the extension of His reign of love and justice. Like the birds in the sky or the flowers in the field, we are called to glorify God with our lives. Our attitude towards things of the world is to use them for the service of love of God and of our fellowmen. Money and possessions are not used solely for ourselves or just for our selfish enjoyment but we see ourselves as stewards of God’s gifts to be distributed and shared with others. Our position in society, our health, our wealth, they are all to be used to further the reign of God’s love.
But it also means that we will also live from God alone. Since everything belongs to Him, we are aligned with His will. We will do what He wants and not what we want. We take whatever the Lord has given to us for others. We accept whatever He gives us without demanding more than we need to serve the plan of God. If God does not bless us with certain gifts, wealth or position, it is simply because we are not required to serve in that area. When we endeavor to do God’s will rather than ours, then we will not fall into the sin of pride, envy and greed. We will live a full life, doing as much as we can in whichever situation we are in, because we are serving our master. At the same time, we do not crave for things that we do not need for the service of love. In this way, we live a contented life, free from fear and worry about tomorrow because we know that God will take care of us since we live for Him.
Conversely, when a person lives for Mammon and entrusts his life to the pursuits of this world, regardless whether it is wealth, money or status, then his entire focus is about the world. The world controls his direction in life. Like a slave, he lives for money, power and glory. Whatever he does, it is to increase his wealth, power and glory. These are the things that matter most. People are subordinated to this goal. He will make use of people and often put his family and loved ones second to his worldly pursuits. Everything is measured in terms of worldly success and gains. He would even use unscrupulous and unethical means to enrich himself. All his time and energy is for his ambition and selfish wants.
Such a person lives for himself. He is focused on himself, his needs, his desires and aspirations. Because he lives only for himself and can only depend on himself, he lives a life of insecurity. He is always worried about tomorrow because life is unpredictable. He wants his will to prevail and his goals to be realized. But the truth is that one can fall sick and even die, the economy can suddenly collapse; a tragedy could strike anytime and anyplace. So he lives in fear and worries even as he accumulates more and more; and grows to be more powerful and influential. Yet, he knows that these things will soon pass and that makes him insecure and fearful that it is a matter of time when he will lose everything that he has.
This was the mistake of King Joash. He started well as a young king guided and mentored by Johoiada, the high priest who restored the Temple of Jerusalem by removing Queen Athaliah. When the Temple was restored, the country was also restored to order. When God is worshipped and loved, then we find our bearings in life because everything is seen in the perspective of the love of God and of our fellowmen. However, the tragedy of life is that riches and wealth often blind us to the truth. As the country became prosperous, Joash and his leaders again forgot about Yahweh. They fell into decadence and allowed idolatry, the worship of false gods and superstitious practices to come into their lives.
When we are consumed by our desires and when God is no longer the center of all that we live for, then we can no longer even hear the truth proclaimed by the prophets. This was the reaction of King Joash to the prophet, Zechariah, son of Jehoiada the priest. He forgot completely what his father did for him in helping him to regain the throne from the wicked Queen. Yet for all that he did for him in his glory, he dismissed the warning of Zechariah. Instead of being grateful, he had him killed. As a consequence, the country deteriorated. Eventually, he was conquered by the Aramean army and was murdered by his own officials. He got his just desserts for the sins he committed. God sends prophets to save us from our sins and destruction. And even when He allows us to suffer for our sins, it is never out of vindictiveness or revenge but to awaken us to the truth about our selfish pursuits and the more important things of life. If we do not pay heed to His warnings, we too will suffer the same fate.
So, we are called to make a decision today, whether we want to serve God or Mammon. If we choose God and make Him the center of our lives, we do not have to live in fear for His will is our peace. By surrendering our lives to Him, we can live in peace and give ourselves entirely to what we do and choose to be happy and fulfilled in any circumstance we are in. We can be confident that He will look after us as history has shown. Somehow, we will manage and survive in life. When we look at our past, the Lord has shown in many situations that He is the Lord of our lives. “Now if that is how God clothes the grass in the field which is there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you men of little faith?” So we live in faith and trust in the Lord each day, without having to worry about tomorrow. As Jesus said, “Surely life means more than food, and the body more than clothing!” If we choose Mammon, that is, to put our trust in worldly things and in ourselves, then the consequence is that we live in perpetual fear and worry because there is no peace in our hearts. We will always be seeking to fulfill our will.
But the real tragedy for us is not that we choose God or mammon but we want both. The truth is that no one can serve two masters. In trying to serve both masters, we end up confused and fickle minded. One day, we serve God and another day, we serve Mammon. As such, our lives are lived like a yo-yo, swinging up and down, left and right because we lack focus. We fall into sin and then get out of sin. This explains why those of us who apparently choose God but not definitively or totally, continue to live in tension, in fear, in worry and lacking peace and joy in our lives. So the choice is really ours. The kingdom of God, the reign of His love and peace is ours if we choose to serve Him and make Him the center of our lives. If we choose Mammon, the world and ourselves, then be ready for the consequences.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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