Jesus repeated this principle in another context. This time He was talking about laying up treasures on earth. Those preoccupied with the temporary stuff of this life will have divided loyalties.
No one 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. (Matthew 6:24)While many modern translations use “money” instead of “mammon,” one of my Bible dictionaries clarifies this word. It is a transliteration of the Aramaic māmônâ and means simply wealth or profit. However, Christ uses it to describe an egocentric covetousness which claims man’s heart and thereby estranges him from God. In other words, when a man ‘owns’ anything, in reality it owns him. “Unrighteous mammon” as Jesus calls it in Luke 16:9, is dishonest gain or simply gain from self-centered motives.
I’ve always thought that money and things are not evil in themselves, but when used for selfish reasons, that action becomes sin. On the other side of the coin, Jesus could be hinting that money or profit used for others becomes something akin to true riches. In my thinking, money or profit isn’t the issue. He is talking about the motivations of my heart as well as what I do with the results, black or red.
I’m not good at making money, at least not like a few people I know. While not poor, my focus isn’t on turning a profit. I’m more like the jokes about my Scottish heritage and always trying to figure out how to spend less of it or at least get a bargain!
However, I’m not excluded from what Jesus says about profit and wealth. I can be divided about the things I have, particularly in my reasons for having them, and how I am using them. Do I save up for myself? Is the pleasure of owning things an excessive covetousness? Can I give things away? Do I balk at sharing those possessions that I love with others?
And even if I am careful with my money so I can give it away, are my motives pure? Or do I do it to be seen, as Jesus also warned about? I know I have at times put my offering in the plate at church at the same time that my husband puts his envelope in the same plate, and wondered if anyone noticed that I had “my own” offering. Subtle, but a form of self-centered grandstanding nonetheless.
Sin is insidious. It sticks on everything and could drive me insane if I tried to keep my heart right all by myself. I cannot. That is why, some days, I just say to Jesus Christ, “You are the Savior. I am not. Please set me free from the dominion of this sin — this one more evidence of why You had to die.”