When Jesus says you cannot love both God and mammon, he means that you cannot love God and money at the same time. He means love in the truest sense. He also says that you either love one and hate the other.So, if you love money, you can only despise God.
Yet, this seems strange. Why can’t I love both?
This reminds me of a few lines from Fiddler on the Roof.
Perchik says, “money is the world’s curse.”
Tevye responds, “may the Lord smite me with it! And may I never recover!”
We can be quite humorous when it comes to the constant draw of money. Even the best of us can feel its seductive power at times. I use the word ‘seductive’ on purpose. Money, even though it is inanimate, seems to seduce us as a mistress.
Of course, money in itself is neutral. It is no more evil or seductive than gold, grain, and grass. In our own hearts lie the seduction where we put money in place of God. We can treat money as if it is our security for the future. It makes us forget our dependence and vulnerability. God reminds us of our dependence and vulnerability.
For this reason, a lover of money can only hate the one who reminds him that his money won’t save him.
Jesus gives us the remedy for this by saying three words, “do not worry.”
He tells us to not worry about tomorrow, what we will eat, where we will sleep, and how we will find clothes. He does not tell us to abandon these things or to behave foolishly by not taking care of ourselves.
This teaching does not concern so much the use of money as our attitude towards it. Attitude towards money makes all the difference.
Our current economic system is broken in much deeper ways than joblessness, high gas prices, and a just wage. It is broken in its attitude, specifically, its lack of ethics. Without going into the intricacies of economics and moral philosophy, it is enough to summarize the broken system with one word: avarice.
Avarice, one of the seven deadly sins, means the insatiable desire for wealth. It is the desire for wealth for its own sake. Money becomes the end and ceases to be the means. This attitude is reflected in our society when businesses consider the “bottom line” as the final determining factor for its decisions.
The social justice teachings of the Church have emphasized that such an attitude of avarice opposes the dignity of the human person.
The economy exists for man, not man for the economy.
In a system that treats human beings like a financial liability, the labor offered by workers becomes in itself a commodity for sale. In this sense, a human being can be bought, sold, or exchanged for cash. We see this happen when businesses lay off large amounts of people in order to gain the necessary cash for the bottom line.
To be clear, this article is not an exercise of blame. Indeed, all of us are at fault in some way because we are all part of this system.
When we shop, do we not buy the least expensive product with the highest quality? In our system, low prices are often maintained by lower labor costs.
What are you and I to do then? First things first, as Jesus said, “do not worry.” The second step, “seek first the kingdom of God.” The third step, inaugurate the Kingdom of God here on earth to prepare ourselves for the Kingdom of God to come.
We inaugurate the Kingdom of God here by striving to establish social justice wherever and whenever possible. We will never finish this work until Christ comes again. But he will provide all things necessary to continue it.
We do this by our votes, our common influence, and by establishing this same justice in our own workplaces, especially if we are employers.