You cannot serve God and Mammon
Luke 16: 13
This past Friday, Pope Francis, commenting on the reading from 1 Timothy 6: 10, said “Money is the devil’s dung.” Today, in the Gospel, Jesus warns about unjust wealth.
Talking about money and material security from a faith perspective are challenges for all of us. As Pope Francis noted money can lead to idolatry, worshipping and giving all our time and energy to amassing money:
Money sickens our minds, poisons our thoughts, even poisons our faith, leading us down the path of jealousy, quarrels, suspicion and conflict. It drives to idle words and pointless discussions. It also corrupts the mind of some people that see religion as a source of profit. ‘I am Catholic, I go to Mass, everyone thinks well of me… But underneath I have my businesses. I worship money’. And here we have the word we usually find in newspapers: ‘Men of corrupted minds’. Money corrupts us! There’s no way out.
In many ways this parallels what the Latin American bishops wrote at Puebla in 1979 (¶ 494):
Turned into an absolute, wealth is an obstacle to authentic freedom. The cruel contrast between luxurious wealth and extreme poverty, which is so visible through out our continent and which is further aggravated by the corruption that often invades public and professional life, shows the great extent to which our nations are dominated by the power of wealth.
But this is not just a challenge to rich and wealthy people and nations. As the late Father John Kavanaugh, S.J., wrote. “Our attitudes to the poor and our attitudes about security are the best indications of our discipleship.”
As one who lives in relative security in a very poor country, Jesus challenges me.
What do I do with the wealth I have? Do I share it with others, or do I hoard it so that I can have a secure future, a very comfortable retirement?
I am also challenged because I know some fairly rich people. But these people don’t worship money. In fact, they give it away. This week I learned of a very generous donation from a family I know.
They understand that material goods are not ours to keep, but to share. The earth belongs to God, not to us.
All of us then are challenged by Jesus to be free with God and not slaves to wealth. As the bishops also wrote at Puebla, ¶ 1156:
The gospel demands for poverty, understood as solidarity with the poor and as a rejection of the situation in which most people on this continent live, frees the poor person from being individualistic in life, and from being attracted and seduced by the false ideals of a consumer society. In like manner, the witness of a poor Church can evangelize the rich whose hearts are attached to wealth, this converting and freeing them from this bondage and their own egoism.
What then should we do with money? As Segundo Galilea and Arturo Paoli wrote in El Anuncio de la Esperanza: “Try to put it at the service of our salvation and the liberation of others.”
When we are poor in spirit, when we use money to serve the poor and the Reign of God, the devil’s dung becomes transformed into a fertilizer so that the Reign of God can grow and flourish in a world plagued with injustice and inequality.
And so we have a choice – God or Mammon, Devil’s dung or fertilizer for the Reign of God?