Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Parables of Jesus: Serving God and Mammon

Matthew 6:[24]-34:

No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment?

Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? And which of you by taking thought, can add to his stature by one cubit? And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. And if the grass of the field, which is today, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith?

Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore solicitous for tomorrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever. Amen.

Happy Palm Sunday! Are you excited to be entering Holy Week? I am! It's the most important time of the Liturgical year. All the graces the flow from the Sacraments through the rest of the year, draw from the Easter Triduum. That's why there's so much going on this coming week! So exciting!

Anyway, on to my post!

For me, this teaching has always been fairly straightforward. However, upon further reflection, there are certainly some things to note.

To begin, Jesus says you cannot serve two masters. Note, Jesus uses the word "master" here. Within the context of the day, a master was a slave-owner, or one who had working servants. I think that helps to clarify the comparison Jesus is making here. As a slave, or even as a servant, although to a lesser degree, you served only one master. You were not owned by two, and split your time between the two. And if you were and did, then it is as Jesus has said, you would either hate one and love the other (because the demands of one might be greater or less than the other, and the reward of one might be greater or less than the other), or you will sustain the one and despise the other (because you will tend, inevitably, to spend more time in service to one than the other).

Consider a more modern-day example. Have you ever worked a job wherein you had two managers, or your position was ambiguous, and two of the higher-ups had some claim to be your manager? I have. I work as a project accountant. Typically, that means you work on site, but your direct manager is in the head office. Well, in that scenario, there will be a non-accounting supervisor on site, who will demand time and work from you, and that will often clash with the work priorities that your manager in head office demands of you. It's very difficult to satisfy both demands, and you always end up having to choose between the two which to prioritize.

So who are you choosing between here? God and mammon. The word mammon, by the way, does not appear anywhere in the Old Testament, but only in the New, and is typically understood to mean money, wealth, riches, worldly interests, or "that which you put your trust in." So, does Jesus mean greed here? Is He talking about vice? Not specifically, I don't think. Look at what He follows this with.

"Be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on." If mammon is wealth, or worldly interests, Jesus is drawing our attention to that which our riches are directed--food and clothing. We pursue possessions in order to secure our basic necessities. At least as a minimum. We can, of course, go beyond this, as a matter of competition--to have the biggest car, the highest brand clothing, the biggest house, etc., are status symbols. But at this point we've moved into the realm of vices, but Jesus doesn't go that far, He's talking about the basic necessities--we should not even worry about those.

Then He makes a really stark point. Birds don't "protect" themselves against future hardships. They simply live, going about their lives without worrying about what they will eat. When they're hungry, they eat. A wheat doesn't worry about what it wears, yet wheat is clothed by the design of God. And birds live and die, and the wheat today grows, and tomorrow is burned in the fire--but we are of much more importance. We are made to live with God forever. Remember that. That's what God intends for you, that's why He created you in the first place. If He looks after these things that live and die and cease to exist, so fastidiously, then how much more will He look after us, who He has made to live with Him forever?

So what? Does that mean we don't think about tomorrow, at all? Do we not make plans, and work to store up food, and make money to feed and clothe ourselves? Yes, of course we do these things, especially if we have families to care for. The answer to this question which Jesus offers to us is this: "Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice." Seek first the kingdom of God. Make it your first priority. Do all these other things, but recognize that they are secondary to God. Seek God first.

Don't be surprised when you see wicked men with money beyond imagining--they have made it their master, and they serve it first before all else. We do not, but that's okay, because God takes care of us. Our wealth is the wealth of His love, the virtue of our lives, the peace which this brings to our souls, and the love of family and friends. They might have a lot of money, but they do not have these other things.

Finally, remember Jesus' last word on this: "Be not therefore solicitous for tomorrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. There is enough evil in each day that you must battle against in your service to God, your master. You shouldn't have time to worry about tomorrow. Focus on fighting against evil, focus on serving God, seeking His kingdom and justice, and don't worry about the rest, for "all these things shall be added unto you."

Thank you for reading, and God bless you!

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