Mammon Is Like Gravity

Many years ago, somewhere in the seventies, I was working for a Christian bookstore called Crossroads. One day we were visited by a young and zealous member of a group called the Children of God, and I vividly remember our conversation on the sidewalk outside the store. He asked if I had a job, a car, etc. I said that I did. He told me that I was not a real Christian because Jesus said that whoever did not give up absolutely everything could not be His disciple (Luke 14:33).

Instead of arguing the exegesis with him, I reached over and tugged on his sweater (for he was clothed, contrary to what he had just said Jesus required), and asked, “Whose is this?” He was startled, not expecting any questions of that nature. I asked again. “Who does this belong to?” He said nothing because he didn’t know what to say, and so I helped him out. I said, “This belongs to Jesus, right? And He is letting you borrow it? Is that how it works?” He was greatly relieved, and said yes, he was borrowing it. I said that was how it was with my job and my car. I was borrowing them from Jesus.

I also remember that at one point in the conversation, he asked if we could give him a Bible. Crossroads was a Christian bookstore literature ministry, so I said sure thing. I went inside, got one for him, and brought it back out. But the Bible I brought him wasn’t good enough. He asked if he could have a nice one, you know, leather-bound? And I don’t think I have trusted people who glibly cite Luke 14:33 ever since.

* * *

For you see, they are never (in my experience) citing that passage in order to explain why they have just given everything away to the poor. They are always citing it because they need for you to do something. Leather would be nice.

* * *

Mammon is like gravity, and can act across distances. You don’t have to have it in your hands to be in the grip of it. It doesn’t have to be in your hands for you to be in its hands.

* * *

Wealth enables you to sit on top of the world (Dt. 8:18). Mammon enables the world to sit on top of you (Matt. 6:24).

* * *

God doesn’t mind His people having money at all. But He does mind money having His people.

* * *

God also minds the previous two proverbs being used to justify Mammon having you by the throat.

* * *

God also minds hatred of those two proverbs being used to justify Mammon having you by the throat.

* * *

Some idols — like Molech and Baal — are idols we must never see again after we have repented. Other idols — like your wife and your money — must be loved rightly after repentance.

* * *

Ordinary Christians are routinely upbraided for their lack of sacrificial generosity, when they are virtually the only ones paying the salaries of professional mercifiers. The mercifiers use heart-rending pictures of the poor to induce donations, which are nice donations but not quite as much as Jesus demanded (Luke 14:33). These pictures of the poor are tulchans. A tulchan is a stuffed calfskin that induces a cow to let down its milk. Donors are the (very guilty) cows, the poor are the tulchan posters, and the mercifiers are the dairymen. America is such a gorgeous meadow.

* * *

The downtrodden are a gold mine.

* * *

And Judas wondered why that ostentatious ointment was not sold appropriately, and donated for the relief of the poor (John 12:4-5). For Judas had the mercy patter down, and he was the treasurer, and used to skim as he deemed appropriate (John 12:6). And did we mention that Judas kept the bag (John 13:29)?

* * *

A certain kind of mercy mindedness and embezzling are first cousins.

* * *

I said mercy mindedness. I should have said mercy mouthiness. God loves mercy mindedness.

* * *

Guilt-motivated giving will go just far enough to make the guilt go away, which usually runs about $20. Gratitude-motivated giving runs for a lifetime, and seeks nothing other than to spread the grace and goodness of God.

* * *

Giving from gratitude feeds and nourishes the desire to give some more. Giving from guilt torments it.

* * *

The blessing of the Lord makes us wealthy, and He adds no sorrow to it (Prov. 10:22).

* * *

The sorrow is added by somebody else. Watch that man closely.

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17 thoughts on “Mammon Is Like Gravity

  1. Sorry this is off topic, but can you point me to any resources for learning to chant the Psalms? I can’t find a thing. Thanks!

    -tob

  2. There is more than a little Girardian mimetic desire/envy in your opening story about the guy at the bookstore. He probably also really wanted your car too. Mind you, he probably wanted one with leather seats.

  3. Great post!

    Care to comment some on Proverbs 30 while you’re on the general subject?

    Particularly here:

    “Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die:

    Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:

    Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.”

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+30&version=KJV

    I would love to hear your take on Proverbs 30 and I know some others who would quite enjoy it if you have time.

    Thanks!

  4. I didn’t see where you explain what an actual application of the plain language of Luke 14:33 would be. (As well as Luke 3:11, 6:24, 6:30, 12:33, 18:22, 18:25, 18:28-30; Mark 10:21, 10:25, 10:28-31; Matthew 5:42, 19:21, 19:24, 19:27-29; Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-34; 2 Corinthians 8:14-15; James 1:10-11, 5:1-6; 1 John 3:17-18, and many, many others). As you might say for many other subjects, the fact that some random person, or even every one of us, fails to adhere to the standard doesn’t mean that it’s not God’s standard. Usually when I see someone who doesn’t particularly care about the poor mention those passages, they either try to cite other passages that they believe allow them to ignore the passages just cited, or they simply attack the messenger for hypocrisy.

  5. Actually, I put way too many there, which makes them easy to ignore. What if you only looked at, say, 1 John 3:16-18, or Luke 14:33 and 12:33 and all the verses in support of them?

  6. Toby, the Scottish Metrical Psalter might be interesting to you. I’m trying to link to my blog through my name here, but I wasn’t successful yesterday. I have a blog post with some links about the singing or changing the Psalms.

  7. Toby, your best bet is to contact Jim Jordan at Biblical Horizons. He’s the Psalm-chanting guru. I don’t think he has a lot of resources, though. More a matter of going to conferences and learning by doing. To listen in on some past conferences, check out the resources on wordmp3.com. You might also want to check out David Erb’s through-composed Psalms, some of which are available here.

  8. Laura and Valerie,

    Thanks for the tips! It was Jim Jordan who turned me on to the idea, and especially his talks from this year’s Auburn Avenue Pastor’s Conference. We use the metrical Psalter, and love it! I will check out Erb and see what I can find. Thanks again! -tob

  9. Toby–”The Plainsong Psalter” exists, giving chants for all 150 Psalms complete, edited by James Litton, copyright A.D. 1988 by The Church Pension Fund (Episcopal?). I don’t see an ISBN. Published by The Church Hymnal Corporation, 445 Fifth Ave, New York, NY 10016. It puts the Book of Common Prayer psalm wording to the 8 tones and the “Tonus Peregrinus” (tone that wanders around: one note changes in the 2nd half). (I sang thru it once, with help from Paul Buckley at one of Jim Jordan’s BH conferences, and went back to “The Book of Psalms for Singing,” which includes a few chants.) I ran across a few copies at McKay’s used books, kept one, gave one to Covenant College, and sent the rest to Dr Jordan.

  10. I personally use the St. Dunstan;s Plainsong Psalter.

    I looked for it on Amazon and the picture looks different (not as complete) as the one above from the Anglican Parishes Association. The text is the 1928 prayer book (Miles Coverdell’s Great Bible of 1959 for the psalms and KJV for the canticles – Magnificat, Benedictus, &c.).
    It has reasonable good explanations about how to read the four-line stave and square notes of traditional chant.

  11. I personally use the St. Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter.
    St. Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter
    I looked for it on Amazon and the picture looks different (not as complete) as the one above from the Anglican Parishes Association. The text is the 1928 prayer book (Miles Coverdell’s Great Bible of 1959 for the psalms and KJV for the canticles – Magnificat, Benedictus, &c.). It has reasonable good explanations about how to read the four-line stave and square notes of traditional chant.

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