Jesus set up a fundamental antipathy between God and Mammon. One way or the other, He said (Matt. 6:24). In another place, He said quite plainly that whoever does not give away all His possession cannot be His disciple (Luke 14:33). Look at your possessions, Jesus says, and if you want to be a disciple, kiss them good-bye. Say farewell.
Now here we are, gathered as a congregation of disciples. That is what our baptism declares, and that is what we profess to be. Are we making this profession in the teeth of the Lord who called us? Is stewardship of possessions disobedience?
Not at all. As we seek to understand this, and to obey it, what we must not do is dilute in any way the force of the Lord’s requirement. He is the revelation of the Father to us, and so we must not add to His words, and we must not take away from them. Whatever Jesus meant, we must do—all of us.
Jesus uses the word Mammon four times. Once is in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:24). Right before this, He had said that we must be laying up treasure in Heaven, not on earth. The treasure in Heaven cannot be robbed, and treasures down here can be. He then says that we cannot serve (douleuo) both God and Mammon. He then tells us His application, which we can see with His use of the word therefore. He says that we must not worry about our possessions, not that we may not have them. Indeed, Jesus assumes that we must have them, that we must use them. He says that our heavenly Father knows that we have need of all these things (v. 32). He then says that we are to seek first the kingdom, and these other things will be added. It is a matter of priorities, as tested and identified by the presence or absence of a slavish fear or worry.
The other place He uses the word Mammon is in the gospel of Luke (Luke 16:9-13), right after He told the parable of the unjust steward. He says that Christians ought to get a clue when it comes to finances, and learn how to make friends by using Mammon (v. 9). He goes on to say that we are summoned to be faithful in our use of Mammon (v. 11), treating it as a farm league wealth, where we are in training for the major leagues — where we will come to know how to handle real riches, permanent wealth.
So here are the two central indicators of a Mammon problem. First, are you a financial worrier? Jesus says no. And second, are you dedicated to the faithful use of Mammon as a temporary and battered scaffolding that we are using as we build the everlasting city, the one that is covered with eternal jewels?