God vs Mammon

75. God vs Mammon

There is probably nothing more urgent in the world today than to redefine our relationship to money. In our society and in much of the world, money is the final arbiter of value, the metric we use to measure the failure and success of our most critical decisions – from how we use our natural resources, to how we conduct foreign policy, to who we elect as our local, state and national leaders. Driving home the degree to which money has become our master, we have even renamed ourselves in its image, calling ourselves “consumers” and measuring our self-worth by our net worth. Through a powerful process of cultural mutation, we have become, as one economist put it, a new species: “Homo Economicus.”

Unfortunately, our economic selves are often at odds with our physical selves. For example, fearing the economic implications, we cannot bring ourselves to adequately address or even acknowledge the realities of global warming, deforestation, ozone depletion and a host of other life-threatening ills that have as their common root cause over-consumption. Trapped by our human-made cultural value system, we act as if our survival is more dependent on the artifice of economics than on the reality of a healthy biosphere.

This is why Jesus says you cannot serve both God and mammon: You cannot be free to see and respond to reality if you are already enslaved to the almighty dollar – or yen, or yuan, or baht, or euro or whatever.

Serve God, or serve mammon. One choice keeps our evolutionary possibilities alive; the other ultimately shuts them down. As a society it is clear what choice we have made. But it may not be too late to change our minds.

[See also “Teaching About Reliance on Wealth” (Commentary 12-67), “Relation of Possessions to Eternal Life” (Commentary 14-85), “The Rich Publican of Jericho” (Commentary 14-88).]