God, or Mammon?

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St.
Matthew 6:22-33

There was a young man who worked for a nearby company. His
boss was an older gentleman, always kind, always gentle, a
good boss by any measure. The pay was decent but not great
by any means.

 

One day as this young man was walking down the street he
saw a flyer for another job. They promised him the world;
a shiny new company car, one of the highest salaries in
town, and an office with a great view. He went through the
interview process and accepted the job. The only problem
was that he had not met the boss. When he began working he
realized that the boss was a terrible, awful human being.
He was harsh with his words, he was merciless, he was
guided only by profit. He ensured that the company always
made lots of money, but everyone was quite miserable in
the process.

The young man held onto both jobs but just barely. As he
focused his efforts to please his new boss, his other work
would suffer but still his old boss was kind and patient
with him. The young man had everything that he thought he
ever wanted. The new car, the new suit, and plenty of
money to spare. And then the young man realized something:
The more time he spent in his new work environment, the
more he started becoming just like his awful new boss and
the less he desired to work for his original boss. It was
an extreme wake-up call for him. It was a sign that he
needed to make a decision. He could stay with this new job
and have everything he ever thought that he wanted right
away but he would also lose everything that was important
to him. He would even lose himself in his pursuit of
material wealth.

In today’s gospel reading we see a similar theme as
the Lord Jesus Christ reminds us that “No one can
serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and
love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise
the other.” The Lord further clarifies for us with a
simple statement “You cannot serve God and
mammon.” Mammon is wealth or money but in this case
it is understood as having the potential to greatly
influence our moral compass as well. We live in a world
that requires us to make money. We need financial
resources to do much of what we do. The Lord understands
that completely. The issue here is not whether or not we
need money. The question is what is the focus of our
desires. It is the focus of our desires that will lead us
either to love and serve money or will allow us to love
and serve God. Put another way, it is the focus of our
desires that allows money to serve us or forces us to
serve money.

Among many of the holy fathers of the Orthodox Church,
there is the concept of the “Nous”. This is
also called the heart by some of the fathers. The nous is
understood as the eye of the soul. With such an
understanding we can read more deeply into the words of
Our Lord Jesus when He says, “The eye is the lamp of
the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will
be full of light; but if your eye is evil, your whole body
will be full of darkness.” It is certainly true that
this can be understood as the physical eye, but in the
depth of our theology, we can go further to understand
that what really matters is not a matter of the physical
eyes but of the heart. What do we desire? What do we seek?
What do we contemplate and ponder and think about?
According to the Lord, it is whatever we focus on with our
heart and mind that begins to master us. It is no surprise
that it becomes easy for us to fall prey to money as to a
false God. If we think about the time and energy
we’ve dedicated to “making a living” it
can be really easy for us to lose focus on why we do the
work that we do.

In the Orthodox Christian life we subject every part of
our life as an offering of thanks to God. We freely offer
our will to God. We offer our talents and gifts to God. We
offer everything that we have and everything that we are
to the true and living God. It is the continual offering
of everything to God that ensures that our compass is
always pointing in the right direction. As Orthodox
Christians, we don’t lose focus of Jesus Christ
because we understand that the whole of our life is a gift
that we gratefully offer back to God. We live within the
world but we do our best to never be part of it’s
culture of money. That is not easy. There are always new
and shiny things that demand our attention and demand to
be purchased. Each and every one of these shiny new things
requires us to work harder and dedicate more time to its
acquisition. In essence it requires part of our life in
exchange for what it offers us.

We decide what is important to us. We decide where to
focus our energies. We ultimately choose what we desire in
the depths of our heart. We choose what we love. Much of
this becomes natural to us depending on where we spend our
time and how we use the gifts that have been given to us.
Have we genuinely chosen love of God as our ultimate point
of reference? Because it is only in service to the true
Master that we are released from every form of slavery. It
is only in slavery to the One God that we truly find
freedom. It is only when we serve the One who purchased
us, that we can find our precious and true value as His
children. Glory be to God forever, AMEN.

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