“Who Do You Serve? God or Mammon?” by Fr. Robert Manansala, OFM

Our God is a demanding God and He demands absolute loyalty. Jesus
highlights this in the Gospel passage by declaring categorically that one cannot serve two masters (God and mammon) and that wealth can compete with our commitment to God.

The word mammon is from the Greek word mamonas and it refers to earthly wealth. In the New Testament, only Jesus utters the word to contrast earthly goods with heavenly realities. However, this does not speak of Jesus’ negative attitudes and opposition to possessions in themselves but of the inordinate attachment to them and their materialistic character. Indeed, the problem is not about material goods per se but about our selfish, hedonistic and greedy attachments to them.

Jesus does not deny our human and basic need for food, drink, clothing, shelter and other material support. He does not also espouse passivity, laziness and apathy in the face of our duty to work in support of ourselves, our families and other people. But we must know our priorities in life and in this world. Our first priority is to “seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (Mt 6:33)

We must recognize our noble place and unique value in the natural world. Jesus says that we are more important than the birds and wild flowers. (Mt 6:26) We must put our trust and confidence in the providential goodness of God. Jesus says that if God takes care of the birds in the sky and the grass in the field, “will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” (Mt 6:30) Our heavenly Father knows what we need even before we ask for it from Him. (Mt. 6:32)

Following the Wisdom teachers and to drive home his important
points regarding material goods, Jesus instructs his listeners through the use of two examples from nature. First, he compares the human need for food with that of the birds. In the scheme of things, although according to their nature, the birds do not sow, reap and gather in contrast to humans, God still takes care of them. We must trust that God will provide for us as we live according to our nature as human beings.

Second, Jesus also compares the human need for clothing with the raiment of the field flowers. They too follow their nature, which clothes them magnificently and in a way more beautiful than the royal splendor of Solomon. Likewise, as in the case of the need for food, we must trust that God will care for us as we live according to the nature fashioned for us by God.

Using the Jewish rabbinical argument “from the lesser to the greater,” Jesus then puts a challenge to the disciples’ faith. If through their respective natures God provides for the birds and the flowers and other creatures, for that matter, how much
more God will provide for us through our nature.

What we have in the gospel passage is one of Jesus’ Wisdom teachings. It is about putting our trust and confidence in God and living according to our nature as human beings.

But is this really what we see around us? How come some people, for example, seem to be more provided with material goods than the others? While we see so many people living in dehumanizing poverty and destitution, we also see others living in luxury and opulence? Is worrying not justifiable in the midst of uncertainty?

The gospel passage suggests a clue to the possible root cause of the problem: we do not really live according to our nature. Hoarding, greed, insensitivity, selfishness, apathy, laziness, among others, are not according to the nature God has fashioned for us.

The Social Teaching of the Church speaks of responsible stewardship, the universal destination of goods and solidarity with others, especially the poor and the needy. God has given us the goods of the earth for our proper use and not abuse. They are for our wellbeing and not for accumulation for the sake of profit and selfish interests. They are meant for sharing and equitable distribution according to the needs of people, not according to their wants. But this does not take place if we serve mammon more than we serve God and other people, especially the least, the lost and the last.

About Fr. Robert and his reflections