For those of you who are thinking, “If that deacon doesn’t open with a joke, I’m writing the pastor a note.” Don’t worry. And it’s a joke about pastors and money. Three pastors were comparing notes over lunch, and they turned to the question of how to divvy up the Sunday collection. The first said, “I take all the money and I throw it up in the air. The money that lands heads goes to God, and the money that lands tails goes to me.” The second said, “I do something similar. I throw it up in the air and the money that lands on its edge goes to God and the money that lands flat goes to me.” The third shook his head and said, “You’ve got to have more faith in God’s awesome power. I throw it up in the air and he grabs what he wants.”
Actually, we’re going to talk about something the Bible talks about a lot. We’re going to talk about money, and its pursuit, which Jesus calls “Mammon.”
Mammon is yearning for more – more stuff, more experiences, more of whatever appeals to me. We rarely make a conscious decision to serve the God of money. We usually are just working toward a simple goal like a new car or a bigger house, or a comfortable retirement. But in the pursuit of these fine things, we can find ourselves with money and its pursuit at the center of our agenda, and then we are serving mammon.
There is nothing right or wrong about money itself. The dangerous part about money is how we react to it. People who have money have options that people who don’t have money do not. If we fixate on the independence we get when we have a lot of money, we might not notice that we have lost our dependence on God. We think we have gained independence, but we have only made ourselves dependent on obtaining money. That’s Mammon. And Jesus is reminding us of that fundamental choice: Mammon or God.
Bob Hope once said that money cannot buy you happiness but it can sure help you pick your misery.
Jesus asks why would you pick misery?
Why do we chase the almighty dollar?
- Security: provide for my retirement
- Pleasure: work hard play hard
- Competition: it’s how we keep score
What does the peace of God offer?
- Security: eternal rest in the bosom of Abraham
- Pleasure: eternal joy
- Communion: perfect harmony with God and neighbor.
One revolves around a scorecard. The other revolves around the Creator and Redeemer. One is something transitory. The other offers something eternal.
The service of God is about keeping our focus on the final destination and letting the daily details settle into place naturally. Thus, we don’t worry about tomorrow.
The service of mammon is about keeping our focus on the next milestone and letting the destination remain indistinct. We don’t worry about the eternal destination.
But we are all going to have an eternal destination. One is really, really good. The other is really, really not.
Jesus asks us, “Aren’t you getting tired of chasing a bit of happiness when you are offered the eternal joy of God’s peace?”
Do we really understand how much God loves us?
Do we really understand that only he can give us the peace we seek?
What do we mean by peace?
Peace is not the absence of conflict. Peace is that deep stability of a big ship that securely floats even as the seas rise and the waves start rolling. Peace is that quality that we see in others who are not rocked even in the face of dreadful challenges like cancer.
The catechumens and candidates here at Mass for the Rite of Sending are seeking that peace. We all should be inspired by their courage and determination. Let’s think about how we find God’s peace.
Our challenge is to stop moving long enough to hear the question and consider the offer. How are we going to cultivate the ability to hear God when he’s talking to us?
know our place in the hierarchy – you’re not God’s gift to industry; you’re God’s child to whom he gave talents he expects you to use to his glory. He’s God and you’re not.
make a daily commitment to him – start your day with something simple like “God, thank you for day you have given me; please show me how you want me to use it.”
spend more time with him – be still and know he is God
Lent is a good time to try something new: daily mass, stations of the Cross, spiritual reading
We get the fruit of the tree we tend: Mammon or God
The fruit of chasing after money is a basketful of worries.
The fruit of chasing after God is a deep and lasting peace.
We are offered peace or worry; God or Mammon. Choose wisely.