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Jesus’ Teaching on Mammons, Golden Calves, and Anxiety

by David Gray, March 2, 2014

mammon

Today’s Gospel Reading for this Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time comes from Matthew 6:24-34 and concerns Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount teaching about the various types bondage that we all inevitable fall into when reject full reliance on God.

    Jesus said to his disciples: “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

    “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?

    Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

The opening verse about mammons is one of the few New Testament that I had knowledge about prior to my conversion. The reason I knew about this one is because as a Freemason I was keenly aware that ‘serving two masters’ and ‘mammon’, was the primary Christian proof-text against Freemasonry – Freemasonry was ‘mammon’. Back then I thought that was a horrible application of Jesus’ teaching, and I still do today. To be sure, I do not believe that by Scripture alone (sola-scriptura) a Protestant Christian can truly know whether they can be a Freemason or not, but for Catholics this is a settled issue. The code of canon law clearly, explicitly, and definitively ranks the Masonic Order among organizations that Catholics cannot belong to (ref: This is Why Catholics Cannot Be Freemasons).

Concerning the Gospel Reading at Mass today, we cannot lose sight of the fact of what Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is. As I wrote in ‘A Consideration of Jesus’ Beatitudes‘ Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is the fulfillment of Moses’ sermon on the hillside of Mount Sinai.

In the instant case, there are two historical parallels to be made between Jesus’ and Moses’ sermons. First, after YHWH had delivered His people from bondage in Egypt and had proven Himself to be their provider there they are in the desert grumbling to Moses over their apparent lack of food and water. So Moses then petitions YHWH for help and, in turn, YHWH provides them with an exact abundance of water, manna bread, and quail (Cf. Exo. 16-17). Second, at the end of twenty-fourth chapter of Exodus we read that after Moses ascended back up the mountain to convene with YHWH for forty days and forty nights, the Children of Israel, being left without their mediator and feeling that he had been delayed, convince Aaron to make them a substitute object of worship – the golden Calf (cf. Exo. 32).

As the fulfillment of Moses, what Jesus is essentially saying here is that, ‘I too am going to ascend; You may not always see me, but don’t worry about a single thing, because I will always provide for you.’ And He uses the image of mammon, a false god, to point back to the Children of Israel and their ‘Golden Calf’ god made out of their over abundance (greed) of their material possessions (wealth). “You cannot serve God and mammon.”

And it is as absolutely true today as it has always been. We seem to have a propensity or an unnatural inclination to worship the things that our wealth creates. And I am using the word ‘wealth’ here in a very lose relative way, because I even know homeless people who have created their own ‘Golden Calves’. It seems to be very easy for us to substitute our need for God with a need for things that we can create or acquire on our own. I believe that occurs on the highest level of rejecting the true God, for a false god that we create according to our own liking, to the lowest levels of worshiping objects, such as cars, houses, electronics, and etc. that we accumulate through wealth, and even to the most demonic level of worshiping other people.

It is true, mammons and golden calves come in a variety of forms, shapes, and sizes, but they always represent our inability to persevere in the truth. It is a reflection of our love of the easy lie – of what isn’t real. There is only one thing in this life that is always true and that is Jesus Christ the person (Cf. Jn. 14:6). Therefore to place any thing before or above Him is to worship mammons and golden calves.

Concerning the other point that Jesus raises here, I find it to be true as well today as it has always been that it is easy for us to forget the things that God has done for us in the past, or to fall into the trap of believing that what He did for us in the past He won’t do for us again.

Yes, our situations, health, finances, relationships, and etc. do change, but God does not change. The very same God who brought you through before will bring you through again. There is no reason for us to believe otherwise, and there is no reason for us to grumble as the Children of Israel did in the desert, and, as Jesus commanded, there is no reason for us to worry. And God may not just instantly take all of your pain away, but I promise you that He will be with you through even second of it. For, in the midst of where you are, so too is there Christ Jesus. This is the great reality of the God who became man for our sake 2,000 years ago and continues to dwell with and in us today.

Indeed, it is an awesome thing to grab hold of this truth and live in the power of it! It is truly life changing to know that there is never a time during your day when God is not right there with you and is unceasingly offering your His grace for you to live a most abundant life.

“Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

PRAYER FOR RELIANCE ON GOD
Lord God, teach me to rely on only you; For you are my sole provider, my strength, and my rock. Teach me to rely not on my own means, but only on you, who has proven to provide me with exactly what I need and exactly when I need it. Make me a light of your blessings, so that others will know that you provide for your children. And keep me chaste, simple, and pure from the allurements of the world, and the temptations of the evil one. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen

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Scripture texts in this blog are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

2 Comments


    • Dave
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    • March 3, 2014

    Hi David- Yes, I love this Gospel reading also. As one who has struggled with worry and anxiety this always brings me great encouragement. I have tried to incorporate more JOY in my life and my interactions with others. Thanks for your article!

    • That's beautiful advice Dave - incorporating more joy in our life in our interactions! Thank you!

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