Richard J. Foster: Spiritual Power

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No servant is able to serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and he will love the other, or he will be devoted to one and he will despise the other. You are not able to serve God and mammon. Luke 16:13

“Money has power, spiritual power, to win our hearts. Behind our coins and dollar bills or whatever material form we choose to give our money are spiritual forces. It is the spiritual reality behind money that we want so badly to deny. For years I felt that Jesus was exaggerating by fixing such a huge gulf between mammon and God. Couldn’t we show how advanced we are in the Christian life by giving each his due, God and mammon? Why not be joyful children of the world just as we are joyful children of God? Aren’t the goods of the earth meant for our happiness? But the thing I failed to see, and the thing that Jesus saw so clearly, is the way in which mammon makes a bid for our hearts. Mammon asks for our allegiance in a way that sucks the milk of human kindness out of our very being.”

Richard J. Foster in The Challenge of the Disciplined Life: Christian Reflections on Money, Sex, and Power (New York: Harper SanFrancisco, 1985) 26. I am safely in Chicago, IL, where I will teach “Faith and Finances” at Northern Seminary through Tuesday.

Foster keenly alerts us to the spiritual power behind mammon. It’s sobering to think that allegiance to mammon “sucks the milk of human kindness out of our very being.” But what does that mean in plain terms as we think about kindness and generosity?

When we serve mammon, it leads our hearts to focus on worldly desires rather than be guided by God to accomplish His purposes. This is not insignificant. We become just like the masses in an unkind world. It makes us unkind.

When, instead, we live as faithful stewards and joyful children of God, our aim is higher and our impact greater. We serve God and use money to accomplish His purposes. We do kind things, large and small, that shape our being and touch others deeply.

So, now the connection to generosity comes into view. Only those who serve God and use money faithfully are free from the spiritual power of mammon to be agents of kindness. Will that be you? The only way forward is to put to work what you have in obedience to the teachings of Jesus.

Our tendency is to rationalize disobedience. We say, “But my heart is right!” Foster would say we are fooling ourselves into thinking we have advanced so far in the Christian life to say we can hold on to both. We serve whatever we are holding on to, and we can’t hold on to both God and mammon.

Father, use biblical truth to set my 27 Faith and Finances students free from slavery to mammon this weekend. Make this true for all Daily Meditations readers too. As we serve You rather than mammon, show Your kindness through us to an unkind world. Hear this prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.