Jeremiah 8:18 – 9:1
The Old Testament tells of a nation called to live in a special relationship with God. However, that nation, Israel, repeatedly strays away from God. They turn to other gods, mainly fertility gods, in other words, gods of prosperity and plenty. Some of them are mentioned by name, for example: Astarte, Chemosh, and Milcom (1 Kings 11:33); and Baal (Jeremiah 7: 8-10). By whatever name, we are confronted here with a reality that is with us still: the lure of money, possessions, prosperity, wealth (summed up by an old fashioned word, Mammon). Christians become Mammonians. (There, that’s a new word!) Claiming to live by faith in God, money looms larger in our thinking than God does. We all feel this lure of Money to some extent. But, in Luke 16:1-13 Jesus makes the point that it is impossible to serve both God and Mammon. If the desire for money and property, wealth and possessions is what drives us, God is not what God should be for us. We have allowed Mammon to usurp the place that belongs to God. For most of us, it is probably, the major temptation that we face. It is a major force in our society. But that is what the parable of the Dishonest Manager is about. Admittedly this is a difficult story. It seems to sanction dishonest activity. But the main point, as I see it, is that money and possessions are to be used to build up our relationship with the kingdom of God, not to satisfy our selfish desires. Another way of putting that would be to say that the need for money must not be allowed to push love for God and neighbour aside. God at the centre of our lives rather that money and things. We bemoan the dwindling membership of our churches, but we should join in a lament like that of Jeremiah for our country as so often we, as a people, put economics ahead of compassion, making money ahead of making peace, getting rather than giving, hoarding rather than sharing, fearing rather than trusting.
- What similarities can to see between people today and those of olden times who, living a precarious existence as pastoralists and agriculturalists, clung to worshipping fertility gods while still claiming to be God’s people?
- Do you agree (as Luke 16:10-12 seems to imply) that the way a person handles money is a measure of the Holy Spirit’s presence in that person’s life?
- Money, like fire, is a good servant but a bad master: give examples.
- How does love for God and for others express itself in the way we handle our money and possessions?