The Blessed Life: Breaking the Spirit of Mammon
Have you got your Bibles open to Matthew six and you have a marker at Luke 16? We're in a series called The Blessed Life and this week the title of the message is "Breaking the Spirit of Mammon" -- "Breaking the Spirit of Mammon." I'm going to tell you what the word "mammon" means because it doesn't mean what many people think that it means, and I'm going to show you every time that the word "mammon" is in the Bible. It's actually in the Bible four times but Jesus said it that we know of three times. So one of the times it's in the Bible it's a repeat. In other words, we're going to see it in Matthew and in Luke but it will be the same verse. So in Luke we'll see all three times.
Here it is. Matthew six, verse 24 -- Matthew 6:24. This is Jesus speaking in the Sermon on the Mount. No one -- no one -- no one -- I just want to emphasize that just for a moment -- not one person can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Now flip to Luke 16. We'll see again the same sermon in essence and yet Luke is a physician and he expounds a little bit. We did this earlier when we saw a verse in Matthew seven and Luke six.
Luke 16, verse nine. Jesus again speaking: And I say to you make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail they may receive you into an everlasting home. He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much. And he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore, if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you've not been faithful in what is another man's who will give you what is your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
All right, this is such an important verse that we need to understand what mammon is because it is the only thing Jesus said, “You can't serve God and this.” It is the only thing! We don't have that anywhere else in the Bible. So I have three questions for you today. Here's number one. What is mammon? If Jesus said, "You can't serve God and mammon," what is mammon? Well, mammon is an Aramaic word that means riches. Most people think that mammon refers to money but I don't think that's what Jesus was referring to here because not only was it an Aramaic word that means riches but it came from -- let me tell you where it came from -- it came from the Assyrian God of riches. And that came from Babylon.
Now I don't know if you ever thought about this, many people don't know, most people know of the city Babylon but they don't know where it came from. Let me just say it a little slower and you'll know immediately where it came from. Babyl… on -- as a matter of fact, let me say it this way so you'll know what Babylon means: babble on. Just -- that lady babbles on all the time. Never mind! [Laughter] The word babble means confusion. And Babylon came from the Tower of Babel where God confused their language. And Babylon actually means sown or planted in confusion.
This was a city that had its root in confusion. But if you remember the Tower of Babel, they were going to build a tower on their own to heaven. They were going to build their own system to get to heaven. It represents a prideful, arrogant spirit of humanity that says, “We don't need God, we can do it on our own.” And this is where the spirit of mammon came from. Mammon is a spirit and mammon is a spirit -- Jesus was referring to this false god of riches, this Assyrian false God of riches. Mammon is a spirit -- now listen to me very carefully -- that rests on money. All money -- all money has a spirit on it. It either has the spirit of mammon on it or it has the spirit of God on it. All money that you have in your account right now, you cannot -- listen! -- you cannot serve two masters, it's either God or mammon. The money in your account right now either has the spirit of mammon on it or it has the spirit of God on it.
The way you get the spirit of God on it, according to scripture is you give the first 10% of it to the house of God. And then God redeems the rest out from under the curse, out from under the spirit of mammon and that's why that money is blessed and protected. That money can't be devoured by the devourer because it has God's spirit on it. How could the devourer touch something with God's spirit on it? That money is protected and blessed and has the ability to multiply. But if it doesn't have the spirit of God on it, if you didn't give the first 10% to God it's not protected.
I know people that didn't tithe and they have this lump sum over here and this lump sum is sitting in some investment or the bank or something and it just keeps losing money. I want to say to them -- they say, “Well, I'm a Christian now but I didn't know about tithing then.” I understand that, but wouldn't you like the spirit of God on that money now? Why would you not take the tithe of the money now and give it to God so that that money would be blessed and protected instead of keep going down, down, down! Because the spirit of mammon is on that. Mammon is a spirit.
Jesus said here is something very, very, very clear. I want you to hear what he said. You can't serve two. You can't serve both. You can't serve God and the spirit of mammon -- you can't do it! And he said, “Either you're going to love one and hate the other or you're going to be loyal to one and despise the other.” Now I want you to think about this. Many people don't realize it but they actually despise God. Any time something happens where they lose money or something happens in their provision, their job or something -- they're believers, many of them -- but they get mad at God. Now why? Listen, he said you're going to despise one -- listen why -- because you've been loyal to another one.
Many of us unknowingly grew up loyal to and serving mammon. And the problem with that is is that mammon can never deliver on its promise. Mammon tries to take the place of God. Mammon is in direct contrast to the spirit of God. Let me tell you some things about mammon. Mammon is looking for servants. And mammon promises us everything that God only can give us! Think about it -- think about this -- you've heard this before. Mammon promises us security. If you had more money you'd be secure. Mammon promises us identity. People could listen to you -- significance!
Mammon promises us freedom. If you had money you could go where you want, when you want, and do what you want. Let me say that another way. You could be like Cain. You could do what you want with your money. Mammon promises us happiness. If you had more money you'd be happy. You'd have a good marriage if you had more money. People would respect you if you had more money. People would listen to you.
That's what -- listen -- only God can give you security. Only God can give you identity. Only God can give you significance. Only God can give you purpose. Only God can give you love, peace, and joy! And yet mammon says -- if you had more money, you'd have a better marriage, you'd be happy and you'd have peace. You wouldn't have all these stress if you had more money. Mammon is looking for servants. No man can serve two masters -- he is looking for servants.
Mammon -- I'll tell you a little something else about mammon, this will shock you -- people don't realize how strong this spirit is. Mammon is the spirit of antichrist. It's clear in scripture. It's so clear and every one of you when I say it, you'll know it because you've heard this scripture. The spirit of antichrist does not rule through the threat of nuclear war. According to the Bible the spirit of antichrist rules through the threat of not being able to buy and sell. Mammon! Mammon is a spirit. Hey, if mammon is not a spirit, how come it can talk? Because I've heard it. Every time you start to make a building commitment or give an offering or step out and tithe, mammon says, “You better not do that! You won't have enough.” It's always trying to get us to not serve God. Mammon is always trying to take the place of God.
Here's a big lie that mammon says: if you had more money you could help more people. Isn't that amazing? Can I tell you what helps people? God -- God helps people. Jesus never ever ever -- never ever ever told anyone that the answer to his problems was more money. Never did a blind person, never did a deaf person, never did a prostitute run up to Jesus and say, “Have mercy on me, son of David.” And Jesus turn around and say, “You just need more money!” [Laughter] Did he ever say that? No! But let me just tell you, let me show you again how mammon contrasts itself with God. Listen -- because we've had these -- you're going to find this humorous but we've all had these thoughts. We've had the thought at some point in our lives, I either need God to come through or I need someone to give me some money. [Laughter] And if I get some money, I don't need you God. Thank you! But my problem is solved, I got money. Are y'all hearing me? You seem really quiet today. [Laughter]
There is a spirit -- there is a spirit and let me tell you, nowhere is that spirit stronger than in America. You touch our financial institutions and you watch all of America get shaken. It is a spirit that tries to take the place of God. That's what mammon is, it is a spirit. Jesus said you can't serve God and mammon -- you can't do it! You can’t do it.
Here's question number two: is money evil? Jesus said in Luke 16, "unrighteous mammon." Again, if we think money, mammon is money, then we say unrighteous money. Money is unrighteous. “You know, the Bible says money is the root of all evil!” Well, I've heard that so many times. Let me read you what the Bible says.
First Timothy 6:10: For the love of money -- the love -- the lust is where this word comes from, of money is… the desire for money is the root of all evil, which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. Let me say it another way, serving mammon is the root of all evil. You can't serve God and mammon.
The love of money -- the love of riches -- the love of something other than God is the root of all evil. Greed and selfishness is the root of all evil. Bitterness, unforgiveness, resentment, all comes from loving and serving a false god instead of the true God.
Now there in Luke 16, let's talk about a few of these verses. Verse nine says: and I say to you make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon that when you fail they may receive you into an everlasting home.
Now that is a strange way to say that and I have to admit, the very first time I ever read that verse I misunderstood it. It seems to be saying, use your money to make friends. Use your money to do little things for people and that way, if you ever have a problem, then they will help you. That seems to be what he is saying. It is not what he is saying at all. The key is the word fail. This word in the Greek means to die; to expire physically -- to die. Here's what he's saying: take unrighteous mammon, this money that has been dedicated to the spirit of the world, take it and redeem it.
Give the first part to me, redeem it and bring it under my control. Use it to build the kingdom. You're going to make friends with this money. In other words, you're going to get to bring people into the kingdom that are going to get to be your friends and listen -- and when you die -- here's the key -- and when you die, they -- not it -- they, the people that you used your money to win to Christ, they will welcome you into an everlasting home. In other words, they're going to be standing at the gate of heaven when you go in saying thank you. There are going to be people from other countries -- other countries that you're going to meet in heaven, they're going to understand in heaven, we're going to know things in heaven, they're going to understand that it wasn't just a missionary that came but it was these 19 people that gave for the missionary to come. And they're going to make sure they find those 19 people and say “thank you” because if you hadn't given, then he wouldn't have come and if he hadn't have come I wouldn't have known about Jesus Christ. Isn't that incredible? -- That you can actually take your money and use it for something good.
Listen, God is the only one -- this is amazing to me -- God is the only one that can turn money into souls. We need to see it as that important. Money is not evil. Money is neutral. You can use it for good or bad. You can use it for temporal purposes or eternal purposes.
After I got saved, I started to say her because I was thinking we were already married. But after I got saved I wanted to witness and I just couldn't bring myself to talk to people about the Lord. I found these little books called “tracts.” Do you remember tracts? And I thought that was wow! I wonder how they came to name it tracts because before I got saved, tracts meant something else. But I thought, that's cool. They took that name and put it on the gospel. That's good! And I figured some ex-addict did that. [Laughter]
So anyway, I would take tracts and I'd leave them on the tables when we would go eat but nobody ever said anything! No one ever said, "Hey, I read that book and got saved." And I just couldn't understand it. So finally I put a $50 bill in a tract as a tip, and our meal was probably $9 or something. This is back in early '80s, 1980s, I got saved in '81. So I put a $50 bill in the tract and left it on the table. Then we went back a little while later and this lady came up and said, "I've been waiting for y'all to come back." She said, "I read that little book," -- she didn't know to call it a tract, she hadn't been saved yet. But she said, "I read that little book that you left." And she said, "I prayed the prayer and gave my life to Jesus." And then she said, "And I called my husband and read it to him over the phone and he gave his life to Jesus too." I said, "Wow!" It's great. We're sitting there talking and then it dawned on me. She said she called her husband. I said, "So did you call him from the restaurant? Was he at home? Was he at work?" She put her head down. She said, "No, he's in prison." Can I tell you something? I'm going to meet that guy in heaven. He's going to say, “Thanks for the $50 tract!” So money is not evil.
All right, here is question number three: What should I do with my money? What should I do with it? According to the Bible, what should I do with my money? Let me give you the answer, be a good steward. Honor God with the first and steward the rest. Be a good steward.
Now here's what some of you might be thinking. Pastor, I have too little of this unrighteous mammon to be concerned with this message. [Laughter] If I had more then I would really be listening and taking notes but I just don't have very much of it so I really don't need to be concerned with this whole series on The Blessed Life.
Okay, listen to me, lovingly I want to tell you something. If that's your attitude, I don't have very much -- listen to me, listen -- and you never will. You never will! Never! Never! -- If you're not going to steward when you have now.
Verse ten says: He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much. And he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.
Do you understand that God doesn't give much until he finds a good steward? God gives a little and sees what you do with it. And if you give him the first and steward it well, he will give you more. And if you steward more well, he'll give you more. In the world there is a saying, "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer." That's what the world says. Can I tell you what the kingdom principle is? Let me tell you the kingdom principle. The kingdom principle is the good stewards get more and the poor stewards don't. And that's the kingdom.
Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the talents and he takes the one from the guy who only has one but he was a bad steward and he gives it to ten, the guy who has most. He actually takes from the poor and gives it to the rich, which doesn't seem right but apparently this guy was stewarding it well. So he takes from the poor steward and gives to the good steward.
Please, please, please hear me! I'm begging you to hear me in this whole series, give God the first. Steward it well. See what God does with it.
Let me show you another verse. Look at verse 12, it says: And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's who will give you what is your own? If you've not been faithful in another man's who will give you what is your own?
Now, I understand that God owns it all, I understand that. But God specifically says, "The tithe belongs to me." This is specific. In many, many places throughout the Bible, and I've shown you some of these verses in this series, "The tithe is mine. The tithe, it is mine, it belongs to me." He even says, "If you take it, you're stealing from me." You understand you only have two choices with the tithe. You only have two choices, either bring it to the house of God or steal it; those are your only two choices. If you keep it, you're stealing it. Or you bring it to the house of God.
So here's what God is saying: he said, "If you've not been faithful with what is another man's who will give you what is your own?" Is it possible that he's talking about the tithe? If you won't be faithful with the 10%, why would I even give you the 90% with a blessing on it to do anything with it because that belongs to me? If you've not been faithful to what belongs to someone else, who is going to give you what is your own?
I learned this in kind of a strange way. Somebody invited me years ago, I've played a lot of nice golf courses now, years ago I had not played any -- I didn't have the money to play any of these nice courses. And so this guy invited me to play the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth and that's a big deal for a golfer so I went and it was just gorgeous and all. And I went into the pro shop and they had these jackets on, because it was the end of the season, 50% off. It said “Colonial Country Club.” I thought, you know I could afford that and I do need a jacket. And I called Debbie on the phone. I said, "Hey, there is this jacket." She said, "Yeah, you need one. We've been talking about it." "Well, it's this much." "Yeah, buy it! That's great!" So she's fine. We’ve got the money in the bank. We're not going to put it on a credit card or something. So everything is fine. So I buy it. I'm excited.
I'm driving away from the golf course and I start feeling guilty. I start thinking, oh, I probably shouldn't do this. I probably shouldn't wear a jacket that says "Colonial Country Club" and I probably shouldn't -- I just thought all these ways and I was always second guessing myself. I don't know if any of you have ever been like this. And so I drove back and returned it.
And then I drove home. I walked in and Debbie said, "Where is your new jacket?" I said, "I took it back." "What do you mean you took it back?" I said, "Well, I just kind of felt guilty. Maybe I shouldn't have bought it." "It was on sale. I told you to buy it." "I know! I know! I know!" She said, "You need to go back and buy it." So the next day I went back. And it was gone.
Oh! Don't go buy me a jacket. I'm okay. I can afford my own -- please! I'm okay! But I'm driving away and I'm mad at God. And I say to God, "I don't understand. You hold me to this high level financially and here I, one time -- one time I buy a nice jacket and you make me take it back." And the Lord, he just kind of got tired of it. He said, "I didn't make you take that jacket back." He said, "You always blame me for stuff like this." I said, "Well Lord. Yeah, but I don't want to spend your money wrong." Because I'm thinking it all belongs to God. Now listen to me -- this is what he said to me. He said, "Son, that was your money." Listen to me, and he brought this scripture to mind. He said, "If you'll be faithful with the 10%, I give you the 90%. It is mine. Everything belongs to me but I give it to you. You can drive a nice car with it. You can live in a nice home. You can have a jacket that you like. If you'll be faithful with what's mine, I'll give you what is your own." You understand what I'm saying? I understand it belongs to God but I'm telling you, God likes to bless us if we'll be faithful. He really does.
Then look at this scripture. Here's the last scripture I want to show you. Therefore… verse 11: Therefore, if you've not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon who will commit to your trust the true riches? If you've not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
Well, what are true riches? Let me tell you, it is very simple. True riches are people because people last forever. I want you to understand that. Nothing on this earth is going to last forever. We used to have this friend in college and he used to always say, "It is going to burn." That was just his statement. This was in Bible college. We'd drive by a nice house and we would say, "Look at that house!" He would say, "It's going to burn!" [Laughter] Well, he was right, he really was. It's all going to burn. Heaven and earth is going to be destroyed and then there is going to be a new heaven and earth. There is only one thing that's going to make it to eternity that's right in this sanctuary right now, there is only one thing, that's people -- souls -- souls are true riches.
So if you can't be -- listen to what God is saying. If you can't even handle your money, why would I give you people to steward? And every one of us, if we're believers, we should be stewarding people: We should be mentoring, we should be helping, we should be leading a group, we should be volunteering, we should be serving, we should be doing something. God says, "Well, you can't even handle this. Why would I give you true riches?"
Let me tell you what -- that really came home to me and became a funny story. My daughter and her husband, Ethan and Elaine right here on the front row, if you're at the other campus, you can see them right there, [Laughter] And did y'all wave? Good! You did, but he didn't? That's normal. [Laughter] So anyway... [Laughter] [Laughter] Different personalities you know!
They began dating. Of course Ethan came to me first and asked my permission. I didn't give it at first. I said, "I want you to be friends." I wanted to see if he would honor me -- if he wouldn't honor me, he wouldn't honor her. If he didn't do what I asked him to do then he's not going to -- if he is not a man of his Word, why would I want him hanging around -- I said, "I want you to be friends." So we went through a process.
Then as they got my okay to begin dating they were standing around in a group of young adults after seven one night, seven or eight of them talking and they got to talking about tithing and my stance on tithing and how strong I am on tithing. And one of them said, just kind of joking said to Elaine, "I’ll bet your dad even checks the tithing records of the guys that date you." [Laughter] And Elaine -- [Laughter] And that was her answer. Elaine said, "He does." [Laughter] And when she did, Ethan said, "Uh-oh!" And she said, "What do you mean "Uh-oh! What do you mean "Uh-oh? You told me you tithe." Here's what he said, "Well, there was one time when I was one day late." Because he didn't have Internet at home because it cost so much he would go to the Starbucks and he would do his tithe online. He would get paid on Thursday and on Friday he would go to Starbucks and do his tithe. But one Friday he wasn't -- or do it at work. Right? But one Friday he wasn't working so he did it on Saturday. But he always felt bad about it because it was one day late. And he just immediately said, "Uh-oh! I was one day late one time." And they started laughing. They said, "Oh, your dad won't notice that." Elaine said, "Yes, he will!" [Laughter] They said, "Why don't you ask him?" She said, okay. So she came home.
She said, “Dad, did you check Ethan's tithing record?” I said, “Yeah.” [Laughter] She said, “Well, was it okay?” I said, “There was one time when he was one day late.” [Laughter] And I'm going to ask him about it next time we meet. [Laughter]
Okay, listen to me. I'm going to say something kind of strong but listen. Of course, I would check the tithing record of a young man that wants my daughter. Why would I give my daughter to a thief? Let me say it another way. Why would I give true riches to someone who can't even handle money?
When she got married, she said, “Dad, I just want you to be daddy. We're going to have Pastor Preston marry us.” I said, “That's fine with me, sugar.” She said, “But we do want you to come up and say something.” So I prayed and said, “Lord, what should I say? The one thing I'm going to just take a few moments in my daughter's wedding -- my only daughter, what do I say?” Then it came to me. So when I went up I said to her, “Elaine, I'm known for giving. I'm actually known for giving extravagantly. But you are the most extravagant gift I've ever given.”
Why would I give something so priceless to someone that would not steward it? Why would the heavenly Father, who has all power to bless you, why would he ever give you significance or influence or even wealth if he can't trust you as a steward?
I want you to bow your heads and close your eyes. Please hear me. This is more important than you think. I know some of you have had difficulties in this area and you're thinking, a few more weeks we'll be finished with the tithing series and Pastor Robert just doesn't understand my finances, and he doesn't understand this, and he doesn't understand that. I don't know how else to tell you, I am pleading with you -- I'm pleading with you, you cannot serve God and mammon. There is a spirit that is lying to you that has lied to you for years and said that your way is better than God's way. I'm telling you, it is not better -- I promise you! I'm simply asking you like God asked you in his Word try it. Try my way. Try my way.
We want to pray for you. No matter which campus you're attending, if you're going through some difficulties in any area, and it may be in a financial area, but maybe it is in a relationship area, maybe it's in your spiritual walk with God, maybe you feel far from God and you need to come home. Maybe you've gotten a bad report. Maybe there is someone in your family that's far from God and you want someone to agree with you in prayer. If you need prayer in any area of your life in just a moment we're going to stand and when we stand at every campus and in every overflow room I want you to just come to the front and we're going to have leaders here that will pray for you. We love you. So you don't have to be a Gateway Church member to come for prayer. If you need prayer in any area of your life, as soon as we stand up, don't be embarrassed, just stand up. Step out and come and let us pray for you.
And if you don't have to leave, if it is not an emergency, I'm asking you to stay. We just do one more worship song and then we're dismissed because people are making decisions right now, life-changing decisions. So if you can, stay during this time and worship God with us. If you need prayer, as soon as we stand up, just step out and come. Holy Spirit, I pray you'll draw every person that needs any prayer at every campus in Jesus' name. Amen.