Tuesday, January 10, 2006

More Thoughts on Mammon

It occurred to me that Mammon is not really a false idol. By that I mean that it really does deliver on its promises, which a false idol never does. So maybe it’s a true idol, which may make it even more dangerous.

Mammon promises comfort, ease, the good life. And for many people, it seems to deliver just that. I’ve watched two of my suburban neighbors raise their kids, enter the Empty Nest years, and promptly move to bigger houses. And by bigger houses I mean 7,000 square foot, 7-bedroom McMansions on the golf course, with the swimming pool, the tennis court, and the three-car garage, just enough room for a Lexus, a Beamer and a Mercedes. They followed Mammon, and Mammon rewarded them handsomely.

Some people really are cushioned from cradle to grave. They are born with a silver spoon in their mouth and they end up finally keeling over while lining up a putt on the 17th green. Mammon does this for them. Mammon says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have trusted in your own self-sufficiency; trust also in Me. Do you not know that in My Father’s house there are many McMansions?” And so there are.

This doesn’t work in many places; in Darfur, Sudan, for instance, or on the south side of Columbus. But if you come from the right background, and if you live in the right suburb, and your skin is the right color, and you attend the right schools, and if a few other crucial factors line up, you can follow Mammon merrily along and Mammon will deliver on His promises. Try not to look into your egotistic, self-sufficient heart, and you’ll be just fine.

It’s a living death, of course. You’ll lose your soul in the process. But you’ll look good while doing it, and you’ll be the envy of a whole covetous world. And that’s the appeal of Mammon. How else can we explain the otherwise preposterous choice to build 7,000 square foot McMansions after everybody’s left home? Who’s going to be impressed? Apparently no one related to you.

I have caught this disease. It’s latent most of the time, but sometimes it flares up and I find myself writhing in its grasp. I don’t want a McMansion. The 300GB iPod Gigando would do just fine. The truth is it’s easier to wag my finger accusingly at the McMansions than it is to do the hard work of examining my own covetousness and greed. But it’s there. It’s there in the easy transference from reliance on God to reliance on my brain, my college degrees, my job, my salary. And it’s there in my iPod Envy, in the stupid belief that one more gadget will make me a healthy, whole, well-balanced human being.

I don’t know any cure for this other than confession and repentance, two exceedingly unhip concepts that make you look dependent and non-self-sufficient and guilty and fallible. But maybe there’s some relief in looking in the mirror and seeing your true face instead of the face you project to the envious, covetous world. And maybe there’s value in striving to maintain your soul. I’d like to think so. I believe so. But Mammon, He’s no ordinary idol. He’ll wine you and dine you and woo you, and He looks like a million bucks, hell, ten million bucks, because a million doesn’t go as far as it used to go. It’s too late when you look into His eyes and find there’s nothing there.


Mark K. said...

Mt. 16:26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

John McCollum said...

Right on, man.