Unrighteous Mammon


Luke 16

A young boy living on an East Cipinang garbage...

A young boy living on an East Cipinang garbage dump, Jakarta Indonesia. Picture taken by Jonathan McIntosh, 2004. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

The translation “dishonest wealth” is a poor choice.  The New International Version translates this somewhat better as “worldly wealth.”  The Revised Standard Version from the 50’s called it “unrighteous mammon” following the King James precedent of simply bringing the Greek word ‘mammon’ into English.  The point isn’t that these possessions are gained immorally, it’s that possessions belong to this age, not the age to come.  We will not need money in heaven, just as our first parents did not require coinage for their life in Eden.  The wealthy will have no bigger apartments in the New Jerusalem.  They will not dine in luxury, not will the poor subsist on gruel. A new fruit will ripen on the tree of life each month of the year.

Such statements are images, of course.  They reflect on the simple notion that when humanity is restored to God, when the human heart is brought under the reign of God’s spirit, bread will be shared.  As with manna in the wilderness, no one will have too much and no one will have too little.

Unlike our own day.

We have all seen the photographs of children with distended bellies because their bodies have begun to digest their own internal organs.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one in every eight people suffered from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012.  Yet 40% of the food in the United States and up to 50% worldwide is wasted or lost.

Families don’t work this way.  If anything it is the strong (parents) who go without for the sake of the weak (children).  And we know in our bones that were the world “set right,” no child would perish for want of food or clean water.  If God governs each human heart, if God reigns over a single human family, no one will go hungry.

So what shall we do with “unrighteous mammon”?  What shall we do with the wealth that is part of this world rather than the world to come?

The principle is simple, however difficult the execution might be: “make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.  Use your possessions in keeping with the reign of God that you may find a home there when money is gone.

PS  Check out the counter showing pounds of wasted food at http://endhunger.org/food_waste.htm