Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for 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.”
Many Bible translations use the word ‘money' or 'riches’ in place of ‘mammon’. But mammon is more than just money; it is our desires that are exalted as objects of slavish servitude. It can be money, wealth, real estate, and riches in general, but it was also used to describe a host of excesses, including: power, control, pride, our intellect, lust, greed, gluttony, wrath, sloth, dishonesty, hubris, envy or any of the other world’s trappings. Mammon serves as a “catch all” word for the human ego and all of its cravings.
This does not mean that money and wealth are bad in and of themselves. No, it is the unjustifiable desire for those things that clouds our vision and steals our focus from the Divine. It is what we hold dear, our mental and emotional attachments, that control our focus, and therefore our thoughts and desires. What we hold dear is the determinant for how our live proceeds; it defines who we are.
Our goal in this life is to be balanced in all we do and all that we are. To release the power that the world holds over us allows us to rise above its influences and temptation. When we can limit our desires for earthly pleasures and possessions, we become more balanced and are no longer enslaved by them, so we can enjoy them even more.
The concept of ‘non-attachment’ is the ability to enjoy and experience the world to the fullest while knowing that none of these things are who we are; none of these worldly desires are more valuable than God and our relationship as a Child of God. So, by being non-attached to the world we don't have to give up anything. We can have, do, and be whatever we want, and we don't define our self by these experiences and objects. Our Bible verse says that we cannot ‘serve’ both God and mammon, but with care, proper attention and balance, we can enjoy both.
What do we hold dear to us? What do we hold most valuable? What are our values in life? Each one of us will have a different list, and those lists may contain: wealth, security, power, control, friends, family, love, happiness, time with others, alone time, service to others. Our list can be long.
Some of us have simply accepted our family’s values without thought. Others, somewhere along the line, rejected the values we grew up with. Does what we hold dear to us today bring us happiness and satisfaction?
When I was in college, my Dad’s desire for me was to pursue math. That was what was valuable to him. I loved music. The act of creating and performing music for my joy and the joy of others was strong within me. There was, and still is, a magic that I experience when music springs to life.
But another value within our household was respect. So, out of respect for my Dad I pursued math and music. For two years I pursued math as a ‘minor’ area of study while music was my ‘major'. Then after two years, I was frustrated, started to dislike school and going to those math classes. It was not natural to me; I did not take to it readily either with my heart or mind. Something within me rebelled against my journey and new insights found their way to my soul. So, after two years I stopped enrolling in math, and school became a joy again.
This is a natural and normal process as we become aware of Christ within, as taught in Philippians 1:9 - And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight.
There are times in our lives when we have to look at what we hold dear and make a decision about what we are pursuing. Is this what I value, or what someone else is telling me to hold valuable?
We live in a society that constantly tells us what to value. We are told what success means: we have to have over a million in the bank, and the more the better. We are told by society what success looks like: dressing nicely with vast amounts of clothing to choose from, a big home, new cars, power, prestige, time on our hands for great vacations, multiple accounts and portfolios, lots of toys, and that list goes on and on.
Really, everything we are told that a successful person is or has is what people who feel unsuccessful in their lives truly desire. I feel successful in my life, and Mary and I basically have none of the things that the world tells us we should have in order to be successful. We are solidly middle-class, yet what we hold dear brings us happiness, satisfaction, and meaning. By that definition, our definition - we are successful.
One of our greatest challenges, one of our greatest rights, and one of our greatest requisites for a happy life is to define ‘success’ for ourselves. Humankind has been asking since the beginning of time: What does success look like?” To answer that, we must remember that we cannot serve two masters: the great raucous society ‘out there’, the Collective Unconscious as Carl Jung called it, and the Christ within. We cannot do it, nor do we have to.
As human beings, we share certain values: we want to be loved, recognized, approved of, appreciated, and accepted. Those are common values. But how we reflect and pursue those values is an entirely different story. The path to those values is one of individual choice.
Some of us will conclude that the path to success and recognition is by way of controlling and hurting others; imposing our will over them and making sure that we always have more than they do – no matter what it is. Success to these lamentable individuals is believing that we are more important than all others and have more valuable things to offer, which we should be compensated for. For these folks, the more mammon they can develop in their lives, the more successful they consider themselves.
I can’t speak for others, but success for me comes from working perpetually to be the best ‘me’ I can be with the help of Spirit. I am most successful when I allow my divinity and humanity to act in unison. Genesis 24:40 says, “The Lord, before whom I walk, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success.” I need Spirit with me and within me, in order to feel the positive energies of accomplishment; it is a partnership.
Then again, success for me is having people who love me close, that I can trust, and who ‘have my back’ when I am struggling to be the best me. Success for me and I know for many, is being able to serve others, teach others, and bring value to other peoples’ lives. Part of success is not having to do things, make decisions, or live in situations that force us to contradict our values. For some, victory is experienced when we can maintain our values despite situations that insist upon our abandoning them.
Sometimes success is less about what we have, and more about who we are. Success is always holding near to us the values that are dear to us. As we individually define success for ourselves, our values begin to emerge. What do we hold most valuable? These may change over time as we transform and grow through our experiences. Are we happy with those values today? If so, let us encourage their growth. If not, let us make the changes necessary to find the joy of life that awaits us.
A powerful value to maintain is faith and trust in God. Our idea of success may not align with anyone else’s concept of accomplishment. They may begin the same, however, with faith in ourselves and in God. When we feel the rightness of our decisions and know from within that all will benefit from our success then we will know that Divinity ushers us along our path. Each of us will feel the guidance of Spirit toward a unique path. Despite the pitfalls, twists, and turns, we are being led by the Light of God. Through our life experiences we learn and grow and become stronger. We feel joy, meaning, and self-satisfaction bubble up from somewhere deep inside. Our positive perseverance is something to hold tightly to.
1 John 2:15 teaches: "Do not love this world or the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you." The love of God within us is of priceless value. If we have ever blocked our self off from the love of God, then we have experienced the lonely disparagement that ensues.
Valentine’s Day is a time when we can open to the Love and Light of God and acknowledge the people who are dear to us. It doesn’t have to be just about sweethearts. It can be a time when we honor the people who contribute to our ‘successful’ life; those who love us, and we love; who trust us and we trust.
I encourage you to take a few days before Valentine’s Day and consider the people, ideas, and situations that bring value to your life. In conclusion, I pray that we take Psalm 20:41 into our hearts: "May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans". My prayer is that we honor all that we hold dear, thank God for the ones we love, and I wish you a happy Valentine’s Day.