The Bible wisely recognises the fact (and popularity) of
ownership, and does not condemn it per se, but it does clearly set out the
dangers of its abuse. Jesus certainly pulled no punches when He likened mammon
( a common Aramaic word for riches) to a god. He said, You can't serve God and
shows the subtle power that riches have on people, because millions worship at
its shrine. The ethical approach to this phoney 'deity' is to relegate it to
the status of a servant instead.
St. Paul, writing to his young charge Timothy declared that
the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil(3). It should be
noted that the emphasis is on the love of money rather than on money itself.
Paul also urged true priorities when he further counselled his readers not to
put their trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God Who giveth us all
things richly to enjoy(4).
On at least three occasions the Scripture gives riches the
rather uncomplimentary name of filthy lucre, which is understood to refer to
ill-gotten gains. This could include money made from lending at prohibitive
interest rates, dodgy business deals and for some, winnings from gambling and
games of chance.
Back to Jesus. He reminded us that a man's life does not
consist in the abundance of things that he possesses(5), and again, to
show true priorities He told the dramatic story of a rich farmer, who had been
so successful he decided to build greater barns to stock his goods and then
retire early, hoping to eat drink and be merry. His decision was rudely
interrupted by the Almighty Who reminded him that he was a fool because this
night your soul will be required of you and now who's getting the things you've
Riches lose their value at death, and there's no pockets in a shroud!
Jesus also warned about the insecurity of earthly treasure.
Where thieves break through and steal, and moth and rust can corrupt(7). An old prophet
might have been anticipating inflation when he talked of Israel putting their
wages into a bag with holes(8). We are always warned when considering stocks and
shares that they are subject to the fluctuations of the Stock market.