In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is giving a manifesto about how the gospel produces a new kind of people––notice people, as in community. One person is not a city on a hill. A city implies a whole community of people sharing life together––in this case, under the rule and reign of Jesus. The more this society of people is different (and not in a weird or obnoxious way), the more light they provide to the community around them. This society of folk do not geographically separate from the community around them, rather they are planted in the middle of the existing community to which they love, serve and minister. They work, shop and play in the same space as those around them, and yet their lives are ordered not by wit, passion, instinct or prevailing cultural fancy, but rather by the dictates of their loving Lord.
The church can be a city on a hill because they think about all the things humans care about differently. Yes, to be human is to care (and care deeply) about marriage, sex, work, play, and, as we will see this week, money––mammon, filthy lucre! Disciples of Jesus are not called to abstain from these human things––rather, we are called to crucify their tendencies to become idols in our lives.
So it is with money. We have a clue to the hidden power of money in Jesus’ own words. He tells his disciples at one point to “watch out for all kinds of greed.” Strange, isn’t it? It is because greed is so hard to see in our own lives. As a pastor, I have heard confessions of almost everything; and yet, in thirty plus years of ordained gospel ministry, no one has ever confessed to me, “Pastor, I need help with greed.” Greed’s power is that it blinds us to its very presence in our lives. Make no mistake, money is power––coined freedom, the ability to get things and stuff. Jesus even calls money mammon. Mammon is the Carthaginian god for wealth. In short, money has the power to be a false god in your life. And, according to Jesus, often you are blind to it!
On Sunday, we will talk about money and how Jesus’ new community will use money. Hopefully, we can unmask the hidden power of money to blind us to areas where it is harming our families, the community around us, and even our own souls.