Health warning: The following article may be detrimental to the health of your bank account and status!
Have you heard of, or maybe even watched, the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids? In it, the father unintentionally shrinks his children with some sort of experimental contraption. In this article I want to talk about the unintentional shrinking of our kids. You’ll see what I mean by “shrinking” as we go on.
You’ll have noticed the word “mammon” in the title. Don’t confuse that with an extinct animal (like the woolly mammoth). Mammoths are extinct. Mammon is not. My purpose in this first of a few articles is to establish a connection between worship and the raising (or shrinking!) of our children.
Let’s start by talking about worship. Jesus said: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon [money].” When worshippers look at God and mammon, the final score cannot be a draw. If one is beautiful, the other is ugly. There is a worship war going on in our hearts. In war, someone always wins. Trying to happily marry God and mammon in your heart is impossible. It simply doesn’t work. It is as impossible as Elton John and his partner trying to have a baby of their own together. (Men don’t have babies.)
If mammon had been a big fat ugly idol sitting atop a temple, it would have been easy to identify it and its worshippers. But it’s not. The only one who would really know if I am infected by the mammon carcinoma (a potentially lethal disease, commonly known as the love of money) is me. And since our hearts can be so deceptive, the scalpel of the Word in the hands of the Holy Spirit may have to open me up to expose what is really going on inside. Are you ready for some surgery? Shall we turn the spotlight on?
In a few verses before the quote of Jesus cited above, He said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Let us look at the words “treasure” and “heart.” We can substitute the word “treasure” with words like riches, wealth or assets. How does one acquire treasure? In Proverbs 10:4, Solomon tells us very simply: “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” Treasure (riches, wealth, assets) comes to you by effort and hard work. Now, the second half of the verse says “there your heart will be also.” “Heart” simply means “what you like.” So, your heart follows your treasure like a faithful dog. You like (heart) what you worked for (treasure). You feel for that for which you fight. Very simply, if you work for mammon, you’ll like mammon. If you give your effort and energy to God, He will be precious to you. Where your treasure is, there you heart will also be.
So, now we have to ask ourselves, what do we work for? In what do we invest time and effort? Where do we invest?
Let’s get a bit closer to home: In your quest to acquire treasure, what is first prize to you? I suppose we can ask the question differently to some. Working mothers, why do you work outside the home? Since there may be some perfectly (biblically) valid answers for why some have to, the question in itself is not negative. But will you allow me to probe? Are you expending effort and energy at the expense of your kids and in the interest of mammon? Is it mammon versus your children? Is it mammon versus what God wants you to be?
What are you willing do to for money? What will you sacrifice to get money? Worship always involves sacrifice. Sacrifice means you give some things up—you forfeit some things that have value. Worship is an expression of loyalty and allegiance by means of service. Worship says, “My God/god is worthy of my effort and energy.” Worship says, “My God/god is valuable—absolutely valuable above all things.” The joy of worship is expected to follow the effort of worship: Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.
Parents may use their mouths to say many loyal and loving things to their children. But do the children really hear? If you maintain mom’s job for the sake of your own social status, do your children not perhaps “hear” that their well-being is less valuable in your eyes than assets and prestige? Do they not perhaps hear that you esteem yourself higher than others: Others (including your children) are less valuable than you and your job?