Dethroning Mammon (by Justin Welby) Chapter 2 Bible Focus Luke 19
What we measure controls us is the far-reaching theme of the second chapter of our Lent study book. Some of the basic economic calculations on which western financial systems rely are identified as being misleading or even dishonest, contributing to distorted vision, disillusionment, social injustice or even economic breakdown. As a result, what is difficult to measure economically, such as voluntary work, environmental factors or prayer, become undervalued. We need to adjust our values to a different scale.
- I am encouraged by Archbishop Justin’s point that an action is not defined by its strategic importance as seen from a human time-bound perspective. After Jesus had driven out those who were commercialising the worship in the temple in Jerusalem, ‘the temple may well have gone back to its old ways.’ Mammon, had, however, been dethroned, as it is in all the moments of resolution ‘when we seek all that we need only and exclusively from Jesus.’
- We need to be alert to the dangers of acoustic measurement, assigning the greatest value to what shouts the loudest.
- What are the other measurables (apart from money) that control our lives? In what ways do they influence our habits and motivations (Justin Welby). There are probably too many ‘checklists’ and ‘to do’ lists to which we can become enslaved. 10,000 steps per day? Preparations for Christmas? Achievements on our CV?
- We need to be awake to the way in which all aspects of life can become ‘Mammonised,’ whether in national life, church life, or personal life. One example given is the difficult relationship between worship and church buildings.
- While agreeing with what Archbishop Justin says, I’m also left with nagging questions about the need to measure/calculate in order to live responsibly, without ‘sponging’ on others or causing difficulty or even suffering to those close to us. For those of us brought up by parents who had experienced post-war ‘austerity’ such behaviour represents a lack of care for others and moral disgrace. How can we distinguish Mammon and the instinct to ‘look after the pennies’? How much is enough?
- I’m also left with the practical question of whether the economy of the society we live in should measure the value of all work. On the one hand it seems necessary if voluntary contributions are not to be taken for granted and the ‘donors’ exploited. On the other, the true value of the work cannot be measured simply in relation to national wealth.