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11th September: Dragons (1) -- Mammon

You cannot serve God and Mammon. Matthew 6:24

Mammon is a transliteration of an Aramaic word which means simply wealth or profit, but here the Lord Jesus is giving it a more sinister twist. Money in itself is neither good nor evil. What matters is our attitude to it, how we get it and what we do with it. Jesus sees in mammon 'an egocentric covetousness which claims man's heart and thereby estranges him from God: when a man "owns" anything, in reality it owns him' (New Bible Dictionary). Paul does not mince words: 'But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs' (1 Tim 6:9-10).

We can do a great deal of good with money, honestly and fairly gained and wisely used. But the love of it is a very nasty dragon. Rightly or wrongly, doctors are seen as easy -- and not always reluctant -- preys to it. In most countries they are in the better paid segment of the community -- and, to be fair, usually work hard in return. But some are never satisfied. Severely afflicted with the Oliver Twist syndrome, they are always seeking for more. This understandably stirs criticism and accusations of greed, sometimes from high places. The resultant slur on the whole profession grieves honest doctors. It should be unthinkable that Christian doctors would offend in this way. The Scriptures are full of warnings about it, like those already quoted. And anything shady is condemned out of hand: 'Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel' (Prov 20:17). Beware of the dragon Mammon! 'To get wisdom is better than gold; to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver' (Pr 16:16).

Grant me, Lord, not to mind earthly things,
but to love things heavenly; and even now,
while I placed among things that are passing away,
to cleave to those that will abide.

Further reading: Mt 6:24-34.

RRW

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