"'Ye can not serve God and mammon.'
"Who said this? The Lord by whose name ye are called, in whose name this house was built, and who will at last judge every one of us. And yet how many of you are, and have been for years, trying your very hardest to do the thing your Master tells you is impossible! Thou man! Thou woman! I appeal to thine own conscience whether thou art not striving to serve God and mammon.
"But stay! am I right?—It can not be. For surely if a man strove hard to serve God and mammon, he would presently discover the thing was impossible. It is not easy to serve God, and it is easy to serve mammon; if one strove to serve God, the hard thing, along with serving mammon, the easy thing, the incompatibility of the two endeavors must appear. The fact is there is no strife in you. With ease you serve mammon every day and hour of your lives, and for God, you do not even ask yourselves the question whether you are serving Him or no. Yet some of you are at this very moment indignant that I call you servers of mammon. Those of you who know that God knows you are His servants, know also that I do not mean you; therefore, those who are indignant at being called the servants of mammon, are so because they are indeed such. As I say these words I do not lift my eyes, not that I am afraid to look you in the face, as uttering an offensive thing, but that I would have your own souls your accusers.
"Let us consider for a moment the God you do not serve, and then for a moment the mammon you do serve. The God you do not serve is the Father of Lights, the Source of love, the Maker of man and woman, the Head of the great family, the Father of fatherhood and motherhood; the Life-giver who would die to preserve His children, but would rather slay them than they should live the servants of evil; the God who can neither think nor do nor endure any thing mean or unfair; the God of poetry and music and every marvel; the God of the mountain tops, and the rivers that run from the snows of death, to make the earth joyous with life; the God of the valley and the wheat-field, the God who has set love betwixt youth and maiden; the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect; the God whom Christ knew, with whom Christ was satisfied, of whom He declared that to know Him was eternal life. The mammon you do serve is not a mere negation, but a positive Death. His temple is a darkness, a black hollow, ever hungry, in the heart of man, who tumbles into it every thing that should make life noble and lovely. To all who serve him he makes it seem that his alone is the reasonable service. His wages are death, but he calls them life, and they believe him. I will tell you some of the marks of his service--a few of the badges of his household--for he has no visible temple; no man bends the knee to him; it is only his soul, his manhood, that the worshiper casts in the dust before him. If a man talks of the main chance, meaning thereby that of making money, or of number one, meaning thereby self, except indeed he honestly jest, he is a servant of mammon. If, when thou makest a bargain, thou thinkest only of thyself and thy gain, though art a servant of mammon. The eager looks of those that would get money, the troubled looks of those who have lost it, worst of all the gloating looks of them that have it, these are sure signs of the service of mammon. If in the church thou sayest to the rich man, 'Sit here in a good place,' and to the poor man, 'Stand there,' thou art a mammon-server. If thou favorest the company of those whom men call well-to-do, when they are only well-to-eat, well-to-drink, or well-to-show, and declinest that of the simple and the meek, then in thy deepest consciousness know that thou servest mammon, not God. If thy hope of well-being in time to come, rests upon thy houses, or lands, or business, or money in store, and not upon the living God, be thou friendly and kind with the overflowings of thy possessions, or a churl whom no man loves, thou art equally a server of mammon. If the loss of thy goods would take from thee the joy of thy life; if it would tear thy heart that the men thou hadst feasted should hold forth to thee the two fingers instead of the whole hand; nay, if thy thought of to-morrow makes thee quail before the duty of to-day, if thou broodest over the evil that is not come, and turnest from the God who is with thee in the life of the hour, thou servest mammon; he holds thee in his chain; thou art his ape, whom he leads about the world for the mockery of his fellow-devils. If with thy word, yea, even with thy judgment, thou confessest that God is the only good, yet livest as if He had sent thee into the world to make thyself rich before thou die; if it will add one feeblest pang to the pains of thy death, to think that thou must leave thy fair house, thy ancestral trees, thy horses, thy shop, thy books, behind thee, then art thou a servant of mammon, and far truer to thy master than he will prove to thee. Ah, slave! the moment the breath is out of the body, lo, he has already deserted thee! and of all in which thou didst rejoice, all that gave thee such power over thy fellows, there is not left so much as a spike of thistle-down for the wind to waft from thy sight. For all thou hast had, there is nothing to show. Where is the friendship in which thou mightst have invested thy money, in place of burying it in the maw of mammon? Troops of the dead might now be coming to greet thee with love and service, hadst thou made thee friends with thy money; but, alas! to thee it was not money, but mammon, for thou didst love it--not for the righteousness and salvation thou by its means mightst work in the earth, but for the honor it brought thee among men, for the pleasures and immunities it purchased. Some of you are saying in your hearts, 'Preach to thyself, and practice thine own preaching;'--and you say well. And so I mean to do, lest having preached to others I should be myself a cast-away--drowned with some of you in the same pond of filth. God has put money in my power through the gift of one whom you know. I shall endeavor to be a faithful steward of that which God through her has committed to me in trust. Hear me, friends--to none of you am I the less a friend that I tell you truths you would hide from your own souls: money is not mammon; it is God's invention; it is good and the gift of God. But for money and the need of it, there would not be half the friendship in the world. It is powerful for good when divinely used. Give it plenty of air, and it is sweet as the hawthorn; shut it up, and it cankers and breeds worms. Like all the best gifts of God, like the air and the water, it must have motion and change and shakings asunder; like the earth itself, like the heart and mind of man, it must be broken and turned, not heaped together and neglected. It is an angel of mercy, whose wings are full of balm and dews and refreshings; but when you lay hold of him, pluck his pinions, pen him in a yard, and fall down and worship him--then, with the blessed vengeance of his master, he deals plague and confusion and terror, to stay the idolatry. If I misuse or waste or hoard the divine thing, I pray my Master to see to it--my God to punish me. Any fire rather than be given over to the mean idol! And now I will make an offer to my townsfolk in the face of this congregation--that, whoever will, at the end of three years, bring me his books, to him also will I lay open mine, that he will see how I have sought to make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness. Of the mammon-server I expect to be judged according to the light that is in him, and that light I know to be darkness.
"Friend, be not a slave. Be wary. Look not on the gold when it is yellow in thy purse. Hoard not. In God's name, spend—spend on. Take heed how thou spendest, but take heed that thou spend. Be thou as the sun in heaven; let thy gold be thy rays, thy angels of love and life and deliverance. Be thou a candle of the Lord to spread His light through the world. If hitherto, in any fashion of faithlessness, thou hast radiated darkness into the universe, humble thyself, and arise and shine.
"But if thou art poor, then look not on thy purse when it is empty. He who desires more than God wills him to have, is also a servant of mammon, for he trusts in what God has made, and not in God Himself. He who laments what God has taken from him, he is a servant of mammon. He who for care can not pray, is a servant of mammon. There are men in this town who love and trust their horses more than the God that made them and their horses too. None the less confidently will they give judgment on the doctrine of God. But the opinion of no man who does not render back his soul to the living God and live in Him, is, in religion, worth the splinter of a straw. Friends, cast your idol into the furnace; melt your mammon down, coin him up, make God's money of him, and send him coursing. Make of him cups to carry the gift of God, the water of life, through the world--in lovely justice to the oppressed, in healthful labor to them whom no man hath hired, in rest to the weary who have borne the burden and heat of the day, in joy to the heavy-hearted, in laughter to the dull-spirited. Let them all be glad with reason, and merry without revel. Ah! what gifts in music, in drama, in the tale, in the picture, in the spectacle, in books and models, in flowers and friendly feasting, what true gifts might not the mammon of unrighteousness, changed back into the money of God, give to men and women, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh! How would you not spend your money for the Lord, if He needed it at your hand! He does need it; for he that spends it upon the least of his fellows, spends it upon his Lord. To hold fast upon God with one hand, and open wide the other to your neighbor--that is religion; that is the law and the prophets, and the true way to all better things that are yet to come.--Lord, defend us from Mammon. Hold Thy temple against his foul invasion. Purify our money with Thy air, and Thy sun, that it may be our slave, and Thou our Master. Amen." (The sermon is taken from the 7th chapter of Paul Faber, Surgeon by George MacDonald, first published in 1878.)
For an example of how to advance God’s Kingdom in poverty and in riches, read Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald.