Profaning Mammon

Another great quote from Hughes:

Theologian Jacques Ellul says that the only way to defeat the godlike power that money seeks to impose on our lives is to give it away, which he calls profaning it: “To profane money, like all other powers, is to take away its sacred character.” This destroys its power over us. “Giving to God is the act of profanation par excellence,” says Ellul. Every time I give, I declare that money does not control me. Perpetual generosity is a perpetual┬áde-deification of money. – R. Kent Hughes, Set Apart, 33.

This is brilliant to me. When we turn money into a false god, an idol, in order to break its hold over us we must desecrate it. In 2 Kings 23:6 Hilkiah the high priest under Josiah’s command removed the Asherah from the temple, burned it at Kidron (a place that had become increasingly unclean) and then scattered the ashes in a grave yard. This didn’t defile the grave yard, it defiled the ashes. This was desecrating the false god.

Os Guinness has some great advice on recognizing idols in our hearts:

This is the ultimate moral challenge–that hope rests in complete and excuse-free dependence on God and His forgiving grace, plus nothing. The forgiveness is joyfully offered to us through Christ.

An idol is something within creation that is inflated to function as a substitute for God. All sorts of things are potential idols, depending only on our attitudes and actions toward them. If this is so, how do we determine when something is becoming or has become an idol? — Os Guinness, No God but God, 32

In other words, when there is something other than God that we run to to find comfort, to feel better about things, something we seek to “make it alright” and that is not God revealed in Jesus Christ, we may have created an idol. Guinness goes on to explain that this can be all kinds of things, even godly things. He lists the obvious ones of money, power and sex and some that are less than obvious like family and evangelism! The human heart is an idol factory that we must be leery of.

So how do we do that with mammon? Do we just burn our money and head to the cemetery? No, that is foolish. Besides, it fails to address the heart issue of desiring money. If we take it away and put nothing in its place, the hole grows bigger and hungrier. “Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?” – Martin Luther.

We need to follow Ellul’s advice and counter money’s grip on us. By giving it to the Lord, we begin to replace that false joy money offered with a real joy. It isn’t instantaneous nor is it easy. But by desecrating the idol in our hearts and erecting an altar to the Lord, we stand a better chance of being free.

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