Friday Sermon: Serving God and Mammon

By Babatunde Jose

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other.

You cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24

“The legacy our military leaders bequeathed to us . . .. is the worship of money (Mammon) and its unjust deification. To our chagrin, we created televangelists who swindle their gullible adherents of the little they have to become billionaire evangelists, deceiving the poor that Jesus was not poor and milking them with the deceit of miracles of creating wealth without working! Unfortunately, it is always exceedingly difficult to “unteach” children the wrong instructions passed to them in our arrogance, conceit, and indecent display of wealth at marriages and other so-called insane ceremonies.” Banji Ogundele (No Way)

Mammon in the New Testament of the Bible is commonly thought to mean money, material wealth, or any entity that promises wealth, and is associated with the greedy pursuit of gain. Mammon means unjust gain, greed, or money made an end, an ultimate value, a controlling force. Some people use money to provide for their family. Others sell out their family, their country, their integrity . . . for money. This is where money becomes mammon, a relentless god that demands that all bow before it.

The major cause of this state of unbridled quest for wealth and a legacy of mammonish proclivity is our rivalry for piling up the good things of life. There is nothing wrong in wanting and having the good things of life. But when we make a fetish of it and we begin to worship money, then we are being addressed by Allah in; Sura Takathur, Quran 102. The Quran said: “The mutual rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world) diverts you (from the more serious things) . . . (Quran 102:1-8) Man is warned of the evil consequences of worshipping worldly possessions which leads them to greed and avariciousness and increases their propensity to acquire more and more of worldly pleasures, position and power, till their death, and in vying with one another , bragging and boasting about their acquisitions.

This one pursuit has so occupied men that they are left with no time or opportunity for pursuing the higher things in life. They mortgage their soul on the altar of acquisitiveness: They kidnap people and even use their fellow man to make money ritual. After warning the people of its evil end the Quran says: “These blessings which you are amassing and enjoying thoughtlessly, are not mere blessings but are also a means of your trial. For each one of these blessings and comforts you will surely be called to account in the Hereafter.”

When Jesus said, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor”, he meant spending your wealth for charity. Many wealthy people are in fact metaphorically “selling their possessions and giving to the poor.” With much of their fortune they have set up large charitable foundations in order to help people in need and make the world a better place for everyone. In doing so, they are following the example of someone in the Bible whose actions Jesus approved and celebrated. The example of Zacchaeus helps us to understand what Jesus did and did not mean when he said, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor”: St. Paul berates those in Thessalonica who used trust in God as an excuse for laziness, idleness and irresponsibility.  Those who do not work should not eat he says (2 Thes. 3:10). “No food for Lazy man”.

In his Tafsir of Sura 102, Sayyid Qutb, the ‘Martyr’ says of the worshippers of Mammon: You drunken and confused lot! You who take delight and indulge in rivalry for wealth, children, and the pleasures of this life, from which you are sure to depart! You who are absorbed with what you have, unaware of what comes afterwards! You who will leave the object of this rivalry, and what you seek pride in, and go to a narrow hole where there is no rivalry or pride! Wake up and look around, all of you! For indeed, “you are preoccupied by greed for more and more, until you go down to your graves.” (Quran 102: 1-2)

In our pursuit of the vanities of life we have been made heedless of God, of the Hereafter, of the moral bounds and moral responsibilities, of the rights of others and of their own obligations to render those rights. We are only after raising the standard of living and do not bother even if the standard of humanity be falling. We want to acquire more and more of wealth no matter how and by what means it is acquired. Hence, we gravitate into corruption, stealing and conversion of the state purse.   They desire to have more and more means of comfort and physical enjoyment and, overwhelmed by this greed, they have become wholly insensitive as to the ultimate end of this way of living. Filling God’s earth with tyranny and wickedness and destroying humanity itself.

We are under the delusion that the abundance of the worldly goods and surpassing others in it, is real progress and success, whereas the opposite is the case.

Yet, we read in the good book, Psalm 39:6 that: “Surely every man walks about like a shadow; Surely they busy themselves in vain; He heaps up riches, And does not know who will gather them.”

The Messenger of Allah said:“ Three things follow the deceased person, and two of them return while one stays behind with him: The things which follow him are: his family, his wealth and his actions; his family and his wealth return while his actions remain.” (i.e. of those three things, the only one which benefit him is his actions). Imam Ahmad recorded from Anas that the Prophet said, ‘The Son of Adam becomes old with senility, but two things remain with him: greed and hope.’ Al-Bukhari and Muslim.

We come with nothing and will go with nothing. O Allah we thank thee for all You have blessed us with. We recognize that it is not by our power but by Your Grace. Let not the favors you have bestowed on us be the cause of our perdition. Amen.

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend

Babatunde Jose

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