No man can serve two masters, for either he will love the one and hate the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24)
Jesus Christ warns us directly against serving mammon because when we serve someone that is not God, I am ultimately serving my own passions — lusts, greed or whatever. I have spent most of my life (even now) serving my own passions — whether they are the American ideals of pleasure, convenience, sloth, or my own insatiable appetites, I believe the admonitions against the which are the same.
Christ in this passage in His Sermon on the Mount deals directly with wealth and the dangers are manifold. St. John Chrysostom admonished Christians that serving the god of wealth “arms robbers against you” and also “darkens your mind in the most intense degree.” People who have an awful lot of money become targets for poachers; and often people in pursuit of money change for the worse. Worst of all, the worship of wealth almighty “casts you out of God’s service, making you captive of lifeless riches, and in both ways doing you harm, on the one hand, by causing you to be slaves of what you ought to command; on the other, by casting you out of God’s service, whom, above all things, it is indispensable for you to serve.’” Serving wealth makes us a slave to something that is dead. Would it not be simply better to serve the Living God?
St. Irenaeus wrote of the intrinsic connection between this admonition against serving mammon and the one made in Matthew 22: render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s (Matthew 22:21). There is a time to serve the world, but not to be ruled wholeheartedly by it. “(Christ) teaches His disciples who serve God, not to be subject to mammon, nor to be ruled by it. For He says, He that commits sin is the slave of sin (John 8:24). Inasmuch, then, as He terms those the slaves of sin who serve sin, but does not certainly call sin itself God, thus also He terms those who serve mammon the slaves of mammon, not calling mammon God. For mammon is, according to the Jewish language, which the Samaritans do also use, a covetous man, and one who wishes to have more than he ought to have.” I do not know about you, but I am tired of hearing from supposedly religious folk that it is OK to earn as much as one possibly can and that this is somehow one’s Christian calling.
St. Clement hit a little harder at this in his second epistle, instructing us that the drive for mammon was in all reality a push for the death of one’s soul. Because if we were driven by greed, then we were driven by the desire for all worldly and corrupting pleasures and passions. “If we desire, then, to Serve both God and mammon, it will be unprofitable for us. ‘For what will it profit if a man gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ This world and the next are two enemies. The one urges to adultery and corruption, avarice and deceit; the other bids farewell to these things. We cannot therefore be the friends of both; and it behoves us, by renouncing the one, to make sure of the other. Let us reckon that it is better to hate the things present, since they are trifling, and transient, and corruptible; and to love those which are to come, as being good and incorruptible. For if we do the will of Christ, we shall find rest; otherwise, nothing shall deliver us from eternal punishment, if we disobey His commandments.” Perhaps I would be best off leaving it here for now at risk of getting a boost from the sound of my own bleating voice trying to profit somehow off of the Father’s wisdom.