The spirit of Mammon
Robert Wurtz II
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10 NKJV)
Idioms, proverbs, and phrases are like rivers; sometimes, it can be challenging to discover the source. For example, nobody knows the origin of the term money laundering. Still, it’s believed to have originated during the 1920s and 1930s when gangsters such as Al Capone took illicit cash from their criminal enterprises and mixed it with regular high cash flow businesses such as restaurants and laundromats. In other words, they washed their dirty money in the machines of legitimate business, and it came out clean on the other end. The catchphrase, follow the money, is hard to trace as well. Some suggest it was coined during the Watergate scandal that resulted in the resignation of former President Richard Nixon. It was supposed that fraudulent election practices cost money, so if you want to discover who was involved in the activity, you must follow the money.
The great Greek scholar, A.T. Robertson, once pointed out that 1 Timothy 6:10 contains a well-known proverb from the first Century. It is attributed to the 2nd century B.C. Greek writing, Bion and to Democritus (teœn philargurian einai meœtropolin pantoœn toœn kakoœn), where “metropolis” (mother city) takes the place of “root.” In other words, the pagan Greeks would say, “the love of money is the mother city of all kinds of evil.” It is from the “mother cities” that the offspring of smaller cities spring up. However, Paul’s use of the word “root” is more pointed. Evil is the fruit of the root of the love for money. We have ample proof of this fact throughout history that men and women will commit any sin or crime for money. The most notorious was Judas, who betrayed the Lord Jesus for a mere thirty pieces of silver.
Paul said that some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. The greatest of these sorrows is Hell itself. The rich man discovered this when he was tormented (plural), while Lazarus was comforted in Abraham’s bosom. (Luke 16:23) Many in the First Century, and even more today, have what the Israelites called an evil eye. This is one “idiom” that we do know its source. We learn of this godless concept when Moses wrote, “Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you.” (Deuteronomy 15:9 NKJV)
Deuteronomy 15:9 is almost the definition of an evil eye. Before the year of release, greedy people refused to loan money. Why? Because they knew the year of release was coming, and they would have to forgive the debt. These wicked people would give nothing to a person in need. The poor called upon the Lord, who will run to the cry of the poor and needy. Nevertheless, these stingy-greedy people likely ended up with the same fate as the rich man who had an “evil eye” towards Lazarus. It is a great sin to use wealth as a means of exalting ourselves over our neighbors rather than helping them when they are in need.
Exploitation and Money
In modern times, one of the most significant examples of greed is in the area of healthcare. The time would fail to list the major examples of how drug companies, healthcare systems, and insurance companies have exploited the medical needs of people for a profit. Fear of sickness and death has turned into a multi-billion dollar a year business. There is no incentive to cure disease, only treat it. It’s why most people can’t retire in the USA until they are qualified for Medicare or Medicaid. It’s not unusual for a family with a history of medical problems to dish out $10-20K a year in premiums, deductibles, and prescriptions.
We see it all around us. When greedy corporate executives discover a means of exploiting the world through sickness and disease, they exploit it to the fullest extent. Take Covid 19 for an example. On an earnings call in February 2021, Pfizer CFO Frank D’Amelio said that “obviously,” the company is “going to get more on price” after the “pandemic pricing environment.” In short, D’Amelio explained that Pfizer expects its COVID vaccine margins to improve dramatically. Under one pandemic supply deal, Pfizer is charging the U.S. $19.50 per dose, D’Amelio said, which is “not a normal price like we typically get for a vaccine—$150, $175 per dose. So, pandemic pricing.” (See footnote 1)
You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist, anti-vax, or any other derogatory description to see the money machine running full-steam. So how many variants do you think we can expect and how many “booster shots” will be recommended once this type of pricing goes into effect? Simply doubling of the cost of a single shot would rocket their profits into orbit. What about a 3X or 4X increase? Understand clearly that the spirit of Mammon will drive people to evils that no one believed human beings were capable of doing. Whether it’s a real demon or humans acting like demons, the situation is abominable.
Darkness and an “Evil Eye”
The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. (Luke 11:34 KJV)
But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:23 KJV)
Modern scholars are just now rediscovering some critical “missing links” in New Testament exegesis. For example, there has been little teaching or understanding on the most basic concept of “light” and “darkness” for years. Often these terms are so misunderstood that they are spoken of in the abstract or not at all. Sometimes Bible teachers will shy away from the topic because some falsely assume Gnostic (dualism) implications. However, a close examination of key New Testament texts sheds much light on this subject (no pun intended).
It is beyond the scope of this entry to cover all the facets of darkness and light. However, understanding the relationship between “generosity and contentment” as light compared to “stinginess (greed) as darkness” is essential. Our texts in Luke 11:34 and Mark 6:23 are front and center. We can deduce from what we learn in Deut. 15:9 and Luke 11:34 that a greedy person is full of darkness within and a generous person is full of light within. A greedy person is not generous. His attitude is, “tear down my barns and build bigger ones.” Greed has made many wise people into fools. (See Luke 12:20)
A wise person once said that when we are blessed with more than we need, it is not time to add to our bank account but another seat at our table. This is how we build accounts in heaven where moth and rust cannot corrupt and thieves cannot break in and steal.
Money has a way of clouding our vision or dulling our ears. Unfortunately, money is too often the filter that we hear God’s voice through. “What will this cost me” or “how will this impact my finances” is often louder than “thus says the Lord.” We can’t make proper decisions in the will of God when His voice is competing with the spirit of Mammon.
The enemy uses money to control people. Once he finds a way to get funds into their hands and they start improving their standard of living he has them where he wants them. All he has to do is threaten to take away the money and they will do his bidding. Why? We get comfortable and begin to trust in the money or the source of funds rather than trusting God. This is the practical side of determining whether we are serving God or serving mammon. Who is getting the last word in your life? Is it God or is it money?
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24 ESV)
The concepts (in Hebrew Idiom) of “evil eye” and “single eye” were NOT unknown to the Greek scholars of the 19th and 20th Century.
The “evil” eye (poneœros) may be diseased and is used of stinginess in the LXX and so haplous (single) may refer to liberality as Hatch argues (Essays in Biblical Greek, p. 80-81). (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament)
Essays in Biblical Greek, Edwin Hatch M.A., D.D., Oxford University Press, 1889, is available for download in PDF form for no charge at archive.org. This commentary sheds much light on the concept of “evil eye” and “single eye” beyond the standard Jewish sources.
See also Tew Testament critical commentary by Dale C. Allison, “Matthew: A Shorter Commentary“, P.99-100
The Expositors Greek Testament (Volume I), W. Robertson Nicoll, M.A., L.L.D., Alexander Balmain Bruce D.D., Eerdmans, P. 124
The Gospel According to Matthew, F.W. Beare, Harper and Row, 1981, P.182-183
The IVP Background Commentary: New Testament, Craig S. Keener, Intervarsity Press, 1993., P. 63
The Expositors Bible Commentary (Volume 8), Frank E. Gaebelein, D.A. Carson, Zondervan, 1984, P. 178
The Interpretation of St. Matthews Gospel, R.C.H. Lenski, Augsburg Publishing House, 1943, P. 277-278
MESSIANIC JEWISH/HEBREW SOURCES:
Brad H. Young, Jesus, The Jewish Theologian, P. 140
Roy Blizzard. Jr., Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, P. 15
David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, P. 30-36