From Gary North’s Money: The Universal Icon
There are three universal languages. They cross borders — cultural, legal, and linguistic. In English, they are the three M’s: money, music, and mathematics, and the most respected of these is money. The language of mammon is the only truly universal language. It is spoken everywhere. […]
Jesus understood well that when He raised the issue of money. He was raising the fundamental issue of religion: service. Whom should men serve? The most powerful rival to God is Mammon. There are many local gods on earth, many theologies, many prayers, many ways to bow down. But the most universal rival is Mammon. […]
Quite so. At Mammon’s throne, you will not only find many Christians and Jews, but an enormous number of Atheists as well.
And more than a few Communist and Socialists, too!
But I am most repulsed by the Christians there, crawling before Mammon – including more than a few health’n’wealth types, and even some Dominionists. Don’t they remember the command of Jesus, their true master?
I believe that they do: but words spoken by God 2000 years ago are ignored before the discreet printing of a bank slip with a comforting number of digits before the decimal point.
The worship of Mammon is a snare and a delusion, Jesus said. He could not have said it any plainer. “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” Pretty clear, isn’t it? Nothing is lost in translation here! We do not have to get out a Greek-English lexicon to make sense of this passage. So, there is only one way around it. “Jesus was speaking figuratively.” Indeed, He was.
There is no god known as Mammon. The whole passage begins with a figure of speech. Yet what Jesus was saying is that Mammon is the true rival of God. Mammon is the universal icon.
And when North says universal, he means it! We are talking about an idol that has had worshippers from at least Abraham’s time, right up to today, and on to the deep future, even into the post-scarsity economy. (Stuff may be free, but time and attention will still be limited, and thus still require money to purchase.)
Men rarely worship Satan directly. There have never been many cults that have offered sacrifices to Satan. Though Satan is a person, he is most commonly worshipped by those who worship his personification. Men rarely worship an image of Satan. They worship that which Satan offers as his ultimate positive covenant sanction in history: this world. “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence. Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:8-10). Put another way: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Being the master of the world for a few decades is no compensation for eternal fire.
An icon is a figure. This figure represents a supernatural being. The supernatural being offers sanctions in history: positive and negative. He is beyond history, yet connected to history. He promises to enter into history at the request of his devoted followers. When they come bearing gifts, he offers gifts of greater value in return. Money is the universally recognized greater gift. It represents what we want. It buys us what we want. Men pray for money, more money, lots of money, in exchange for so much service. We speak in the West of the bottom line, an accountant’s term. “Let’s see the numbers.” “Figures don’t lie.” Money is Mammon’s icon. It is man’s ultimate shorthand.
Lots of people pray to God for money.
The power of money is the power of the icon. It represents all the things we can dream of, except one: eternal life.
Billions of people would trade away eternal life in the future, for a cool 20 million US dollars today.
A hideously bad deal, yes. But that wouldn’t stop most of humanity from signing on the bottom line, no matter the warning…
Forget the dollars. Go for the Pearl of Great Price, eternal life with God, blessed and cleaned and full of joy and peace forever.
To worship money is to worship this world. To put faith in money is to put faith in this world. “The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit” (Prov. 18:11). Yet Jesus says this is a snare and a delusion.
Jesus is right, and money men are wrong.
North continues, noting the ties between democracy, taxation, and the failures of the Church.
It is the mark of the modern State’s accepted sovereignty that its agents can ask the forbidden question: “How much money did you make last year?” Voters nowhere revoke this power. The church may not ask the forbidden question; to do so would be regarded by church members as an unwarranted invasion of their privacy. It is clear which god modern Christians bow down to judicially: the god of the State.
Fake saviours cannot save. But they can lie, and by theft and redistribution look like the Roman benefactors that Jesus warned us about.
The icon known as the tax form reveals the highest god of modern man. This icon reveals a grasping god, Mammon’s ultimate manifestation in history. This god promises to heal men, care for them, and defend them. But voters demand more healing, more care, more defense. The State therefore demands more. Usually it demands more of the rich in the name of the poor. The political spoils are in fact administered mainly for the middle class. The tax receipts are paid mainly by the middle class.
Note that in the West, the middle class has started to shrink, even as the fake saviour continues to extend it’s claims of power and control.
God is not mocked.
The statist icon is a deception by which modern man worships himself.
Remember all those democratic governments that claim to Serve the Common Man… while actually serving the Right Sort? Or our humanist cultures that talk endlessly about The People instead of God, but actually exist to serve (certain) humans rather than uphold the will of God?
God is not mocked.
In doing so, he soon falls under the power of other men, who claim to represent a moral god, a healing god. The messianic, healing State has its icon, the tax form, and men fall prostrate before it. They fill out their tax forms without protest, praying silently: “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
No Protestant church member who refuses to tithe to the local church should be allowed to vote in that church, any more than a person who does not pay taxes should be allowed to vote for politicians who will collect and spend taxes. The Protestant church, however, has set the pattern for the modern State. The Protestant church allows non-tithing members to vote. The modern State allows welfare recipients to vote.
Christians don’t really believe that the Church sets the pattern for the world. They should be far wiser than they are…
This political debate goes back to the Putney debates of 1647, when officers in Cromwell’s Puritan army debated the right to vote. The Levellers, represented by Col. Rainborough, demanded the right to vote apart from property ownership. Cromwell’s son-in-law, Henry Ireton, argued that this would lead to political tyranny over the propertied classes by the poor. In the intensely theological civil war of England, where issues of church and State were intertwined, the connection between civil voting and property was well understood. The analogous issue has never been clearly understood in ecclesiastical matters. The Levellers have won the debate. They have won it in the State because they first won it in the church.
This will continue until believing Christians set things right in the Church. Then – and ONLY then – will things be set right in the world.
Mammon manifests itself behind many icons, but they all promise more. The problem is, they all demand more. Because God demands only a tithe to His church, no other agency can legitimately demand as much. This puts the icon of the State in its place. But this does not put the other icons in their places. Man retains after-tithe and after-tax income. The icon of money is the supreme icon, for even the State worships it and must serve it.
Service to the State! Glory to the
(“And when we say ‘The People’ we really mean “The Right Sort of People…”)
But even the most totalitarian Atheist Communist/Collectivist State – be it Stalin’s USSR, or the Kim Family’s North Korea – loves and thirsts for money, most certainly including American Dollars. For example, the State Businesses that raise foreign currency are given the highest priority in the eyes of Kim Jung Um, just as it was for his father and his father – and, for that matter, as it was for the Soviet Union.
The icon of money is the universal icon. It represents the world, and men seek the world. The question is: in whose name do they seek it? Do they seek the world to place it at the feet of God, as Jesus did? “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” Or do they seek to place it at their own feet, to strut across it as autonomous masters?
For a Godly Man, Money is a thing you use to redeem more of the world in the Name of Christ, and according to His Command. Service to God brings greater prosperity which is supposed to spur on even more profound obedience.
It’s not the money that matters: it’s the obedience to God.
Otherwise, you end up at best like the Japanese: with a graceful but dying culture, and the very best the world has today… and no future afterwards.
Actually, there will be a future for Japan.
A very hot future.
But the main point stands: a soft, gentle, and exceedingly polite hatred of God is hatred nevertheless, and is rewarded as such in this life, as well as in the next.
“But America taught us to kill our own children!”
“If you valued your children’s lives as highly as you valued the life of your king, you would still have them… and still have a future. Regardless of what the Americans want or don’t want.”
“But our island is so overcrowded!”
“Ever heard of emigration? Take the Philippine nation for example – a nation that will long outlast your nation, by the way. Or even the Chinese…”
“But we’d have to be ruled by aliens if we leave our nation! And adjust to an alien culture!”
“If you had feared God, you would have no reason to fear men, no matter how foreign.”
“We will not fear an foreign God. Especially as not even the West fears you now.”
“And they are now dying as you are dying.”
“Irregardless, we will not fear God.”
“Not today. Later, when it’s too late, you will fear God… just as the demons do.”