Posted by: Philip Rushton | December 13, 2010

“Mammon Detectors” – Four Questions That Reveal If We Are Too Attached To Money

During advent, the high school students and I have been working through a curriculum called Advent Conspiracy. I’ve embedded the short video that highlights what this movement is all about. The idea behind Advent Conspiracy is to reclaim the true purpose of Christmas. The four weeks of advent cover the four themes – Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love all.

This past week we focused on the theme “Spend Less.” We looked at the passage in Matthew 6:19-24 where Jesus says that we cannot worship both God and mammon. The NIV translates mammon as money, but mammon is broader. Mammon refers to anything that we put our hope in that is not God. It includes money and wealth, but it can be other things as well. We asked the question – how do we know when we are serving or worshiping mammon? In other words, how do we know when we are too attached to money and things?

In response to this question I offered our group four “Mammon Detectors.” These “Mammon Detectors,” (originally taught to me by my mentor and teacher Darrell Johnson), are four questions we can ask to determine whether we are too attached to money.

Detector One: What do we turn to for joy in life?
A lot of us turn to material things for joy. If our main response to this question is our material possessions, than this is a good indicator that our hearts are set on money rather than God.

Detector Two: What gives us hope?
If the main thing that gives us hope is the fact that we have lots of money, or that we have a lot of material things to comfort us and entertain us, then this is a good indicator that we have attached too much importance to money.

Detector Three: What do we fear?
A lot of times we are fearful for our possessions. Jesus says in Matthew 6:19-22 that our earthly treasures are not worthy of our allegiance because they are destroyed by moth and rust, and can easily be lost and stolen. A good indication that we are too consumed with our stuff is if we are constantly worried that it will be damaged or stolen. To remedy this Richard Foster suggests that every once and a while we should give away something that we really care about. This is a good discipline that insures we are not too attached to our things.

Detector Four: Does my use of money force me to contradict the gospel?
The reality is that consumerism can hurt ourselves, others, and the environment. It is important ask whether our attachment to money causing us to contradict what Jesus has called us to do. The pursuit of money, for example, can consume our time and prevent us from contributing to the mission of the church. It may also prevent us from giving generously to those in need, or tempt us to buy cheaper products that are produced in ways that harm people and the environment. As my friend Dave pointed out on his blog, sometimes we need to spend well not spend less!

I find that these “mammon detectors,” help us practically expose and confront our tendency towards consumerism. It is easy to agree intellectually that consumerism is a harmful thing; it is quite another thing to expose it in our own life. Exposing the problem is an important first step. Next week I’m going to look at some practical ways that we can work towards eliminating our addiction to consumerism.


  1. As you’ve shared this post (and others), my eyes are much more open to our (my) focus on gifts and presents. Keep working with us to recapture the heart of Advent and the birth Christ.

  2. Hey Randy,

    Thanks for sharing. I’m with you in this, especially as I type this response on my new laptop that I’m really enjoying! I was thankful when my professor Darrell shared these ways to discern our attachment to money – it helps me practically understand when possessions are becoming too important to me.

    Sheldon Vanauken wrote in his book “A Severe Mercy” that he and his wife would do crazy things to make sure they were not too attached to their things. When they bought a really nice sports car one year the realized they were being overly protective of it so they decided to take a crow bar to the roof and put a small dent in it so they would be freed from there attachment. That story has always stuck with me.

  3. Alright now, we are off to a good start and what a good place to start—- the youth of our fellowship, ” a little(or not) child shall lead them”. And while we are reminding ouselves about traditional Advent how about adding in reflection, fasting, giving alms, and one that is really missing in America, the next coming of Jesus. Keep on keepin on Brother you’re on the right track.

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