The Stronghold of Mammon

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Matt 6:24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. NASB

Mammon (Mamonas) the comprehensive word for all kinds of possessions, earnings and gains, a designation of material value. In Luke 16:9, 11 it denotes riches. In Matthew 6:24 and in Luke 16:13, the Lord personifies mammon as a strongman: strong enough to keep you from serving God.

Paul wrote that we “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12-13 NKJV).
  • One of these principalities is Mammon. It is a ruler of the darkness of this age. This principle power rules from heavenly or high places.
  • I am not saying that money and mammon are the same. Mammon is the stronghold or principality behind money.
1 Tim 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang (emphasis added). NASB
  • Mammon is the stronghold or principality that causes one to fall prey to the “love of money”.
Heb 13:5 Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you, NASB
  • One of the traits Paul lifts up for an overseer (leader) in the church was to be “free from the love of money” (1 Tim 3:3) NASB
The Spirit of Mammon is what makes money 'godlike'. How is money godlike you ask? (1) Money outlives you (2) Money's circle of influence is greater (3) Money is mysterious (4) Money lives among the things we are tempted to worship (5) Money mimics everything promised in the New Jerusalem (6) Money is an instrument you wield (7) Everything can be economized (Notes taken from a class taught by Jan Couch).

In the book of Acts we can see the strength and danger of the Spirit of Mammon.

Acts 4:32-37

Luke is recounting the exploits of the Holy Spirit within the infant church. Speaking in other tongues that resulted in the salvation of 3000 from the surrounding countries, the miraculous healing of a lame man and five-thousand more converts because of this miracle, a holy boldness that came upon the apostles, even the foundation of a building shaken in which they were praying.
However, at the end of chapter four Luke might well have lifted up the greatest miracle that was taking place. And it is a miracle that is largely overlooked in the modern church. Luke reveals how the Holy Spirit was breaking off the people the 'stronghold of mammon'.

vs. 32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them.
  • The believers were unified as one heart and soul – The Spirit of Divine Unity prevailed
  • Not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own...All things were common property to them - This was not a “communism” as we have come to see it in our lifetime. It was not government sanction or enforced. In fact the wealthy did not divest themselves to the point of poverty so the poor could live better. The wealthier members, who owned property, sold it and brought the proceeds to the Apostles to distribute so that no one was in need. This was as “Spirit-Born Stewardship”. The Holy Spirit was releasing the members of this infant church from the stronghold of “Ownership”.
vs.33 And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. NASB
  • This release of ownership – this breaking of the stronghold of mammon brought about a greater anointing of power and an abundance grace.
Vss. 34-35 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, 35 and lay them at the apostles' feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need. NASB
  • The needy were cared for by the selling of property from those with more wealth.
  • Since these members were just stewards of God's wealth and property; they sold the houses or property and brought the proceeds to the Apostles to distribute to those who were in need.
  • Not a needy person among them! What a miracle! A divine plan to take care of the less fortunate or underprivileged.
  • Who better than a Spirit-filled church to take care of the needy?
Vss. 36-37 And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means, Son of Encouragement), 37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. NASB
  • Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus was renamed, by the Apostles, Barnabas (Son of Encouragement).
  • He also sold a track of land and brought the money to the apostles' feet.
  • He would be used in an even greater way by the Holy Spirit in the future as a traveling companion and mentor to Saul of Tarsus (Apostle Paul).
  • When you are released from the spirit of mammon; when you are set free from ownership, then God can fulfill greater destinies than you could ever imagine.
(Summation of what we see in these scriptures)
Acts 4:32-37 gives us a glimpse of a church that's had the stronghold of mammon broken off the people. The Holy Spirit was so manifest that the new believers saw everything in light of 'stewardship' and not ownership. They held everything in common – there was no grasping and hoarding – but rather a contentment and a releasing of the things that benefited the Kingdom of God as a whole.
The Holy Spirit was producing a 'new creation' and a new entity called the “ekklesia” – the church or called out ones. This new body of believers were understanding perfectly Jesus teachings that “ones life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses” (Luke 12:15).
These new “spirit-filled disciples” were being set free from the “stranglehold of mammon”. A principality that manifest itself in:
  1. The worries and cares of this world
  2. The deceitfulness of riches
  3. The pleasures of this life
  4. The lust and desire for other things.
This stronghold 'chokes/strangles the word so that it becomes unfruitful or unproductive' (See Mark 4:18-19).
The Message Bible states it this way: “Overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it.”

Acts 5:1-10

From the lofty heights of of this Abundant Grace and Great Power we are introduced to a couple who made a pact with the spirit of mammon.
In the book of Genesis we find a man and a woman listening to the subtle hiss of Satan and disobeying God in the Garden of Eden. The issue was three fold: They fell prey to the Lust of the flesh, The Lust of the Eyes and The Pride of Life and were expelled from the garden and faced death. All of this was transacted in a place where the Divine Presence of God was everywhere. The manifest presence of God came down every day in the cool of the evening to walk with Adam and Eve. However, they still listened and obeyed the tempter.
I find it interesting that Luke writes in the book of Acts a similar story: In the midst of the Divine Presence resting on the Apostles and the new body of believers; Ananias and Sapphira conspire to use the atmosphere created (The marked curve for selling property) for their own purposes. They also had a track of land and used the market that was created by the Holy Spirit, for their own selfish gain. They lied when they brought the money to the Apostles in that they said what they brought was all they got for the property.
  • It is a dangerous thing to use kingdom principles and kingdom blessings to advance personal and fleshly purposes!
In Genesis, Adam and Eve, who were surrounded by the blessings and manifest presence of God, choose to disobey and partake of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They did so because they listened to the devil, “This will make you like God, knowing good and evil”. Eve saw that the fruit of the tree was “good for food – (Lust of the Flesh), and “a delight to the eyes (Lust of the eyes) and desirable to make one wise (Pride of Life). She partook in and cause Adam to partake as well. The result of their disobedience was they were driven from the Garden of Eden and death.
In Acts 5 Ananias and Sapphira also saw an opportunity to build their own portfolio and still be a part of the “new creation” that Jesus was building. However, Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and mammon.”
  • Death was a result of their decision.
How dangerous is this Stronghold of Mammon? Let's look at some examples of disobedience in the Book of Acts.
  • Earlier in the fourth chapter of Acts, Peter and John are arrested and jailed by the temple guard and brought before the High priests and rulers. They were interrogated and threatened to stop preaching in Jesus name then released. These rulers included Annas and Caiaphas and John and Alexander (vs 6).
  • As far as Luke's account, these temple guards and these high priest lived to tell about this encounter.
  • Yet Ananias and Sapphira died.
  • In Acts 5 the “high priest rose up, along with his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail” (vs 17-18). They later flogged the apostles (vs 40). They, according to Luke lived to tell about it.
  • Yet Ananias and Sapphira died.
  • In Acts 7 the deacon Stephen has his life taken from him through a stoning. One of the ones holding the cloaks of the men that was stoning Stephen was Saul of Tarsus. Saul lived to face another day. He eventually has a divine encounter with God on the road to Damascus.
  • Yet Ananias and Sapphira died.
My point is, this principality of Mammon was so dangerous that Ananias and Sapphira were stricken with death rather than a chance be giving for this spirit to spread to other believers. Those who openly opposed the Gospel and the Apostles live to fight another day. Ananias & Sapphira died.
Just as Adam and Eve were not allowed to return to the Garden of Eden and eat from the Tree of Life, Ananias and Sapphira were cut off from the living. The Spirit of Mammon is dangerous and there needs to be a deliverance in the Body of Christ.

Conclusion: The Rest of the Story

Acts 5: 11-16
  • Great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things (vs 11).
  • And at the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; (vs 12)
  • Divine unity was visible to all (vs 12)
  • No common acquaintances; Apostles held in high esteem (vs 13)
  • Many more believers, multitudes of men and women were constantly added to their number (vs 14)
  • Sick carried into the streets so that when Peter passed by his shadow might fall on them and they be healed (vs 15)
  • The cities surrounding Jerusalem brought their sick or afflicted with unclean spirits; and they were all being healed (vs 16).
I believe these are the results of the spirit of mammon being broken off God's people! I often hear, “What's holding us back?” Could the answer lie in these passages? Could the spirit of Ananias and Sapphira be present in the modern church? Does their spirit rest on you? Instead of giving all, are you holding back something for yourself? Are you in danger of using Kingdom principles for your own personal gain? If so now is the time to repent. Turn from Mammon to serve the One True God. Come to Jesus. Let the righteousness of God fall upon you and let us see what can happen when a body of people have the cares of this life broken off them and live by faith in the God of all creation.