The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book for 2017, “Dethroning Mammon,” is a rich (no pun intended) and thought provoking read on spiritually opposed value bases on wealth. On the one hand we have Mammon, “the love of money” which the Bible tells us is at the root of evil (not just “money” as some suppose). That is when, in our hearts, we believe that everything is a resource for our own enrichment (we may build in an ethical get out clause on “trickle down” economics), then we will see, value, and interpret everything in that light. Christ will be a threat, as he was in his day, to those holding that value. Chapter 1 of the Archbishop’s book explores this, with reference to Matthew 13 (the Pearl of Great Price) and John 11 (the death of Lazarus), on the different ways we can value what we see.
Moving on from this, there’s a danger that we will see everything as a finite resource to be assessed and measured accordingly, driven by ethics of scarcity, i.e. we have to acquire and pile up wealth as otherwise someone else will. And we will aggressively defend and acquire accordingly. We are put into an adversarial position with the rest of creation. The opposite to this are the economics of Grace. We have a generous God who gives abundantly and outrageously. No one deserves or earns Grace. With Grace at the centre the Archbishop begins to draw out how else we might understand wealth, in the light of having no fear, and faith in an infinitely abundant and generous God. It posits a very different approach to the world around us, and how we find and use our resources. The key texts here is John 12, with Mary anointing Jesus with very expensive perfume, apparently wasteful but in fact an act of Grace and love that is not motivated by the scarcity of the resource or the need to frantically hold onto it.
Chapter 4 expands on this, looking at the relationship between money and power, and how Jesus’s servant-leadership subverts this, especially in the key act of the washing of the disciples feet (John 13).
Chapter 5 further looks at how apparent motiveless and wasteful generosity can in fact be Grace in action. Something as apparently of no benefit to people or the world as acquiring and anointing for burial the body of Jesus (John 19), are in fact Kingdom actions, actions that show that real wealth as decisions to give money and time based on no hope of reward, but as service to God, actions that can ultimately transform the world, as they move away from fear, to faith, to generous and transformative action.
Chapter 6 moves to Revelations, the end of all things, with the ultimate dethroning of Mammon (Babylon) by the eternal and redeemed creation of the City of God. This moves into an action plan as to how we can start to live this message now, through listening, repentance and action.This book is intelligent, wise, and written with a clear integrity. There are points of reflection throughout the book, questions to help individuals and groups preparing for Lent share and understand the material.
Much recommended then as a Lent book, or to be read at any time. You’ll find it’s messages live on in your mind and heart after reading.