SALAAM-SHALOM is harmony with the Creator.
This is spiritual transformation. Christians are called to worship God alone, not to worship God and Mammon—the god of material greed and dehumanization of persons.
In the biblical narrative, the proper name of God, YHWH, means I am who I am or I will be who I will be. In the Jewish tradition, the proper name of God must not be uttered; instead, they substitute the term The LORD (Adonai) to refer to YHWH. This is important because it emphasizes the reality that the Creator-God is eternally present but cannot be grasped totally by any human being. God is with us, immanent; but God is also transcendent and cannot be manipulated based on human wants and needs. To worship God means acknowledging God to be at the highest position in our value system; thus, worth-ship. A community who worships YHWH recognizes that no persons or objects can be acknowledged to be at the highest position in the community’s value system and the community’s understanding of reality. For YHWH-worshippers, God is the Ultimate Reality. No attachments to persons and things, no other gods, no idolatry. Even our conception of God, including the notion of God as Ultimate Reality, even our most sophisticated theology, cannot be an object of attachment. The worship of God allows people to relate with God with freedom and liberation from any attachments.
The worship of Mammon necessarily puts money, wealth, and property as the highest position in the value system of a person or a community. Mammon-worship is necessarily expressed through an explicit and intentional attachment to things that, in the process, Mammonism actually reduces people to things by seeing their value merely as extrinsic—that is, based on exchange value. For example, in Mammon’s value system, human beings are seen as mere human resources measurable by their peso amount per time of work. Thus, the worshippers of Mammon tend to thingify people. When this is the case, people are sacrificed to the altar of money, wealth, and property. It becomes easy to oppress and exploit people when they are seen as things.
Harmony with God is acknowledging God as the Ultimate Reality. The other aspects of our life’s reality are subordinated to God. When the God of the Bible is acknowledged, such acknowledgment “requires the reordering of everything else.”1 The statement of Jesus in Matthew 6:24 is a call to reorder the lives of his followers based on the awareness that God is Ultimate Reality. In globalism, Mammon—wealth and property—is considered as the ultimate reality and the highest category in its value system. When a commitment to God is made, such commitment necessarily requires the reordering of wealth and property as subordinate to God-Reality. It means renouncing Mammon as god. In the same token, when a commitment to Mammon is made, then Mammon becomes the highest category in one’s value system and God is reordered as subordinate to wealth and power. Commitment to both is not possible. There can only be one Ultimate Reality. God-Reality does not allow other claims of ultimate reality; hence, other claimants are false claims. Commitment to false claims of reality is idolatry.
But even those who claim that they are committed to God-Reality and that wealth and power is subordinated to God-Reality, the temptation to equalize God and Mammon in our hearts is a day-to-day struggle. When we are lulled into this compromise, the tendency is idolatry. The value system of the church—its attitude towards wealth and property—must be evaluated in the light of God-Reality. The church’s value system, especially those who are in the affluent societies, must go through this Ultimate Reality check.
[NEXT: HARMONY WITH OUR BEING]
1. Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), p. 747.