The Four Talons of Mammon: 'Mammon is More than the Love of Money'

The Four Talons of Mammon

The Four Talons of Mammon

Many scriptures can be difficult to understand and apply. However, the mutual exclusivity of serving God and mammon is not one of them.  Jesus was clear:

No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. And he said unto them, “You are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knows your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”  – Luke 16:13-15

No worker can serve two bosses: He’ll either hate the first and love the second or adore the first and despise the second. You can’t serve both God and the Bank. When the Pharisees, a money-obsessed bunch, heard him say these things, they rolled their eyes, dismissing him as hopelessly out of touch. So Jesus spoke to them: “You are masters at making yourselves look good in front of others, but God knows what’s behind the appearance. What society sees and calls monumental, God sees through and calls monstrous.” – Luke 16:13-15, The Message by Eugene Peterson.

Just what is “mammon?”

Mammon isn’t a common term for us. Historically, it’s an old Syriac name given to an idol worshipped as the god of riches. Ambrose Bierce called mammon “the god of the world’s leading religion.” The pursuit of money is the religion of this present world, and mammon is its god. Why? Because, as the old pun on the Golden Rule goes: “He who has the gold, makes the rules!” When it comes to money, too many Christian fingers are coated with Super Glue, rather than Teflon. I do not believe there will be any large scale “wealth transfer” until we develop  “Teflon fingers.”

Mammon is any controlling, coercive, dominating power (church, legislation, economics, military, etc.), fueled by money: “controlling” my own life, or through force controlling others. When we are in control, we are lord, not Jesus. There can only be One King. That is why Jesus was so stark on this matter.

I believe mammon is the prevailing principality/prince in the West, and the claw of mammon has four talons. Every believer intent on growing into the full stature of Jesus Christ will have to face and overcome each of these in his or her life.


The church long ago sold the birthright of spiritual riches for the allure of money, control, and power. The church played the harlot with Constantine, and has yet to fully recover. Preaching “silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, I give you . . .[1] will not get you invited to this year’s “Keys to Success” conference! Between the influences of the modern “prosperity gospel,” “self-help/self-realization” teaching (masquerading as the gospel), and the control factor in many institutional constructs, it has reached the point in the West that preaching the acquisition of wealth is considered the very essence of what it means to be a Christian, and it is a sad, sad situation.[2]

Wherever money, control, and power aggregate, a spirit of mammon is at work, yes, even in the ekklesia of God, living room or sanctuary! Dealing with a mammon problem is like bad breath and body odor: it’s always  “the other guy’s issue!”  It is more like hypertension: my problem, but I just don’t recognize it! It can be neutralized quite simply: practice giving all three away! The kingdom of God is built upon scattering a death and resurrection seed, not the aggregation of resources. God’s family is built by releasing resources, not hoarding them.

There are many who find themselves in various forms of “de-churched expression” who feel they have extracted themselves from the grips of the machine-like control of institutionalized religion. Perhaps, they have. There can also be a sense of naïve superiority in these climates, thinking being extracted from institutional religion is of itself, some great spiritual triumph. It is not. Merely being extracted from institutionalized religion is not an end in itself. It is the removal of but one of mammon’s talons from our soul, and the easiest one! If I have been set free from a coercive tithe to an institution, and my kingdom giving has dried up or vanished, all that is proven is that one talon has been removed from me. At least one of the other three remain deeply entrenched in my soul while my posterior is entrenched on a sofa.


Jesus is Caesar[3] is fundamentally a confronting political statement. The apostles were not martyred because of how nice they were as people, or because of their teaching about what one had to do to go to heaven when one dies. They were killed because they advocated a king and a kingdom in opposition to, and exclusive from, what Caesar had to offer. Jesus and Caesar are incompatible.

When it comes to politics, I know there are no simplistic answers for a people who live in a representative democratic republic (something that did not even exist in Jesus’s time). Teddy Roosevelt wrote a book called: Fear God and Do Your Part. That seems reasonable to me, and is about the extent of my political fervor. My concern is for the illicit wedding of the church in America to right-wing politics, and the venom that often accompanies the ungodly union.

Apparently for some, it is alright to act like the devil to represent Jesus! Russell Moore said: “American Christianity has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it.”[4] I agree. We will never “change the culture” or “win a nation” by trying to out-Caesar Caesar with Caesar’s resources, values, and methods. Force in any form—money, militarism, consumerism, authoritarianism, morality, legislation, etc.—is not Jesus’s method for cultural transformation. The power of Jesus’s kingdom is about a life laid down for enemies, even unto the death.


If talons had toenails, commercialism and materialism would be two. We make rationalizations to ease our conscience, but very few of us in the West are able to be content in either abounding or abasing when it comes to money. Few would consider themselves “blessed” in a season of dire economic distress, a condition that is abounding these days.

It’s easy to believe one is free of the influence of mammon when the checking account if full. It’s wonderful to talk about the “Lord providing” when we are drawing a government unemployment check or other benefits from the hand of Caesar.[5] It is a different matter when there is no paycheck, and the impossibilities of this life are looming over your financial solvency, and Caesar is nowhere to be found, or asking something of you that will compromise your worship. Who is Father then?[6]

I have a good friend who taught “faith” and “financial faithfulness” for years. When the church he led closed, and the paycheck he had been receiving ceased, he had a nervous breakdown. When he got on the “resurrection side” of this issue, he candidly confessed to me that what the Lord was trying to teach him through it all. In all those years that he had been boldly proclaiming “faith,” and “giving and trusting God,” etc., his own faith had been in his bank account and in his biblical principles of finances, not in the person of Jesus. It took him hitting rock bottom to discover that mammon had a death grip on him and he didn’t know it.

Few in Jesus’s kingdom know how to make money a servant. In most cases, money is Lord[7] (in spite of all our denials to the contrary). You make money a servant by practicing liberality—by giving it away.

Health and Medicine

Power has been defined differently throughout our nation’s history and culture. A generation ago it was defined by the equation: military + industry = power = control.  That’s no longer true in modern Western societies. Today’s power equation reads: information + capital = power = control. There is an emerging power structure that has the potential to control our very existence by creating physical dependency upon it. The formula is: medicine + money = power = control or more specifically: pharmaceuticals + healthcare + government + money = power = control.

Because of the collusive elements of the above equations, and the skyrocketing cost of medical care and insurance premiums, there are literally millions of people who cannot afford to be sick. The choice for these is either complete financial ruin or dependency on the state. The day is coming for many believers, when we are either going to have to experientially know Him as Healer, sell our soul to the gods of this age, or die. The whole matter of the gifts of the Spirit will move from the fringes of Sunday morning enthusiasms into life and death realities.[8]

When it comes down to it, we will know what we really believe, we will know the fabric of the reality of our belief systems, we will know who our god really is, when either our health or our finances is put to the test. If our God is God only when we are well and wealthy, we have no god other than our own self-interest.  A veneer of Christianese, applied with a Bible brush and some systematic theology glue, on top of an iron self will, is not the faith of Jesus Christ.


Jesus’s kingdom is not fueled by mammon. It’s fueled by love, forgiveness, and death and resurrection. The precious indwelling Holy Spirit, the power He brings, and the daily disciplines of the cross, are the means by which the believer can extract each of these talons from his or her soul.

I’m not saying it’s easy. On the contrary, it is costly. Dying daily is always costly. Nor am I saying that having legitimate, temporal needs met through finance is outside of God’s economy. It’s not . . . when He is truly Caesar of that economy and not us!

I know in my own life, the hold of these talons in me is being exposed and challenged . . . for my benefit and maturity in sonship. My flesh hates it, but the new creation man in me can only rejoice that my Father is so faithful that he ignores my cries as they are being extracted, and heals and fills the place they once occupied. To be truly free from these talons is to be free indeed. Ultimately, it is about worship. These four talons represent the major arenas of what it means to be alive as a human being.  Whoever rules those arenas in me, and over me, is Lord, and a Lord is worthy of worship.



[1] Acts 3:6

[2] The quickest way to transform a city is to buy it.”  Rich Church, Poor Church. Unlock The Secrets of Creating Wealth and Harness the Power of Money to Influence Everything. Chester: gateKeeper Publishing, 2007, 65.  Somehow, I just can’t picture Jesus sitting under a fig tree in Galilee, scratching His head saying: “Gee, I wish I had thought of that.” For more discussion on this topic, please refer to our title: Wealth Transfer, I personally know of another so-called apostle who teaches that you cannot be a true apostle unless you are a millionaire. That is a disgusting doctrine of demons.

[3] English KJV: Lord. Greek: Kyrios. Latin: Dominus. Caesar was their “lord,” Master, ruler, king, etc. The name Caesar has worked it’s way into language as the equivalent of Lord: Russian -Tsar, German-Kaiser, etc. Short version: the one who gives the orders and the one to be obeyed.

[4] Quoted in Brian Zahnd, Beauty will Save the World. Lake Mary: Charisma, 2012, 13.

[5] No condemnation is intended. I have drunk from the government trough myself. I am just confessing I am not in denial about my true state, and about there being no viable economic alternative among God’s people in a Western, independence, and privacy-based culture.

[6] Caesar was referred to as both Lord, God, and  “father” of the state, and dependency on him as the great benefactor was encouraged.

[7] In spite of our denials to the contrary about “money is just a tool to accomplish ‘ministry’ ‘for Jesus.’”

[8] The previous two paragraphs are excerpted from our title: Healing: Hope or Hype? If interested in a more thorough treatment, it can be obtained at

Copyright 2012, Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact

26 comments on “The Four Talons of Mammon: 'Mammon is More than the Love of Money'

  1. Powerfully stated, I strongly agree. There seems to be only one thing missing “we know we don’t have the “silver and gold”. we also don’t know what we have or that which we have people don’t want. hmm?

  2. Pretty good stuff. Actually, most excellent, Steve. Appreciate, your timely message. A few minutes after I received Jesus Christ, in my early 20s; the very first bible verse I read was: ‘For the love of money is the root of all evil’ It spoke to my heart then and I believed it in its simplicity. And, excited, God had spoken to me. Now, years later, I still believe it.
    How well I understand its grip needs to be revisited, after reading your insights. A bit of wisdom, indeed.
    Thanks and God Bless.

  3. Excellent thank you… Im going to share this.. there are so many people i know and care for who believe the teaching of the “prosperity gospel” and it is a snare. The very fact this gospel has another name… the propseity gospel and not the gospel of Christ should be a dead give away!!! ah.. sadly not. The accumulation of wealth of the big players of this so called gospel is done by getting the needy to give to the greedy. instead of teaching them to turn to their FATHER who will supply all their needs according th HIS riches in glory and not our idea of earthy riches, instead they say “sow a seed to meet a need” and then mishandle the word of God, cut n paste phrases that meant something totally different in 1AD than they do in 2012AD and make it sound godly… it stinks all the way to high heaven… but gladly it seems to be losing its grip. Bless ya Steve.

  4. Steve,thank you so much for this article. Yes, that’s the question: who gets the glory when things go wrong? Jesus is our friend forever! Blessings

  5. Hey Steve,
    Again, an incredibly insightful blog. Extracting ourselves from worldly systems (mammon), depending on God (His kingdom) is difficult. Just another step towards being in the world and not of it. When Jesus said my kingdom is not of the world, He knew of what he spoke. I think that we are just realizing the wide-reaching scope of His wisdom. Thank you for this keen insight towards Kingdom life. It all comes down to dying to self and living In Him who is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

  6. Excellent article Steve. I strongly agree. We can see the effects of the worship of mammon all around us. I know many people whose sole aim in life is to accumulate as much money as they can, and then go live the high life. One question I have though. Is it wrong to save for yourself and your retirement years? I feel very blessed that Father has enabled us to save to a certain extent and give away as well. I am also well aware that this situation could change at any time. I pray I would feel blessed either way, just, with or without. I am a child of the Most High God. I am blessed!

    • Hi Pam, there is nothing wrong with financial responsibility and stewardship. It’s both . . . be personally responsible, and be generous in giving, especially toward the poor and the widow. It is very easy to enjoy our own comforts and not hear the cries of the poor and the widow. If we can be blessed in our comforts, and have the cries of the poor ringing in our heart continually, that is a good combination.

      We are also not responsible to fix the world’s problems. We are to be spirit-led sons and daughters with sensitivity toward others in our spheres of relationships. If everyone responded within their sphere, doing the small and simple things, instead of trying to achieve something “grandiose for Jesus,” . . .needs would be met. The problem is not everyone is doign their part. In fact, statistics indicate that among believers giving on average is about 3% of income. I am not hung up on a magical 10.00000000000% 🙂 , but how can we shut our hearts if my abundance can meet another’s need? We are indeed our brother’s keeper. I am nto responsible to go “looking for the poor”. The poor will always be with us. I am responsible for what is brought into my sphere .. . . the people and places that I touch, and that touch me . . . to be spirit led, generous, and faithful in my giving.

  7. I’m so often reminded of the fact that it was not until the woman with the issue of blood had been stripped of everything but “the doctors” that she purposed to seek out Jesus and touch the hem of His receive her healing. perhaps, mot only the ‘saints” but the world will begin to to seek Him and His healing power when they too are bankrupt. This present shaking will soon topple the god of this nation and if you have need the only two places you will go is to the government of men or to the King of the cosmos. We are not yet desperate enough to turn to Him! But we will be!
    good article.

  8. Powerful stuff, Steve! If ever there was a word for the season we’re living in, this is it. Business as usual is already failing and will do so even more miserably as the absolute perversion and ultimate collapse of the systems you mentioned is realized. Sadly, too often it takes drastic circumstances to provoke a radically basic response from God’s people. There ‘s but a brief window of time for the church to awake and rise from the dead. The alternative is unthinkable.

    • Right On David…We are not in a time where reviving those who have fallen asleep is the order of the day…but we need Jesus to once again raise the dead. This is indeed a clear clarion call. As god shakes everything that can be shaken and all around us begins to fall down perhaps we will at least be left with some foundation stones upon which the Lord can rebuild HIS church.

  9. Hey steve! Awesome post…just had a discussion about fact that people would flip if they actually chose to be Christian first and citizens second…talk about redistribution of wealth! And they hate Obama? He may take 1/2 but Jesus wants our ALL!

    You keep on keeping on brother!

  10. The rule of he first church was that, and it was lost…. But the Lord wants to restore the true Faith in Him as a provider… And He is. As we are faith missionaries in Cambodia, His word is true and He won’t fail… Sadly for the church and Christians in Rich countries they fear experiencing forsaking all and live by faith… It is one of the greatest challenge for many Christians.. To trust Him as a provider… Stephen you write great stuff, and I often enjoy your posts…. Without condemnation, you should maybe even consider allowing people to read your online books freely? It will be such a great blessings to many more and a greater blessing even to you…. Freely you receive, freely you give…. Thank you for writing what you write… Blessings Denis Kugler Cambodia

    • Greeting to Cambodia – bless you guys!
      Without condemnation as well, but I disagree with Steve giving books for free as a blanket idea, based on the following:
      1) How many scriptures begin “Heaven is like…” and then proceed to illustrate a working ECONOMY? God knows money will be in our lives, it is a valuable piece of tension that enables us to grow more dependent on Him and less on the world as we walk. The enemy will use it maybe more than anything in The West to distract us – but God is BIGGER.
      2) The pursuit of wealth is altogether different than God blessing your work with fruit so that you can pass it along. I don’t see Steve pursuing wealth, I see Him pursuing the salvation of others and the process costs sometimes.
      3) Trips to Cambodia cost money. Building houses in Africa costs money. Vaccines costs money and it costs money in today’s western co-dependent nation state to print books or have an internet account to publish e-resources! HAVING money is not what Jesus railed against…hoarding it, saving it all up, failing to redsitribute it to others…THESE are the evils Jesus railed against. It is clear that scripture tells us to pursue God, not money…and indeed they ART mutually exclusive pursuits, but when people are blessed by God with fruit it gives them the opportunity to pass it on…like sending people to Cambodia, or printing bibles…AND THAT GLORIFIES GOD! Our ability to walk away from the pursuit of wealth or our own blessings in an effort to LOVE others is what speaks Jesus to people.

      The other night I threw some older folks for a loop they may still be recovering from. I said, “Newsflash: When people see you drive by in your mercedes they DO NOT see your work ethic. They are asking themselves “what is that person’s hustle? how can I get that?” and their hearts pursue the mercedes….not the “Christian” values that these folks assume earned them the right to the car. I said that,” They don’t see shiny rims and see the light of Jesus – they see the bling of greed. If you want them to see Jesus, be willing to give it away!” And I believe that whole heartedly…but you have to HAVE BEEN BLESSED WITH the fruit in order to share it…so sometimes GOD WILL ALLOW YOU MONEY..simply so that we can illustrate our total dependence on Him by WALKING AWAY FROM IT.

      One of the most moving things for my dad on his walk to get re-acqaunited with Our Lord, was seeing me leave California and a $120,000/year job to live in Spokane and stay in this church community…with no job at all except loving others. For people that grew up in abject poverty like we did, that was unfathomable to him. Should I have been working as an administrator for free beforehand? That would have meant I walked away from NOTHING….by pursuing GOD with our gifts, allowing the Lord to dictate whatever fruits it bears, and then happily passing them on to others or leaving them on the roadside, we CREATE RELATIONSHIP!

      I am in a similar boat as Steve now – today being the first of the martial arts classes I am teaching in hopes of helping the Peake family keep their dance studio (after the owner just passed away). If I taught for free I would have no way of helping support their studio…I prayed about it…I believe God said to keep them cheap and speak the Gospel to my students…if their is extra earned it will go to the church to allow me to tithe while I am unemployed….but I am not doing it for free either.

      I have to assume that the man of God Steve is, He’s prayed about how to handle books and lectures etc. If you make money on the books, and then that money can be used to help Dennis K and family get home from Cambodia or I can offer a class that allows me to continue to fund our sponsored children in India…then I believe Jesus not only has no issue with that, He MADE it to work that way.

      We cannot create under our works a Utopia on Earth no matter how much work we do for free. What we CAN do is recognize our status as loved, adopted sons and daughters of The Most High…and act accordingly with the fruits he blesses us with – be it money, time etc. Radically. In Faith. And ONLY by the power of The Holy Spirit…….suddenly money seems so….so small.

      Thanks for the vine!

  11. Hi Steve, reading this through Janet. I seem to have got left off the mailing list, can you include me on
    We are still in washington until 31st July when we go home. we have the house up for sale this time.
    Thanks for the article. Will you be in UK this year?

    • Hi Barry, it looks like you got inadvertently dropped in one of my address book updates. You are back on the mailing list. I will not be in the UK this year. There was not enough interest to make a trip possible.

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