Mortify therefore your members which are on the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence…
Idolatry is the earliest thing mentioned in the decalogue, and coveting the latest. The two tables bend round and touch each other so closely that he who breaks the tenth commandment breaks the first. The inordinate love and pursuit of wealth are simply heathenish, and are put down on the same level as the worship of images. Gold seems in many respects very like a god.
I. IN THE ATTRIBUTES IT POSSESSES.
1. Omniscience. Wealth seems to know everything. Let any novelty be presented and men will know of it instantly. You cannot keep any plan or line of business secret if there is any money in it.
2. Omnipresence. The least opening for business invites competition, and so wealth rushes in. "Mammon wins its way where seraphs might despair."
3. Omnipotence. How many of us know to our sorrow the power of riches! the overmastering, crushing opposition it sets up before every poor man's enterprise. Gold rules the world, covers the land, buys up the offices of the nation, sways the sceptre of social influence.
II. THE WORSHIP IT ATTRACTS.
1. The roar of excited men who clamour with each other in the death grapple of competition, how little does it differ from the cries of the Town Hall of Ephesus.
2. But this is not mere lip-worship. The devotees are as desperately in earnest as the priests of Baal on Carmel. Body and soul are consecrated.
III. THE FAVOURS IT BESTOWS. The fine residence, the gorgeous apparel, the flowing wine, the tremulous obeisance of the seedy gentleman, the obsequious flattery of the lady whose charms have faded, the adulation of the crowd, the flutter in the market, the cringe of ancient enemies; and then the fine funeral, and the marble tomb. "Verily they have their reward." Wealth, as a duty, is not remarkably beneficent, but it would be uncandid to say that he has nothing to bestow on his faithful devotees. The world likes priestcraft; and the priest has power according to his nearness to his duty, and to the faith of the populace. And hence there is no hierarchy so absolutely revered, feared, and obeyed as those who crowd the temples of gold.
IV. THE SCOURGES IT INFLICTS. The temples of heathenism are beautiful, but the gods are ugly because malignant. They are supposed to maltreat and even eat their subjects, and mammon is well typed in them. His most noticeable characteristic is that he loves to trample on and devour his devotees. "He that trusteth in his riches shall fall." There are some sins which seem to be considered by the Almighty as sufficient for their own punishment, such as pride and anger; passion means suffering. So here this trusting in riches possesses a kind of inflated power to baloon one up to such a height that he suffocates and falls headlong into ruin. It is painful to see how rich men pitch on each other when any one falls into difficulty. The horrible heartlessness with which a neighbourhood will devour a broken estate reminds one of the fabled furies. Conclusion:
1. See, then, why God strikes against this sin. It sets up another god in the place of Him. One of the Roman Emperors offered Jesus a place beside Jupiter. It would not do then, neither will it now. God will have all or none.
2. See how covetousness destroys grace and piety. "What agreement hath the temple of God with idols?"
3. See how it ruins all one's future, "Ephraim is joined to his idols," etc. But when one's god is gone, where is he! Shrouds have no pockets.
4. See how it prevents all hope of progress in a Church. "Will a man rob God," etc.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: