Earlier this week an AP Literature instructor at a San Jose high school asked his class if anyone in the room knew the meaning of the word ‘mammon’. The word came up after students discussed their current reading and one boy said he came across the word and didn’t know what it was.
The teacher eyed the students as he asked his question and one lone boy raised his hand.
“Rhett, please tell us what mammon is,” Mr. Patterson instructed.
The teen answered by explaining that mammon is riches or worldly things.
Mr. Patterson smiled.
“Where does it come from?” he asked.
“The Bible,” Rhett replied.
At this point all eyes were on the young man.
“Where?” Mr. Patterson challenged.
“Matthew chapter 6 verse 24,” came the answer.
At this point Mr. Patterson was grinning from ear to ear.
“What does it say?”
Rhett replied, “No man 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.”
Rhett happens to be my kid cousin. (Can you call a 17-year-old senior in high school a kid?) I’m closer to his mom, really; she’s only a few years older than me. But when she shared this experience Rhett had with his peers earlier this week, I couldn’t help but feel a deep respect for the boy half my age.
Rhett told his mom that by the time he finished quoting the scripture ‘there were literally open mouths and stares of utter disbelief from the students. He even got a comment from one of his friends “Mormon freak!'”
Mr. Patterson went on to ask how many of the students in the class go to church and again, Rhett was the only one to raise his hand. Mr. Patterson continued, “I think I’m going to make it a requirement for you to attend church at least twice a semester.”
Rhett’s mom tells me that Mr. Patterson ‘continued by explaining that the Bible is the most widely read text (except, perhaps for the Koran, because there are more Muslims than Christians) and that there are so many references to it in the literature they will be reading this year.’
Today I’m very proud of my kid cousin. I have to be honest… I too didn’t know what ‘mammon’ was when the email from my aunt came through. Then again, I’ve never read the Bible from cover to cover. I too studied it in school, as part of a required (well, required by my parents) religious curriculum. I know at one point I even memorized that verse that Rhett was able to spit right out. But if someone were to ask me today if I know what mammon is, sadly, I would have had to shake my head ‘no’.
I admit – I’m terrified to see the situation our world is in today. I worry about my own children and the hardships they will face as they grow older. I hate to think of an end-of-the-world (as I like to call it) situation happening and my children struggling to survive. But I also believe in establishing a firm foundation. I believe that we will be saved if we have built our house on a rock, as the children’s song goes. And when I hear stories like this one about Rhett, I find comfort in knowing we have great leaders among us, growing today to lead tomorrow.
Maybe my little ones will grow to be great leaders themselves. Whether they do, or not, there’s no question in my mind that Rhett will be ready to step forward and pave the way for others to follow.