The Life We're Looking For is Free from Mammon

July 15, 2022 Will Sorrell

Every once in a while, a book puts words to the deepest musings of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Andy Crouch’s newest work is a tour de force, a magnum opus of what pastor-theologian Timothy Keller calls Christian high-theory. It’s a humbly thorough, patiently instructive commentary on how we were made, what we were made for, how we’ve traded our birthright for lesser things, and how we might start to forge a new path forward.

Though there are many tributaries, Crouch’s central current in The Life We’re Looking For finds its source in a simple question: Why is our society—the most powerful society in history—arguably the most lonely, anxious, and depressed in history?

In a dozen accessible chapters, Crouch argues that our insatiable quest for more has left us with far less than we ever dared fear. But we ought not grieve as those without hope.

The Life We Thought We Wanted

Weaving metaphors and dichotomies into a tapestry of clarity, Crouch begins by unveiling the world we have built. Like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia or the alchemists of centuries past searching for the Midas touch, we have prioritized technological innovation and financial accumulation above most else.

When infants cry out for recognition, we pacify them with a screen instead of an embrace. When we crave the sound of music, we reach for an iPhone instead of a saxophone. When we want to feel accomplished, we play a round of FIFA or binge Stranger Things rather than starting a pickup game at the park or drafting a screenplay the world may never see.

We desire superpowers: effortless power. And this has cost us our enjoyment of flow, the strenuous and costly enjoyment of toil that blooms into success.

We are creatures, but we are made to create—not ex nihilo, but in partnership with our Creator. But many of the technologies we have created of late are what Crouch calls devices. He defines a device as “technology that displaces earlier tools and, eventually, replaces the human beings who use them,”[1] drawing from philosopher Albert Borgmann and indirectly echoing political theorist Hannah Arendt. We might rejoice if driverless cars replace our frustrated liturgy of rush-hour road rage. But driverless cars cannot re-place 3.5 million truck drivers into meaningful vocations worthy of the image of God.

Though existential and utilitarian ethics always accompany emerging tech, casting murky shadows over labels we love like ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ why do we so often innovate to the detriment of our neighbor? The answer, of course, is there’s money to be made.

The Life That Mammon Wants

I’ve heard Crouch lecture on Mammon before, but his eloquence and adamance strikes a new chord in written word.

“Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt. 6:24, KJV). Nearly all the words of our Bibles are translated from an original language into our own. But saints, scribes, and scholars throughout the centuries of Christendom have kept the word Mammon in the original Aramaic. Crouch argues that Mammon is the proper noun of money, a personality with ambitions and actions, ends and means.

“In using the name Mammon, Jesus had in mind not just a concept but a demonic power. Money, for Jesus, was not a neutral tool but something that could master a person every bit as completely as the true God. Mammon is not simply money but the anti-God impetus that finds its power in money.”[2]

Have you ever felt the undercurrent restlessness that desires more that you have? For me, Mammon feels like a personal, powerful pull toward entertainment, luxury, and security. This triad makes a poor deity indeed, a cheap substitute for the triune God.

In a literal sense, too often our technology is hellbent—an offramp from the narrow path, leading us to become less of ourselves. Particularly, social media was made for connectedness, but it can slowly shape us into alone and angry personalities instead of the people we were made to be.

Why do we design devices that blur ethical lines and alter society, as Crouch quotes Hemingway, “gradually, then suddenly?” It’s profitable. And it’s profitable because, deep down, we want devices that give us superpowers. This siren song, this unshakeable longing, gives us over to another will at work in the world.

“What technology wants is really what Mammon wants: a world of context-free, responsibility free, dependence-free power measured out in fungible, storable units of value. And ultimately what Mammon wants is to turn a world made for and stewarded by persons into a world made of and reduced to things.”[3]

If the enemy of love, joy, and peace were to design a weapon to steal, kill, and destroy our relationships, communities, and perhaps even our very souls, is it possible it would fit inside your pocket, hang above your mantle, or occupy your every thought?

Fortunately, we were made to be whole persons—heart, soul, mind, and strength. And there is a Person who has come so that we might have life to the full.

The Life We’re Really Looking For (and How to Live It)

This book, nor this blog post, are manifestos for a Luddite revolution. Technology can be good and is often good because it’s made by people the Lord made and called very good.

‘Begin with the end in mind.’ Stephen Covey’s second habit is an invaluable principle for how we can begin to reshape and rebuild our technological world. When Mammon is the ultimate end of technology, innovation can’t help but create or augment societal ills. But what if elevating the dignity of people, instead of maxing out profit, was the ultimate end of technology—the destination of every prototype, algorithm, and patent?

Crouch answers his own line of questioning, not in the abstract, but with a real example. Ianacare, founded by his friend Jessica Nam Kim, is an app for caregivers. Kim cared for her mother until her passing, and her grief bore the idea that social media technology could be leveraged not just as a device that consumes our attention, but as “an instrument of care at life’s extremities.”[4]

Ianacare is scaled for the small, simple interactions that define communities of support. First, the care recipient, their care givers, supporters who lend a hand, and organizers form a team in the app. Next, the team can seamlessly communicate about needs such as food, transportation, childcare, and errands. Lastly, ianacare links caregivers to resources for their physical and mental health, both in the app and in local communities. The technology even offers resources for employers to empower their employees who function as caregivers, leading to 96 percent of employees in the program feeling supported by their employer, a 30 percent reduction in caregivers’ feelings of being overwhelmed, and an 83 percent increase in productivity.

Ianacare’s name comes from the simple yet powerful statement, “I am not alone.” This is what our technology ought to help us remember.

If beginning with the end in mind is the key to technology that leads to abundant life, three simple questions may serve as a starting point down the right path.

    • How can I reallocate my time, talent, and treasure this week to better recognize people as image bearers?
    • Is my favorite device, app, or platform helping me consider my neighbor more of a person marked with immeasurable worth?
    • Are my dollars—spending or investing—supporting companies whose innovations are driven by Mammon or dignity?


Good questions lead to good consideration, right resolve, and outcomes. If we faithfully ask questions of ourselves and our use of technology, maybe one day we will shape the world toward the ends God desires. Maybe one day, our technology will help us see the image of God in one another.

Maybe one day, we’ll be better able to say, “I am not alone.”


[1] Source: Andy Crouch, The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World (New York: Convergent Books, 2022), 135.
[2] Source: Ibid., 75.
[3] Source: Ibid., 78

[4] Source: Ibid., 148.

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