WHAT IS “MAMMON?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
Our Authorized Version utilizes the term “mammon” four times. To gain clues for its definition, look at these two instances:
- Matthew 6:24: “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.”
- Luke 16:13: “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.”
To be sure, these verses speak of “mammon” in a negative light, something to be shunned, for it competes with God for our attention and affection. We can be allegiant to God, or we can be loyal to “mammon.” It is impossible to serve both. In other words, “mammon” is an idol, something deified. More specifically, the term is from the Aramaic word (“mamon”) for “riches;” the Greek New Testament equivalent is “mamonas.” Read Matthew 6:19-34 and Luke 16:1-31 to see how the Lord Jesus teaches Israel’s Little Flock (believing remnant) to think about material riches as He sees them, lest they fall into the trap of materialism. Concentrating on earthly riches will cause them to lose sight of Father God and His purpose and plan for them. Note the exchange between the rich, young ruler and the Lord in Matthew 19:16-22, Mark 10:17-22, and Luke 18:18-23; mark well the Lord’s words in Matthew 19:23-30, Mark 10:23-31, and Luke 18:24-30. See also Luke 12:13-34.
Simply put, confidence or trust in earthly riches is equivalent to idolatry. “Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness” (Psalm 52:7). “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch” (Proverbs 11:28). “And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:24).
As for the other two occurrences of “mammon” in the King James text, we will analyze them now:
- Luke 16:9: “And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”
- Luke 16:11: “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?”
These are earthly or material riches in general. Whatever money or earthly wealth they do have, they are to use it for God’s purposes; they must be willing to part with their earthly goods for a spiritual result. However, if they are foolish with temporary riches, can they be trusted to manage true or eternal riches (that is, spiritual wealth)? That is, they must sell all that they have and give to the poor (Matthew 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 18:22; Acts 2:44-47; Acts 4:31-37), prepared for the Antichrist who will instate an economic system designed to cause Israel to focus on mammon instead of the Lord (Revelation 13:15-18). These instructions of “sell all that you have and give to the poor” have nothing to do with us the Church the Body of Christ. Nevertheless, we are still to be mindful to use our financial resources wisely (and not confounding them with the one true God).
As touching this the Dispensation of the Grace of God, the Apostle Paul cautions us to beware of “covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5; cf. Ephesians 5:5). Finally, Paul closes 1 Timothy with additional admonitions concerning material wealth, especially relating to ministry finances. Read 1 Timothy chapter 6: “ If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;  He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,  Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.  But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.  But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows….  Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;  That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;  Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
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