What does Jesus mean by “You cannot serve both God and mammon,”?

Steven PutmanQandALeave a Comment

Question: When Jesus says, “You cannot serve both God and mammon,” what does he mean? What is mammon?

Answer: When you hear Scripture proclaimed each Sunday, remember it wasn’t originally written in English. Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek — these ancient tongues were the original language of our Old and New Testaments. Most of the time, all of the words are translated into our native language. Sometimes, a word or two is left in the original language. Such is the case in this Scripture passage.

Mammon is an ancient Aramaic word referring to money, wealth, or profit. Earthly wealth isn’t bad in itself, nor does it automatically exclude us from being a disciple of Jesus. But what dominates our life? To serve money — that is, to seek accumulation of wealth for its own sake and to structure our lives around it — is morally problematic. What good is our wealth if it isn’t at the service of others? What good is our wealth if its pursuit leads us to selfishness, obsession, greed, envy, and comparison? There are many things that can be opposed to our service of God — power, prestige, popularity. Ultimately, something in our lives will be our master. But there is only one God worth serving.

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