The Reading: Matthew 6:19-24
“You cannot serve God and mammon” (v.24) RSV
The word ‘mammon’ is a transliteration of the Greek word. Despite its current usage it does in fact only occur twice in the Bible. It is used by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (v. 24), and in Luke’s difficult parable, ‘The Unjust Steward’ – “make friends … by use of unrighteous mammon” (Luke 16:9).
Mammon could well be translated by the word ‘money’, since in these days money represents our wealth. But in fact mammon is wider than money and includes all the riches of this world. In other words it could be summed up in the word ‘materialism’. Its danger lies in the fact that we live for it and put our trust in it. It replaces our primary trust and love of God. As Paul warns: “As for the rich in this world, charge them not … to set their hopes on uncertain riches …” (1 Timothy 6:17).
Riches may of course consist of lots of money in cash, in bank and in investments. It may also consist of luxurious possessions and lands. It may consist of beauty and brains or even brawn. One way or another mammon consists of all the good things that God gives us richly to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17), but ruined by becoming a substitute for God.
These things, these created objects, no longer become the signs of God’s goodness to us, but become in themselves objects of worship. We attribute to them far more worth than we do to God.
Jesus warns us that we cannot serve two masters. We cannot pursue material prosperity and security, and hope to fit in God as well. But if we put God first, even though it may seem to be to our financial detriment, we will find that he will always provide all our needs. After all “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul” (Mark 8:36)?
Help me, O Lord, to trust you in all things. May I love you more than money and financial security. Thank you. Amen.
1 What warnings does James give to the rich?
2 What did Jesus tell the inheritance seeker?