God or Mammon

“You cannot serve God and mammon”
A reflection on Luke 16:13-15, Exodus 20:3, Deuteronomy 5:7
Saturday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? 

No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all these things and sneered at him. And he said to them, “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.

Luke 16:9-15

You shall have no other gods before me.

Exodus 20:3 (RSV)

You shall have no other gods before me.

Deuteronomy 5:7 (RSV)

Mammon is not evil in itself, but has a tendency to enflame the heart in covetousness. The Greek phrase, mamōna tēs adikias, is literally “mammon of iniquity.” Mammon is the Greek transliteration of a Hebrew or Aramaic word that is usually explained as meaning “that in which one trusts” (from NABRE footnote to Luke 16:9).

Mammon is thus related to security and safety, the primal instincts of humanity. The more one trusts in mammon and accumulates it for its own sake, the more God is pushed to the margins.

“Behold the man! He did not take God as his refuge,
but he trusted in the abundance of his wealth,
and grew powerful through his wickedness.”

Psalm 52:9 (NABRE; 52:7 in other translations)

The things of this world entrusted to our care belong to the master, God, as in the preceding parable. The “friends” we make with temporal wealth has been variously interpreted as the poor, God, and angels who rejoice over one sinner who repents. 

Jesus commended the widow who contributed her whole livelihood, two small coins, to the treasury (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4). From Abraham to Joseph of Arimathea, the rich who love God and neighbor with their possessions join the poor widow in the eternal dwellings. Rich or poor, the condition of the heart matters most. In the parable of the talents, the servant entrusted with the least amount buried it (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27). Virtue is not found in having little, simply, but in using whatever amount we are given well.

God is our true security that will never fade or rust. Investing in the love of God and neighbor with our mammon, time, and talents yields an imperishable return.

2 Replies to “God or Mammon”

  1. Small matters teach discernment;
    Large matters prove fortitude.
    Life is box of puzzle pieces,
    Large or small instill gratitude.
    Holy Spirit guide my choices,
    Let me always be aware,
    All things are gifts of God
    Bestowed with loving care.

  2. Dear GMC, Your reflection reminds me to hold a space in my heart for God and neighbor, and then everything else falls into place. Thank you, GMC.

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