God or Mammon

“God or Mammon”
A reflection on Luke 16:13-15
Saturday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time
©️2022 by Gloria M. Chang
New design from 2021

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

Mammon of Iniquity

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.” The Greek transliteration of a Hebrew or Aramaic word, mammon is usually explained as meaning “that in which one trusts” (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)

Imperishable Investments

As illustrated in the preceding Parable of the Dishonest Steward, the things of this world entrusted to our care belong to God, the master. The “friends” we make with temporal wealth include God, the poor, and the angels who rejoice over one sinner who repents. 

Thus Jesus commends the widow who contributes 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 buries 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, which will never fade or rust. Investing in the love of God and neighbor wholeheartedly yields an imperishable return.

For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

Matthew 6:21 and Luke 12:34

The heart has a single throne
For mammon or God alone.

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