The Greek word for mammon, which appears four times in the King James New Testament, is mammonas (Strong’s Concordance #G3126). It can mean money, material wealth or the personification of riches as a false deity (idol) worthy of our time and devotion. Mammon is mentioned in Luke 16:13 and Matthew 6:24. In some translations, Luke 16:9 and Luke 16:11 also personify mammon.
“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”—Luke 16:13 (World English Bible)
God entrusted His people with treasures (wealth and possession), talents (abilities and gifts), and time to be used for good works and righteousness. But why did these become an issue when serving God? What does it reveal in our hearts as His children?
What Is Mammon?
The etymology of the word mammon in Middle English, from Late Latin mammona, from Greek ‘μαμμωνάς’ mamōna, from Aramaic māmōnā riches, from Hebrew ‘ממון (mmôn) means money or wealth or possessions.
Princeton’s Wordnet defines it as wealth regarded as an evil influence and a personification of wealth and avarice as an evil spirit. Chambers 20th Century Dictionary defines it as a god of riches and devoted to money-getting or to gain, to riches and worldling. And Britannica mammon, a biblical term for riches, is often used to describe the debasing influence of material wealth.
Mammon is the deity of money and wealth. It is a name of a demon. He is the personification of greed and the god of excess. It is ranked as treasurer of hell, attributed as the 43rd spirit listed in Dictionnaire Infernal (book of demonology). During the Middle Ages, Mammon was commonly personified as the demon of gluttony, richness, and injustice.
Interesting to note that Gospel of Luke 16:9, the phrase “mammon of unrighteousness” (BLV, KJV, ASV, ERV) was mentioned and has been translated as:
- unrighteous wealth (ESV)
- worldly wealth (NIV, CSB)
- dishonest wealth (NAB, NRSV)
- money of evil (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)
- wicked wealth (CEV)
- worldly resources (NLT)
- wealth of unrighteousness (NASB, AMP)
- unrighteous money (HCSB)
What Does “You Cannot Serve God And Mammon” Mean?
“You Cannot Serve God And Mammon” is often used as a cautionary symbol to remind God’s children to love the Lord above all things with all their heart, mind, and strength (devotion). Making God the only one master worthy of devotion and time. Whether you are working with earthly masters (employers) or you are an earthly master itself, you are working and leading for the sake of God’s glory alone.
The motive of the heart is an important factor in the acquisition and use of money and wealth. We call this Christian stewardship, where God is the owner, and we are His managers (trustees). The scripture says,
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?”—Luke 16:10–12
Worldly wealth or mammon is one of the greatest tests for God’s people. Judas fell into temptation, for just thirty pieces of silver betrayed Jesus. Jesus, Himself was tested in the wilderness by the devil by showing Him all the splendor of the world. the devil said,
“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”—Matthew 4:9–10
These passages clearly state that the god (master) of this world is Satan, who governs the temporary riches and splendor of this world (mammon). When people desire to get rich (money-making), fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires (as the result of the working demon spirit that influences), which plunge men into ruin and destruction.
For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money, have wandered from the faith, and pierced themselves with many griefs. We cannot serve two masters means we cannot serve God Almighty with half-hearted devotion and serve another god (mammon, demon spirit) at the same time. Serving a master requires your wholehearted commitment to his purposes. Serving the purpose of God and the purpose of mammon are totally different things.
How Do We Know If We Are Serving Mammon?
God intentionally gives money, wealth, and possessions for two purposes.
- Meet His people’s needs.
- Meet the needs of His church to advance the Kingdom of God in the world.
As we serve God while on earth, we need financial support to sustain the evangelism, discipleship efforts, and other needs of the church and His saints. We do this through our giving of tithes, offerings, love gifts, seeds, pledges, and charity giving. The Holy Bible says,
“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.
You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”—2 Corinthians 9:8,10–12
How do we determine if we are serving mammon in our life? There are seven clues in this checklist:
- Withholding the giving of tithes and offerings.
- Busyness with the things of the world, such as business, career, and any money-making opportunities, results in lacking and having no time for God (devotion) and His business (the Great Commission).
- The obvious display of vanity, pride in possession, materialism, and conceitedness.
- Performing charity for the purpose of giving honor to himself (self-gratification).
- Love of money results in corruption and dishonest gains.
- Compromising your faith principles.
- Serving God and mammon is a half-hearted service that results in inconsistency and unfaithfulness to one’s callings.
How Can We Free Ourselves From Mammon So That We Can Serve God?
The fundamental truth is that you cannot serve both God and money. Scripture quotations are clear and absolute guides to free ourselves from mammon so we can serve God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ wholeheartedly.
- Trust God’s abounding provision (2 Corinthians 9:8, 10–12; Philippians 4:19; Psalms 23:1).
- Be a good steward of God’s resources (Luke 16:10–12).
- Be faithful in our callings or service (Matthew 6:33–34; 1 Corinthians 7:17).
- Eternal or spiritual mindset (Colossians 3:2).
- Walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16–18).
- Be aware of seemingly good opportunities that are traps and open doors of the enemy (Romans 16:19; 2 John 1:7–8).
Jesus called Peter and other apostles into a new life meant to be His apostles. He called Matthew from his career of dishonest deals of tax collection into a totally different life. They left behind what they knew (education) and what they were working on (career) just to follow Jesus. This is the cost of discipleship.
Cross references to interviews with famous people and millionaires, who testified that money could not buy true happiness. Having mammon leads to emptiness and discontentment. There is a section in man’s heart that only Lord Jesus Christ can fulfill. Time to examine our hearts—who is seated there as the master of our lives?