Monday, September 20, 2010

What is "Mammon"?

This Sunday we heard a reading from Luke chapter 16; an uncomfortable (for me at least) discussion about how no one can serve two masters.  The Gospel reading ends with these odd words:  “You cannot serve God and mammon”.

You may be a Greek scholar (in which case you’re not going to learn anything here) but I’m not.  I had no idea what “mammon” was.  This highlights why it’s good to not only have a Bible but to have a study Bible; they can really come in handy!  The St. Joseph’s Edition of the New American Bible is what I keep on my desk and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)’s website uses the same text and footnotes so it’s nice to get the same info no matter where I look.

Mammon is the Greek transliteration of a Hebrew or Aramaic word that is usually explained as meaning "that in which one trusts."
This is important for two reasons.  First, simply using the context clues a person may render the line this way:  “You cannot serve both God and wealth”.  I could then pat myself on the back and figure that since I don’t struggle with being owned by money (this is just and example, I struggle very much with that) then I can ignore this warning.  However, “mammon” means “anything I put my trust in” so I could render the passage “You cannot serve God and your health” or “You cannot serve God and a particular political party”.  If we put our trust in ANYTHIUNG other than God; we have violated this command.

The second important point here is that this means money is not bad.  Similar to the story of the rich man who went away sad when Jesus told him to give everything away; it’s easy to take this passage as saying that having a lot of money is bad.  The issue here is trusting in that money or health or whatever to save you instead of trusting in God.  This misplaced trust is the issue; not the possession of the thing that shouldn’t be placed above God.  The reality is that having a lot of something makes it much easier to trust it instead of God but that doesn’t mean that doing so is automatic.

A day will come for each of us when health, money, friends, power, and all the rest won’t matter one whit.  Trusting any of it to save us doesn’t seem like a wise eternal retirement policy.


Eastlyn and co. said...

Hello, Dan & Tara-
I came across your ministry blog through a link on another blog. I am glad I stopped by. I am now following and will be back to look around some more. As a "cradle Catholic" I feel like I have a lot to learn about my own faith! Feel free to stop by my blog for a visit if you're ever in the blogohood:

Dan 'n Tara Brooke said...

Hey, thanks for the comment and the invitation. I'll be sure to stop by. Our primary focus here at TaDa Ministries is helping Catholics "get" what they already have so I'm very glad you stopped by. God bless.