This Sunday we heard a reading from Luke chapter 16; an uncomfortable (for me at least) discussi
on about how no one can serve two masters. The Gospel reading ends with these odd words: “You cannot serve God and mamm on”.
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 “mamm
on” 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 ’s Editi St. Joseph on of the New American Bible is what I keep on my desk and the United States C onference 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.
on “mamm on” says:
onis the Greek transliterati onof a Hebrew or Aramaic word that is usually explained as meaning "that in which one trusts."
This is important for two reas
ons. First, simply using the c ontext clues a pers on 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 d on’t struggle with being owned by m oney (this is just and example, I struggle very much with that) then I can ignore this warning. However, “mamm on” 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.
ond important point here is that this means m oney 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 m oney is bad. The issue here is trusting in that m oney or health or whatever to save you instead of trusting in God. This misplaced trust is the issue; not the possessi on 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, m
oney, friends, power, and all the rest w on’t matter one whit. Trusting any of it to save us doesn’t seem like a wise eternal retirement policy.