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Christian Biblical Studies
GOD AND MAMMON
All Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version
Question: In Luke 16: 13 Jesus tells us we ʻcannot serve God and Mammonʼ. But in v. 9 He tells us ʻmake yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousnessʼ. How does one reconcile these contradictory statements?
Answer: The underlying meaning of the Syriac word Mammon is that of riches. As a chief pursuit of life, the accumulation of riches and possessions is an unsuitable goal for the Christian, whose treasures should be laid up in heaven (Matt. 6: 20).
In the Luke 16: 1-9 passage, Jesus relates the parable of the factor, the man in charge of his employer's business, who had been lax in collecting debts owed to the firm. Fearing he would lose his job, he went to see the various debtors and negotiated with them smaller repayments than they owed. Naturally they paid up. This pleased his boss, who complimented him on his initiative.
From this story Jesus draws the lesson that the ʻchildren of this worldʼ (unbelievers) are in their own way often more wise and prudent in handling their own affairs than are the ʻchildren of lightʼ (Christians).
As Christians we may not put ourselves in bondage to riches, but we should use whatever wealth we have conscientiously and unselfishly. That is, although we may not work for (serve) Mammon, we can make it work for us, in a godly and honest way. Should we fall on hard times (ʻfailʼ), we will likely find others willing to help us (ʻreceive you into [enduring companionship]ʼ; compare with 16: 4).
The observation in Luke 16: 14 that the Pharisees sneered at Jesusʼ remarks because they loved – coveted money seems to bear out this interpretation. The Pharisees would have kept their riches for themselves and perhaps extracted the last shekel from their debtors, winning few friends along the way.
See also Matt. 6: 19-34.
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