MAMMON (Gr. mamōnas, riches). The Aramaic word for “riches.” Christ used it as a life goal opposed to God (Matt.6.24; Luke.16.13 kjv; niv “Money”). Jesus also used the word in the phrase “mammon of unrighteousness” (niv “worldly wealth”) in commenting on his parable on the unjust steward (Luke.16.11, Luke.16.13 kjv).
. This Aram. term, māmōnā
' (emphatic state of māmōn
), apparently signified “wealth” or “property,” and was of frequent occurrence in the Targum. It appears in the Heb. text of Ecclesiasticus 31:8
, in the Mishna Abot
2, 12, and in the Damascus Document p. 14, 20. Although it does not appear in the OT, it occurs in the NT as mamōnās
: (1) Matthew 6:24
(“You cannot serve God and mammon”), where it prob. retains the ordinary meaning of “material riches,” rather than some otherwise unknown god of wealth; (2) Luke 16:9
, which speak of the “mammon of unrighteousness (adikia
)” or “the unrighteous mammon” (v. 13
is the same dictum as Matt 6:24
). There has been much discussion of the implications of unrighteousness in connection with wealth, but the simplest explanation seems to be that material wealth (whether money or gems or landed property) is a resource open to misuse and characteristically employed by wicked, unscrupulous men for wicked purposes. Yet it is possible for a true servant of God to use wealth for good and salutary purposes, and thus procure for himself treasure in heaven such as money cannot buy. (A thorough discussion of the etymology and significance of this word in the NT is found in E. Nestle’s article in Encyclopaedia Biblica
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
A common Aramaic word (mamon) for riches, used in Mt 6:24 and in Lu 16:9,11,13. In these passages mammon merely means wealth, and is called "unrighteous," because the abuse of riches is more frequent than their right use. In Lu 16:13 there is doubtless personification, but there is no proof that there was in New Testament times a Syrian deity called Mammon. The application of the term in Matthew is apparent and requires no comment. In Lk, however, since the statement, "Make to yourselves friends out of the mammon of unrighteousness," follows as a comment on the parable of the Unjust Steward, there is danger of the inference that Jesus approved the dishonest conduct of the steward and advised His disciples to imitate his example. On the contrary, the statement is added more as a corrective against this inference than as an application. `Do not infer,’ He says, that honesty in the use of money is a matter of indifference. He that is unfaithful in little is unfaithful in much. So if you are not wise in the use of earthly treasure how can you hope to be entrusted with heavenly treasure?’ The commendation is in the matter of foresight, not in the method. The steward tried to serve two masters, his lord and his lord’s creditors, but the thing could not be done, as the sequel shows. Neither can men serve both God and riches exalted as an object of slavish servitude. Wealth, Jesus teaches, does not really belong to men, but as stewards they may use wealth prudently unto their eternal advantage. Instead of serving God and mammon alike we may serve God by the use of wealth, and thus lay up treasures for ourselves in heaven. Again, the parable is not to be interpreted as teaching that the wrong of dishonest gain may be atoned for by charity. Jesus is not dealing with the question of reparation. The object is to point out how one may best use wealth, tainted or otherwise, with a view to the future.