series before jumping into this one.
What is money? Why has it affected so many lives for thousands of years? Men have fought over it. Wars have started because of it. Beautiful things are created because of it. Monuments are erected because of it. The gospel is spread because of it. Lives are impacted by it.
Let's begin by looking at a specific Scripture that has puzzled Christians for centuries. Please open your Bible to read Matthew 6:19-34 and pay special attention to verse 24.
The interesting thing that you will notice in verse 24 is that Jesus used the word Mammon. At first glance the context in which we read this verse appears to be the subject of money. Therefore, scholars have concluded that Mammon equals money. The challenge we face today is determining whether or not Mammon is money. So how do we do this? I will demonstrate the best way to interpret the Scripture so that you can use this method for yourself when reading the bible.
The first thing to do is to determine what that word “Mammon” really means. The easiest thing to do, or the first thing to do, is to go to the Oxford dictionary and look up the word Mammon. According to the Oxford dictionary Mammon means: “1. The god or devil of covetousness. 2. Wealth regarded as an idol or as an evil influence.” Also, according to the Oxford dictionary, “Mammon was the Aramaic word for riches used in the Greek text of the New Testament. It was taken by medieval writers as the name of the devil of covetousness.”
When it comes to Bible interpretation it is easier to start with something that you know how to do, which is to look the word up in the dictionary. This particular exercise does not always give you conclusive evidence as to what the word actually means. Therefore, what must be done is to take your study to the next level. The next best source for this level of study is to use a concordance of the Bible. The concordance will help you find elsewhere in the bible where the word was used so that you can see it in various contexts. Oddly enough, there are no other references to the word mammon other than what is found in the gospels.
So the next step is to use a lexicon. A lexicon will give you the definition of the word in its original written form. For this exercise I am using the new strong expanded concordance with lexicon. Since the New Testament was primarily written in the Greek language I will look up the Greek word for mammon in the concordance and use the lexicon to define the original meaning of the word mammon.
According to the Greek interpretation the simplest definition of mammon is “wealth.” But a more in depth look at that word Mammon actually means “confidence, or wealth personified.” The lexicon notes that “this is a common Aramaic word for riches, similar to a Hebrew word to signify steadfast or that which is to be trusted.” The key to understanding this word is found in the history of the word because it originates from the Chaldean society.
Now that we are getting somewhere with the definition of the word mammon, it's time to do a little research. You can use commentaries at this point as well has historical documentation. This one will take some time to find but if you immerse yourself you will find some interesting information. Here is a summary of the historical data I have found on mammon and Chaldean antiquity.
The interesting thing about the word mammon is that it has its origins in Chaldean antiquity and reflects a culture that lived in Mesopotamia back in Old Testament times. The Chaldeans are synonymous to the times of king Nebuchadnezzar in Babylonia.
If you would like to find biblical references to the Chaldean culture throughout the Old Testament just go to www.biblegateway.com and search Chaldean and you will find at least eighty references to this culture. Jewish history is not unfamiliar with Chaldean culture and influence. So, it's not surprising that Jesus referred to this culture to make a point since it does have historical acquaintance with the Jewish culture.
In most pagan religions gods are associated with certain objects or ideas in this world, and in the Chaldean culture they worshiped a god of confidence. If one needed to experience some form of confidence in any way they would worship this god to endow them with confidence. This god of confidence was associated with earthly riches, specifically money. This god is referred to as mammon. A spirit associates itself with this god, who in turn identifies with money; this is the mammon that Jesus is referring to.
So in reality when Jesus refers to mammon in the gospels He is not referring to the object of money, however that's not the entire picture. Let's take a closer look at what Jesus said. You cannot serve both God and Mammon. That word to serve implies to be a servant of or a servant to. It implies to carry out duties for a person or an animate object. Inanimate objects do not have the ability to be served. In other words, you cannot serve something that does not respond to you on a personal level. Is it possible for you to serve your house? Is it possible for you to serve your cell phone? These may sound like silly questions but you have to understand that to serve something means that it will respond to you in return.
If I asked you, is it possible to serve your mother what would you say? Can you serve a fireman? Again the answer is obvious but it's to point out that “yes” you can serve on this basis. These people, even if they just have a title, are able to receive your service.
Going back to what Jesus said, you cannot serve both God and Mammon implies that Mammon is an entity and not an object. This entity is able to be served. Therefore, money; which is an object, is not able to be served but the entity behind that object is able to be served or receive service.
In order to understand this scripture requires that you recognize that Mammon refers to an entity that identifies itself with money. In this particular case, we will take into consideration the origin of the word mammon as a reference to the god of confidence. In other words you can read the Scripture this way; you cannot serve both God and the god of confidence which associates itself with money.
If you look at it from that perspective and in the context in which Jesus asks us to have faith in God, then what Jesus is telling us is to have confidence in God and not to have confidence in what money can bring you. This one verse of the Scripture, because it is found within the context of trust and having confidence in God, implies that money can create a false sense of confidence and the spirit associated with it can impose itself upon you so that you trust money instead of God.
The following is an excerpt taken from my book that is going to be published on May 15, 2015. This book is part of a series called “Renewing the mind.” This may in fact be the most controversial book written on money that the church has ever laid eyes on. A bit of a warning, if you are not ready to challenge your faith in the realm of finances then I suggest you pass up this book to remain in your comfort zone, or at least start with book number one in the
This article was an excerpt from “Renewing the Mind; Seeing Money From A Different Perspective.” Joshua Ray will be releasing this book on May 15, 2015 on Amazon.com for Kindle readers.
Please note: This is general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with your own financial advisor before making any major financial decisions, including investments or changes to your portfolio, and a qualified legal professional before executing any legal documents or taking any legal action. Faith News Niagara and Joshua Ray are not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your financial or legal decisions.
Images courtesy of Evelyn De Morgan and Sommai at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
No one can serve two masters: exploring Matthew 6:24
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"In most pagan religions gods are associated with certain objects or ideas in this world, and in the Chaldean culture they worshiped a god of confidence."