God vs. Mammon


Dr. John Hoole – July 16, 2017





In 1908, Congress mandated that the phrase, “In God We Trust,” be printed on all coins.  In wasn’t until 1956 that Congress passed a joint resolution “declaring IN GOD WE TRUST be the national motto of the United States.”  The law was signed by President Eisenhower on July 30, 1956, and the motto was progressively added to paper money over a period from 1957 to 1966.


Our national motto raises the question that today’s lesson also raises.  Who do we trust – God or Money?  In the providence of God, this phrase has been written on our money to remind us every time we look at money, we ask, “Who do I trust, God or money?”


The current study series, The Sermon on the Mount, is a manifesto of how our King wants us to live in His kingdom, as found in Matthew 5, 6 & 7.  All of chapter six is about daily life in God’s kingdom, and criticizes an earthly perspective.  It repeatedly asks the question, “From where do you seek praise – earth or heaven?”  Where is your wealth located?


The first half of chapter six discusses the motives behind our religious duties, whether that be praying, almsgiving, or fasting.  Are we seeking the praise of earth or the praise of heaven?


A couple of weeks ago we began looking at the second half of chapter six.  It discusses our relationship with things in the secular world – money, food, clothing, ambition.  Let’s read the initial part of the second half of chapter six.


Matthew 6:19-24 NKJV


19     Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;

20     but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

21     For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22     The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.

23     But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24     No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.


The New Testament contains 2,084 verses dealing with money and finance.  Sixteen of Jesus’ thirty-eight parables deal with money.  The reason Jesus spoke so often about money was because He was always trying to see where a person’s loyalty resided.  “For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also” (6:21).


We have already spent three lessons on verses 19-21.  Today’s lesson focuses primarily on verse 24.  If time permits, we will later address the two verses about the “eyes” and “light and darkness” that is put into the middle of this set of verses.  To begin todays study, let’s look at the very last phrase.




First, let’s look at the last word – Mammon.  The word “mammon” is found in the Bible four times, and all of them are the words of Jesus.  Not all translations render it as “mammon.”


         Some read, “God and money” – like the NIV, NLT, ESV, NET & The Message


         The NAS renders it, “God and wealth,” as is true of NRSV.


         The New Century Version reads, “God and worldly riches.”


         Most of the other 20 translations I have on my Bible software leave it as “God and mammon.”


The Wuest Expanded New Testament reads, “Obedience to God and to a passion for accumulated wealth.”  This translation is probably the fullest or complete meaning.


I also like the Amplified Bible, which is a paraphrase, not as translation, which reads, ou cannot serve God and mammon, (deceitful riches, money, possessions, or whatever is trusted in.)


The word “mammon” is of Syriac or Aramaic origin.  At its heart, the word “mammon” indicates an attitude that says, “Man doesn’t need God – we are self-sufficient.”  This attitude is seen more forcefully in the passage where we find the other three uses of “mammon.”


The other three occasions where we find the word “mammon” are all in Luke 16.  This passage deals with the parable of the Unjust Steward.  But, in this chapter, the word “mammon” is accompanied by some descriptors.


         Some translations say, “unrighteous mammon” (NKJV).


         The NIV renders it, “worldly wealth.”


         The NAS reads: “unrighteous wealth.”


         NLT has it, “worldly resources.”


         Douay Rheims (Catholic Bible) reads: “Mammon of iniquity.”


In these verses, Jesus is talking about that which people think brings them security and happiness.  Is it in the eternal or in the temporary?  The words of Christ are a challenge to our faith – right where we live, how we live, and why we live.


So, why does Jesus pick on money?  First, as we have seen, mammon is not just money.  Certainly, money probably represents mammon the most, because in the end, it is money that is the material power of this world.  It is money that enables you to live, move, having the freedom to do as you please in this world.


In all of Christ’s uses of the word “mammon,” it is described as if it were a person.  Whatever it is, it can be loved,  You can express devotion to it.  You will hate one and be devoted to the other.  And when we are told we cannot serve two master, and then at the end of the verse, says these two are God and Mammon, it implies personification.  Most of the Bible commentators that I have researched believe Christ is personalizing Mammon.


Gregory of Nyssa (Gregorios Nussos in Greek) – (335 – 395) - Bishop of Nyssa, in northern Turkey.  He asserted that Mammon was another name for Beelzebub.


Also in the fourth century, Cyprian and Jerome, both early church fathers, related mammon to greed and greed as an evil master that enslaves.


Also in late fourth century and early fifth, we have John Chrysostom saying, “Mammon is the personification of greed.”


In the late thirteenth century, Nicholas of Lyra, in France, commenting on the Luke 16 passage, said: “Mammon est nomen daemonis” – “Mammon is the name of a demon.”


John Milton, in Paradise Lost, describes a fallen angel named Mammon, who values earthly treasure over all other things.


For most Christians, money or material things are the greatest temptation to idolatry.  In addition, most Christians that have an idolatrous relationship with money are unaware of it.


I find it interesting that even though Jesus referred to Satan as “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30), He never referred to Satan as the alternative master to God, whom people could make a choice to serve.  When Jesus spoke of two master whom people could serve, He said that the two are God and Mammon.  In Christendom, generally speaking, preachers have always urged people to choose between God and Satan.  Jesus however urged people to choose between God and Mammon.


Satan is a master schemer.  He knows that if people are told to choose between God and Satan, no one will choose Satan.  But when the choice is between God and Mammon, Satan knows that even believers will find it difficult to make a decisive choice.  Satan also know that most of the Christian work in this world is more dependent on Mammon (money & property), than on the power of the Holy Spirit.


We must not be ignorant of Satan’s wiles.  It is against Satan’s wiles that we are told to stand firm, and not against his wrath (Ephesians 6:11). Satan’s wrath has never hindered the work of God at any time.  Persecution has only made the church of Jesus Christ flourish in every country and at all times.  But Satan has often succeeded with his wiles.


The text for today that we read earlier, provides us with three diagnostic questions to help us analyze our condition.


         •  Two treasures – What do you worship?


         •  Two visions – How do you see?


         •  Two Masters – Who do you serve?


I have mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but let’s first start with what Jesus does NOT forbid.


1.      He does not forbid the private ownership of property.  The commandment, “You shall not steal,” infers the right of personal property.  Stealing and coveting are wrong because what is stolen or coveted rightfully belongs to someone else.


Both the Old and New Testaments recognize the right to material possessions including money, land, animals, houses, clothing, and every other thing that is honestly acquired.  Many of the promises made by God involve material blessings, to those who belong to and are faithful to Him.  Although personal possessions are not wrong, Jesus if asking, “What do you seek first?” – His kingdom or mammon (wealth).


2.      Christ also does not forbid saving for a rainy day – just the opposite.  The Bible commands us to be prudent.  Christ recognizes our need for material things, including money.  Again, Jesus is speaking to where our faith, motivation, seeking is found.  Are we seeking the things of this world and trying to fit it into God’s plan?


So, what does Christ forbid?  He forbids the worship of money and what it can purchase.  Are we looking to material things to give us joy and happiness, rather than God?


How do we know when we have passed beyond the God-glorifying enjoyment of wealth?  How do we know when wealth has become idolatrous to us.  At what point do material possession become where our treasure lies rather than heaven?  At what point do we know we have moved God to the back seat?


Here are some tests that may help answer these questions.


1.      Our real god is whatever we look to for ultimate security and protection.


2.      Our real god is whatever we look to for ultimate satisfaction or fulfillment.  God has wired each of us to seek happiness.  We will seek it relentlessly.  When the Lord convicts us of anything, it always pushes to find our real joy in God’s presemce.


3.      Our real god is whatever we look to for identity, status, or meaning.


4.      Our real god is whatever is on the throne of our life – whatever our life revolves around.


Jesus captures all of this with two analogies – treasure and durability.  Whatever is our treasure, we look to it for permanence.  If security is found the “treasures on earth,” that makes it vulnerable to “moth,” “rust,” and “thieves” removing it from us.  That makes it temporary, not permanent.


If we look to God and eternity to provide security, fulfillment and identity, then our treasures will be in heaven.  Earthly treasures are temporary and non-fulfilling.  But spiritual treasures are eternal and deeply fulfilling.


I want to look at verse 24 once more.


Matthew 6:24 NKJV


24     No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.


I want to focus on two words: “Serve” (used twice in this verse) and “Master.”  Let’s look at “master” first.  The Greek word for “master” in this verse is KURIOSThe Greek word occurs 717 times in the New Testament.  Almost all occurrences are translated, LORDKurios is translated as “master” only 13 times.  In context, the words master and lord have similar qualities.


Now, let’s look at the Greek word translated “serve.”  There are two primary words in the Greek language that are translated serve or servant.  Those two words are DIAKONOS and DOULOS.


First, look at diakonos.  Diakonos is sometimes translated as minister.  This is the word used in Mark 10:45, which reads: The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve [diakonos], and to give His life a ransom for many. 

Diakonos is also used in 1 Peter 4:10-11, where it list serving as a spiritual gift.


1 Pet 4:10-11  NAS


10     As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

11     Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves [diakonos], let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.


DIAKONOS is not the Greek word used by Christ in Matthew 6:24DOULOS is the word found in this verse.  So, what is the meaning of this Greek word.  A doulos servant is not a hired hand.  In our text, it is being used as a master/slave relationship.


By definition, a slave owner has total control of the slave.  For a slave, there is no such thing as partial or part-time obligation to his master.  He owes full-time service to a full-time master.  Everything he does is at the request or command of his master.  As such, it is totally impossible to have two masters.


Over and over the New Testament speaks of Christ as Lord and Master, and to each of his followers as His bond-slaves.  The apostle Paul tells us that before we were saved we were enslaved to sin.  But when we trusted in Christ as our Savior, we became bond-slaves of God and of righteousness (Romans 6:16-22).


We cannot claim Christ as Lord if our allegiance is to anything or anyone else, including ourselves.  And when we know God’s will but resist obeying it, we give evidence that our loyalty is other than to Him.  When Jesus says, in John 8:34, “Whoever commits sin is the servant of sin,” He uses DOULOS.


In our text, the instructions or commands coming from these two masters – God or Mammon, are diametrically opposed to each other and cannot coexist.  The one calls us to be humble and the other to be proud.  From one we are to set our minds on things above, and the other to set them on things below.  One calls us to love light, the other to love darkness.  The one tells us to look toward things unseen and eternal, and the other to look at things seen and temporary.


The person whose master is Jesus Christ can say that, when he eats or drinks or does anything else, he does “all to the glory of God.”  The person who’s master is the Lord Jesus Christ can say with David, “I have set the Lord continually before me” (Psalm 16:8).  He can also say with Caleb when he was eighty-five years old, “I followed the Lord my God fully” (Joshua 14:8).


In the last half of the eighteenth century there was a songwriter named Francis Ridley Havergal.  She was also a singer and proficient on the keyboard.  She only lived 42 years, but in that short duration, she learned Latin, Greek and Hebrew.  Of the Scriptures, she memorized Isaiah, Psalm, all Minor Prophets, and the entire New Testament.  She considered each of her hymns as prayers to her Master.


Francis Havergal (in England) and Fanny Crosby (in America) were contemporaries of each other.  Although they never met, they corresponded and each the admirer of the other.


In a letter sent by Miss Havergal to Fanny Crosby, she wrote:


Dear blind sister over the sea—
An English heart goes forth to thee.
We are linked by a cable of faith and song,
Flashing bright sympathy swift along
One in the East and one in the West,
Singing for Him whom our souls love best.
Singing for Jesus! Telling His love
All the way to our home above,
Where the severing sea, with its restless tide
Never shall hinder and never divide.
Sister, what shall our meeting soon be
When our hearts shall sing and our eyes shall see?


A couple of her songs are: Like a River Glorious, I Gave My Life For Thee, and Who Is On The Lord’s Side.  But she also wrote another song that is probably the best known of all her works.  Take My Life and Let It Be (written in 1874).


The words of this song depict the life of the person who has become a bond-slave of Jesus Christ.  I want us to sing all six short stanzas, and as we do, capture the words that the lyrics include.




  1. Take my life and let it be
    Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
    *Take my moments and my days,
    Let them flow in endless praise.
  2. Take my hands and let them move
    At the impulse of Thy love.
    Take my feet and let them be
    Swift and beautiful for Thee.
  3. Take my voice and let me sing,
    Always, only for my King.
    Take my lips and let them be
    Filled with messages from Thee.
  4. Take my silver and my gold,
    Not a mite would I withhold.
    Take my intellect and use
    Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
  5. Take my will and make it Thine,
    It shall be no longer mine.
    Take my heart, it is Thine own,
    It shall be Thy royal throne.