What is Mammon?

Q. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared: “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt 6:24). What does the word “mammon” mean? 

A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D:

 “Mammon” originally was a Hebrew word which simply meant “material possessions.” The word mammon comes from a root term which means “to entrust.” Mammon once designated that which a person gave to a banker or some other custodian for safekeeping. Over the course of years, mammon came to mean not “that which is entrusted to another for safekeeping,” but rather “that in which a person places his trust.” And so mammon came to denote a rival to God himself. 

This development of the meaning of mammon reveals a basic and ever-present temptation in our lives. It’s the temptation to put the things of this world — possession, even other persons — at the center of our lives, rather than God. Either we let God stand at the center of our lives, or we reject Him. There is no middle ground.