A common Aramaic word (mamon) for riches, used in Matthew 6:24 and in Luke 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 Luke 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.
Russell Benjamin Miller