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Who is Mammon?

Tricia Christensen
Updated: May 23, 2024

Many are familiar with the word Mammon, which translates from Aramaic to "riches." Some translate Mammon as greed or avarice, but most often, the word Mammon is used to personify riches, or greed. Although some consider it to be a lost Syrian god, no evidence of a Syrian god or demon by the name of Mammon exists. Later, Mammon was used as a demon in Piers Plowman and in John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

The name Mammon is often thought of in connection with the New Testament. In Matthew 6:19-24, Christ is quoted as stating: “No one can serve two masters; for either will he hate the one and love the other… You cannot serve God and Mammon.” As well in this passage Christ enjoins people to “not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth… but lay up for yourself treasures in heaven.”

In essence the passage can be seen as a rejection of acquiring wealth, or Mammon, in preference to serving God first. The passage is often used specifically to point to those who claim to be Christian but then seem to place the “getting and spending” as their first priority in life. Many Christian denominations despise the representation of Christianity by some televangelists who seem to "serve two masters," by focusing on donations more than on converting people to Christianity and holding God’s work above that which results in prosperity.

For many of religions other than Christianity, the trouble of reconciling the need to serve Mammon while still practicing a religion based on good works is challenging. If Mammon or money is needed in a global economy, how is one supposed to live without occasionally serving Mammon?

The answer given by many is that while piety and charity are of first importance, God, or a person’s conception of God also wants people to live, and sometimes living requires money for food or shelter.

Some religious practices other than those of Christianity definitely favor a spiritual life rather than one in the pursuit of Mammon. For example many orders of Buddhist nuns and monks take vows of poverty and depend upon the charity of others in order to live. However, depending upon someone else’s charity means someone must make money in order to have enough to give to charity, thus someone must still serve Mammon.

The same holds true for Catholic nuns who take vows of poverty. They must depend upon someone, somewhere serving Mammon in order to survive. Many differentiate however between being a servant of Mammon and a slave to avarice, rather than simply operating within a money based economy.

For many, Mammon is evil, whereas one must “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” also from the Gospel of Matthew. Essentially, do what you must, pay taxes, feed your family, and et cetera. However, give God his full share by leading a spiritual life.

Striking a balance between acquiring what one needs and stockpiling money is precarious and it concerns many people of various faiths, and many who don’t practice any religion. In a sense, serving Mammon means one is greedy, or one who has wealth far in excess of one’s needs. Yet Western Culture remains somewhat obsessed with those who acquire a great deal of wealth. Forbes magazine’s wealthiest people in the world list catches quite a lot of attention, as do shows like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon998517 — On Jun 25, 2017

Oh for Christ's sake, mammon was Caesar. When Jesus said you can't serve mammon he was referring to Caesar, whose own tax coin claimed he was a god, hence "god of money". Christians should stop listening to priests and preachers and read the Bible instead. Jesus called priests hypocrites for good reason.

Who would Jesus tax?

By anon996513 — On Sep 09, 2016

Christians are wrong about mammon. When Jesus used the term mammon, "You cannot serve both God and mammon," he was referring to Caesar, because Caesar's tax coin inscription claimed Caesar was a god, or "god of money." Mammon is actually Caesar, aka the government. So, Jesus really said, You can't serve God and government.

The same deception was used by the Bible when Jesus was asked about taxes. If the Bible simply told readers that Caesar's tax coin inscription said "Caesar is a god", then at least some Christians would have realized that Jesus was saying, render (give back, put back, return) to Caesar his coin, because having it is against first and second commandment.

By anon340340 — On Jul 02, 2013

There are cultures - primitive by our standards - that live very simply, like the wild birds of the air and animals of the forests and fish of the seas whom God lovingly takes care of. These people - and the fish and birds and animals - don't serve Mammon. This is how Christ meant for us to live; he pretty clearly said so.

Almost nobody today is willing to do that so we twist the meanings to justify our soft, excessive lifestyles, give lip service to "serving God", while what we all serve is this soft, comfortable, yet Earth- and soul-destructive modern life we've developed over the centuries. An Armageddon is coming, but it's one we've constructed.

By anon272399 — On Jun 01, 2012

Wow, some really good thinking here. As a 'born-again' Christian (is there any other type? Seriously) and not a wingnut by any means, I think it's really sad that millions of Christians still start their day without a clue, or any real understanding, of what it means to serve God vs serving Mammon.

I think too, that Jesus focused on this a lot and that good understanding and practice of such teaching is essential to a Christian living in a way pleasing to God. God is building a global network of connected souls whose goal is to abrogate, overthrow and subdue the godless and their master. This network must have a currency system, and a way to obtain goods and services. It is being implemented. but it will take some more time before we can all begin to participate. Watch this space! God is not mocked and will never give his glory to another!

Pray with me, to see a real deliverance from the prison hold of debt slavery, which we are all teased with (and eventually forced) to join. You work to eat, right? Unfortunately, if you do, you are working for the system, which is based on debt slavery. It is global and pernicious; ever-expanding and eventually, everyone will participate (even cripples need to eat). But, it is not the end of all things. In due time, we shall see our deliverance and the armies of the enemy will be ruined and brought to nothing.

By anon270011 — On May 20, 2012

Christ and the apostles were "far beyond socialists." Having "all things common," means none of them lacked, but had sufficient for what was necessity. None of them took "ownership" of another's property, that didn't belong to them.

However, your statement on "mammon has never been found to be a demon, etc." is false. His name was Baal, also called "Mammon" by the Greeks, and he was a "personified lord of wealth." When Gentiles were in need of wealth, they prayed to Mammon (Baal) for their "provision." The Greek word "Mammon (mammonas)" literally meant "god of wealth."

This Christ Joshua (not Jesus; Jesus was Latin, not a transliteration of Hebrew) identified it (as did Paul (2Co 4:4) as the devil himself (Mt 4:9).

By anon246784 — On Feb 11, 2012

In western countries like Denmark, the government forces

people to serve mammon. People without money are enslaved to do something called "aktivering". You have to serve the mammon system at least 35 hours a week by working a pseudo job or pseudo education, or else you will get no money at all. Even if you are insured against unemployment you will be "activated".

The politicians talk about working more hours and more years to solve the financial crisis.

Work, Work, Work for money, more money, more money.

By anon122253 — On Oct 27, 2010

This is in response to 'anon61601 ':

Socialism is not biblical! You apparently do not read the Bible or if you do, you don't understand it.

Yes, in a way you are right. In the Bible is does teach something of a socialism culture. However, with that being said, it is a free will type of socialism (people are willing to give, rather then have it taken from them to give to someone else), and not government controlled!

I don't know what you are trying to accomplish with your so called "fear to understand" but it isn't going to work. There is a difference between giving freely, compared to having it taken from you and given to someone else.

Just remember this much: while there is something of a socialistic society in the Bible, it also says in there "If you want to eat, you have to work"! I have a problem with busting my butt for 50k a year and the government is trying to tell me that they are going to give the next person 50k a year, and all they did for that year was sit at home, drinking alcohol or doing drugs, eating ho ho's and watching jerry springer!

You need to be more careful how you word things from now on, especially when you try to do it in a 'Biblical sense.'

By anon102255 — On Aug 07, 2010

What Jesus meant is that money should not be your master. Money has a power over people. For a Christian, the amount of money he has or does not have, should not affect his relationship with God. God should be his master. His joy should be based on God and not money.

By christensen — On Jan 24, 2010

The tenets of socialism defy religion and specifically see it as opiate of the people. I'm with you on much of this, but Marx's ideas do not allow for the practice of religion. Beyond anarchy, I can't see a government system that is simpatico with the teachings on Mammon.

By anon61601 — On Jan 21, 2010

To say we must live in a money based economy, in an accepting way, giving the nod to capitalism (which would and will destroy us all and the planet, it knows no bounds and serves only the pursuit of ever more profit: Mammon!) is typical of the denial that pervades our so called 'free news media' and will never admit, acknowledge or explain or condone the existence of anything other than so called 'western democracy', which enslaves us all.

We live in elective dictatorships where global capital and corporations hold all of our lives in the balance.

We have no political power much less the freedom to pursue God without serving Mammon.

Jesus and his disciples held all things in common, the ownership or not as the case may be. Study the teachings, and you will find socialism to most likely fit the bill!

We, now we but mostly everyone within the US's sphere of influence has never been allowed to even understand what socialism is and how it can give real democracy to all, right down to the ground.

Only poisoned shadows of fear are given to any who would seek to understand and to those who would never seek, they are firmly under those shadows, never to awake!

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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