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Serving Mammon

Dear Cathedral Family,

Sometimes the old words help us understand the gospel more clearly. This week is an occasion when this is true, as we read Luke 16:1-13, which concludes with the all-important statement from Jesus that in our NRSV translation reads, “You cannot serve God and wealth.”

You may remember that older translations retained the original final word: “You cannot serve God and Mammon.” Deciding (probably correctly) that most modern readers don’t know what Mammon means, translators decided to go with simple “wealth” or “worldly wealth,” or “money.” But none of these alternatives capture the image of the original Aramaic word, which the early Greek translators left in its original form in order to convey its power.

And power is what Mammon is all about. Mammon is a personification, a someone, with will and force, who is a rival for God. As Andy Crouch observes in his recent book The Life We’re Looking For, Jesus understood that money “was not a neutral tool but something that could master a person every bit as completely as the true God,” becoming the “anti-God” force that finds its power in money.

If you doubt that, just think for a moment about how money makes you feel: flush, powerful, at ease when you have plenty and can do as you please; but panicked, desperate, oppressed and depressed when you don’t. When you have money, you can live through its power; when you don’t, you are powerless.

The difficult question for us becomes this: how do we live in such a way that money doesn’t make the world around, but God does? There is no easy answer to that question. It is answered by daily living and walking in the Way of Jesus, becoming people who see Christ in the world, who see a world filled with the creatures of God, and not just things.

Worship together grounds us to walk and live that Way together.



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