Parable of the Unjust Steward by Andrei Nikolayevich Mironov (2021)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned us that our commitment to God must be undiluted. “No one can serve two masters,” He said. “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24, New King James Version; see also 3 Nephi 13:24, Luke 16:13).

The word mamonas (μαμωνᾶς) in the Greek text of the New Testament is probably a transliteration of an Aramaic word, referring to wealth or possessions. Most English translations of the Bible render this word as “money” or “wealth,” but the King James translators followed the example of the Greek text, transliterating the word as “mammon.”

The word also appears in the gospel of Luke, in the context of the Parable of the Unjust Steward. (See Luke 16:1-12.) After sharing the story of a servant who built relationships with his master’s debtors by forgiving some of their debts, Jesus gave His disciples the following cryptic advice:

Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

Luke 16:9

I’ve always understood this passage to mean something like: “Make friends with wicked people, so that when you fail to get into heaven, you’ll at least have a place to stay.” Of course, that didn’t seem right.

This week, I’ve come to understand the passage better. “Make friends of mammon” could actually mean, “Make friends by means of mammon.” Most English translations of the Bible adopt that interpretation:

  • “Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves” (New International Version)
  • “Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends” (New Living Translation)

(See parallel translations of Luke 16:9 on

With that in mind, I would now paraphrase the passage this way: “Use your temporal (temporary) possessions and money to build relationships with other people, which can last into eternity.” That sounds like good advice.

We can use money for many purposes. The acquisition of wealth as an end in itself can lead us to become servants of mammon. We are then no longer free to serve God. But using wealth to bless other people and build strong relationships is good. We are trading something perishable for something permanent.

I think that’s why Nephi’s brother Jacob not only counseled his people to prioritize the kingdom of God over the acquisition of wealth, but he also taught them what they should do with the wealth which they might acquire:

To clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.

Jacob 2:19

Today, I will remember that even though money and worldly possessions are temporary, I can use them to accomplish eternal things. I will avoid becoming a slave to mammon, and I will also recommit to use mammon in a way that blesses other people and builds enduring relationships.

2 thoughts on “Mammon

Add yours

  1. This was a wonderful post, Paul! I’ve always wondered about the KJV of
    that passage, and the other translations that you cite were very helpful
    in providing options. But I like your  rephrasing best of all.



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