>Doing Mammon’s Work

>Jesus said: “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13).

The word “mammon” is used in the Bible to describe the love of money. The word is derived from a Mishnaic Hebrew word which means “money.” Thus, the word “mammon” is used in the Bible to describe money, wealth, and greed.

This is how many translations render the word “mammon”:

“You can’t be slaves to both God and money” (Luke16:13 HCSB).
“You cannot serve God and wealth” (Luke 16:13 NRSV).
“You cannot serve God and riches” (Luke 16:13 Webster).

Jesus used the word “mammon” in the Gospel of Luke to personify the intense love of money. Thus, mammon is personified as a false god whom one serves when one is trying to enrich himself through the dishonest acquisition of wealth.

The truth of Jesus’ words is clearly seen in the results of the financial meltdown that affected banks in the USA and around the world. Banks and their CEOs are being accused of fraud and deception. The Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit against Goldman Sachs is a case in point.

Recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued Goldman accusing the financial institution “of creating a complex financial product designed to fail and selling it to unknowing investors.” In addition, “Goldman has been accused of a range of misdeeds, including manipulating oil prices and using taxpayer money for handsome bonuses.”

Writing for the Observer (UK), Will Hutton discusses the truth behind the financial meltdown and the role Goldman Sachs played in it. He wrote:

The global financial crisis, it is now clear, was caused not just by the bankers’ colossal mismanagement. No, it was due also to the new financial complexity offering up the opportunity for widespread, systemic fraud. Friday’s announcement that the world’s most famous investment bank, Goldman Sachs, is to face civil charges for fraud brought by the American regulator is but the latest of a series of investigations that have been launched, arrests made and charges made against financial institutions around the world.

Beneath the complexity, the charges are all rooted in the same phenomenon – deception. Somebody, somewhere, was knowingly fooled by banks and bankers – sometimes governments over tax, sometimes regulators and investors over the probity of balance sheets and profits and sometimes, as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) says in Goldman’s case, by creating a scheme to enrich one favoured investor at the expense of others – including, via RBS, the British taxpayer. Along the way there is a long list of so-called “entrepreneurs” and “innovators” who were offered loans that should never have been made. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s CEO, remarked only semi-ironically that his bank was doing God’s work [emphasis mine]. He must wake up every day bitterly regretting the words ever emerged from his mouth.

I hate to disagree with Lloyd Blankfein. He was not doing “God’s work.” He was doing “Mammon’s work.”

“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have . . . pierced themselves with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10).

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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