No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Matt. 6:24 KJV

No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Matt. 6:24 NLT

The word, “mammon,” is an Aramaic word transliterated into the Greek and brought directly into the English by the King James Version translators. Modern translations prefer the word, “money.” However, money does not convey all that Jesus meant: possessions, worldly influence, materialism, absorption with wealth, etc. One does not have to be rich to be consumed with mammon: all of us in the Western world have been touch by its values at one time or another. You can be rich or poor and still be obsessed with making one more dollar and looking to that dollar to bring you joy and happiness.

Jesus speaks of two masters: God or mammon. Their loyalty is absolute: one cannot selfishly be committed to the values of this world while loving God and serving others. A choice must be made: our lives can only maintain allegiance to one or the other. How do we know if money and its values consumes our hearts and lives? George MacDonald gives us an answer.

When a man talks of the joys of making money, or boasts of number one, meaning himself, then he is a servant of mammon. If when you make a bargain, you think only of yourself and your own gain, you are a servant of mammon. . . . If your hope of well-being in times to come rests upon your houses or lands or business or savings, and not upon the living God, whether you are friendly and kind or a churl whom no one loves, you are equally a server of mammon.

If the loss of your goods would take from you the joy of your life, then you serve mammon. If with your words you confess that God is the only good, and yet you live as if he had sent you into the world to make yourself rich before you die; if it will add a pang to the pains of your death to think that you have to leave your fair house, your trees, your horses, your shop, your books all behind you, then you are a server of mammon and far truer to your real master than he will prove to you.

George MacDonald, “Jesus the Servant,” Discovering the Character of God, ed., Michael Phillips (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1989), 128.