What does Mammon mean in Luke 16:9-13, and how does this section connect with the Unjust Steward parable in Luke 16:1-8? Why would understanding ancient Jewish poetry help with its interpretation? From Poet & Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes,
“mammon” most likely has its origin in the root ‘mn. It means generally, “that in which one trusts,” and specifically, “property and anything of value”…. Mammon is here called “unrighteous…” All money gets dirty at some stage in its history….
There’s a lot of explanation in my source, but I’ll try to sum it up briefly. Luke 16:9-13 likely follows the parable of the Unjust Steward to offset possible wrong interpretations of Luke 16:1-8.
Luke 16:9-13 is a carefully constructed poem with three stanzas…the inversion principle is used in all three stanzas…. The poem… provides a corrective for the Greek reader…. Luke 16:9-13 has its own integrity…should be read and interpreted apart from the parable that precedes it….. important clues to making a sharp division between 16:1-8 and 16:9-13 is the introductory “And to you I say.” Both here (16:1-13) and in Luke 11:5-13 there is a parable followed by a poem which has been confused with it.
Here are some of the differences between the parable and poem in Luke 16:1-13:
In the parable there is a master, steward and a problem between them. In verse 9 there is no master, steward or problem between them.
The steward is penniless; he considers begging and farm labor. In verse 9 the man with mammon presumably has a significant sum of mammon. He is offered advice on how to spend it.
The steward makes reductions for the relatively rich. In verse 9 the man with mammon is encouraged to give to the poor (presumably).
The steward is dealing with someone else’s money. The man with mammon deals with his own money.
The steward is already in his crisis. He is dismissed. The man with mammon is encouraged to plan for the future. His crisis is an indefinite future.
The steward’s problem is his own sin, and his master’s expectations. The man with mammon faces the problem of the insecurity of worldly goods.
Circumlocution means, at least in part, “the use of many words where fewer would do.” Circumlocution or symbolic words are used in verse 9 to maintain the integrity of inverted poetry. The first stanza in verse 9 can be broken down like this:
Mammon and God
A for yourselves make
C from mammon the unrighteous
C’ so that when it fails
B’ they may receive
A’ you into the eternal tents
…“the eternal tents” is a throwback to the tabernacle…. “In the Rabbinical writings it is a common way of avoiding the mention of the divine name to use the verb in the 3rd person plural, just as in this verse.”
Skipping to the third stanza in verse 13,
G No servant can serve two masters.
H Either the one he hates
I and the other he loves
I’ or the one he is devoted to
H’ and the other he despises.
G’ You cannot serve God and mammon.
“The love of money is the root of all evil,” 1 Timothy 6:10. The god of discontent and dissatisfaction is mammon. Or the control of others, or the greener grass on the other side of the fence, or vengeance. The more we get, the more we want.
Praise God for the deliverance from the god of mammon.
The above picture of home life is scanned from Daily Life at the Time of Jesus