In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
In the mean time - While he was discoursing with the scribes and Pharisees, as recorded in the last chapter.
An innumerable multitude - The original word is "myriad's," or ten thousands. It is used here to signify that there was a great crowd or collection of people, who were anxious to hear him. Multitudes were attracted to the Saviour's ministry, and it is worthy of remark that he never had more to hear him than when he was most faithful and severe in his reproofs of sinners. Men's consciences are on the side of the faithful reprover of their sins; and though they deeply feel the reproof, yet they will still respect and hear him that reproves.
To his disciples first of all - This does not mean that his disciples were, before all others, to avoid hypocrisy, but that this was the "first" or chief thing of which they were to beware. The meaning is this: "He said to his disciples, "Above all things beware," etc.
The leaven - See the notes at Matthew 16:6.
Which is hypocrisy - See the notes at Matthew 7:5. Hypocrisy is like leaven or yeast, because:
1. It may exist without being immediately detected. Leaven mixed in flour is not known until it produces its effects.
2. It is insinuating. Leaven will soon pervade the whole mass. So hypocrisy will, if undetected and unremoved, soon pervade all our exercises and feelings.
3. It is swelling. It puffs us up, and fills us with pride and vanity. No man is more proud than the hypocrite, and none is more odious to God. When Jesus cautions them to beware of "the leaven of the Pharisees," he means that they should be cautious about imbibing their spirit and becoming like them. The religion of Jesus is one of sincerity, of humility, of an entire want of disguise. The humblest man is the best Christian, and he who has the least disguise is most like his Master.
For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.
Nothing covered - See the notes at Matthew 10:26-32.
Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
Shall be proclaimed upon the housetops - See the notes at Matthew 10:27. The custom of making proclamation from the tops or roofs of houses still prevails in the East. Dr. Thomson ("The Land and the Book," vol. i. p. 51, 52) says: "At the present day, local governors in country districts cause their commands thus to be published. Their proclamations are generally made in the evening, after the people have returned from their labors in the field. The public crier ascends the highest roof at hand, and lifts up his voice in a long-drawn call upon all faithful subjects to give ear and obey. He then proceeds to announce, in a set form, the will of their master, and demand obedience thereto."
And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:
But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.
And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.
See the notes at Matthew 12:32.
And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
See the notes at Matthew 10:17-20.
For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.
And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
One of the company - One of the multitude. This man had probably had a dispute with his brother, supposing that his brother had refused to do him justice. Conceiving that Jesus had power over the people - that what he said must be performed - he endeavored to secure him on his side of the dispute and gain his point. From the parable which follows, it would appear that he had no "just" claim on the inheritance, but was influenced by covetousness. Besides, if he "had" any just claim, it might have been secured by the laws of the land,
Speak to my brother - Command my brother.
Divide the inheritance - An inheritance is the property which is left by a father to his children. Among the Jews the older brother had two shares, or twice as much as any other child, Deuteronomy 21:17. The remainder was then equally divided among all the children.
And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
Who made me a judge? - It is not my business to settle controversies of this kind. They are to be settled by the magistrate. Jesus came for another purpose - to preach the gospel, and so to bring people to "a willingness to do" right. Civil affairs are to be left to the magistrate. There is no doubt that Jesus "could" have told him what was right in this case, but then it would have been interfering with the proper office of the magistrates; it might have led him into controversy with the Jews; and it was, besides, evidently apart from the proper business of his life. We may remark, also, that the appropriate business of ministers of the gospel is to attend to spiritual concerns. They should have little to do with the temporal matters of the people. If they can "persuade men" who are at variance to be reconciled, it is right; but they have no power to take the place of a magistrate, and to settle contentions in a legal way.
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
Beware of covetousness - One of these brothers, no doubt, was guilty of this sin; and our Saviour, as was his custom, took occasion to warn his disciples of its danger.
Covetousness - An unlawful desire of the property of another; also a desire of gain or riches beyond what is necessary for our wants. It is a violation of the tenth commandment Exodus 20:17, and is expressly called idolatry Colossians 3:5. Compare, also, Ephesians 5:3, and Hebrews 13:5.
A man's life - The word "life" is sometimes taken in the sense of happiness or felicity, and some have supposed this to be the meaning here, and that Jesus meant to say that a man's comfort does not depend on affluence - that is, on more than is necessary for his daily wants; but this meaning does not suit the parable following, which is designed to show that property will not lengthen out a man's life, and therefore is not too ardently to be sought, and is of little value. The word "life," therefore, is to be taken "literally."
Consisteth not - Rather, "dependeth" not on his possessions. His possessions will not prolong it. The passage, then, means: Be not anxious about obtaining wealth, for, however much you may obtain, it will not prolong your life. "That" depends on the will of God, and it requires something besides wealth to make us ready to meet him. This sentiment he proceeds to illustrate by a beautiful parable.
And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
A parable - See the notes at Matthew 13:3.
Plentifully - His land was fertile, and produced even beyond his expectations, and beyond what he had provided for.
And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
He thought within himself - He reasoned or inquired. He was anxious and perplexed. Riches increase thought and perplexity. Indeed, this is almost their only effect - to engross the thoughts and steal the heart away from better things, in order to take care of the useless wealth.
No room - Everything was full.
To bestow - To place, to hoard, to collect.
My fruits - Our word "fruits" is not applied to "grain;" but the Greek word is applied to all the produce of the earth - not only "fruit," but also grain. This is likewise the old meaning of the English word, especially in the plural number.
And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
I will pull down my barns - The word "barns" here, properly means, "granaries," or places exclusively designed to put wheat, barley, etc. They were commonly made, by the ancients, "underground," where grain could be kept a long time more safe from thieves and from vermin. If it be asked why he did not let the old ones remain and build new ones, it may be answered that it would be easier to "enlarge" those already excavated in the earth than to dig new ones.
And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
Much goods - Much property. Enough to last a long while, so that there is no need of anxiety or labor.
Take thine ease - Be free from care about the future. Have no anxiety about coming to want.
Eat, drink, and be merry - This was just the doctrine of the ancient Epicureans and atheists, and it is, alas! too often the doctrine of those who are rich. They think that all that is valuable in life is to eat, and drink, and be cheerful or merry. Hence, their chief anxiety is to obtain the "delicacies of the season " - the luxuries of the world; to secure the productions of every clime at any expense, and to be distinguished for splendid repasts and a magnificent style of living. What a portion is this for an immortal soul! What folly to think that "all" that a man lives for is to satisfy his sensual appetites; to forget that he has an intellect to be cultivated, a heart to be purified, a soul to be saved!
But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
Thou fool - If there is any supreme folly, it is this. As though riches could prolong life, or avert for a moment the approach of pain and death.
This night ... - What an awful sentence to a man who, as he thought, had got just ready to live and enjoy himself! In a single moment all his hopes were blasted, and his soul summoned to the bar of his long-forgotten God. So, many are surprised as suddenly and as unprepared. They are snatched from their pleasures, and hurried to a world where there is no pleasure, and where all their wealth cannot purchase one moment's ease from the gnawings of the worm that never dies.
Shall be required of thee - Thou shalt be required to die, to go to God, and to give up your account.
Then whose ... - Whose they may be is of little consequence to the man that lost his soul to gain them; but they are often left to heirs that dissipate them much sooner than the father procured them, and thus they secure "their" ruin as well as his own. See Psalm 39:6; Ecclesiastes 2:18-19.
So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
So is he - This is the portion or the doom.
Layeth up treasure for himself - Acquires riches for his own use - for "himself." This is the characteristic of the covetous man. It is all for "himself." His plans terminate there. He lives only for himself, and acts only with regard to his own interest.
Rich toward God - Has no inheritance in the kingdom of God - no riches laid up in heaven. His affections are all fixed on this world, and he has none for God.
From this instructive parable we learn:
1. That wicked people are often signally prospered - their ground brings forth plentifully. God gives them their desire, but sends leanness into their souls.
2. That riches bring with them always an increasing load of cares and anxieties.
3. That they steal away the affections from God - are sly, insinuating, and dangerous to the soul.
4. That the anxiety of a covetous man is not what "good" he may do with his wealth, but where he may hoard it, and keep it secure from doing any good.
5. That riches cannot secure their haughty owners from the grave. Death will come upon them suddenly, unexpectedly, awfully. In the very midst of the brightest anticipations - in a moment - in the twinkling of an eye it may come, and all the wealth that has been accumulated cannot alleviate one pang, or drive away one fear, or prolong life for one moment.
6. That the man who is trusting to his riches in this manner is a fool in the sight of God. Soon, also, he will be a fool in his "own" sight, and will go to hell with the consciousness that his life has been one of eminent folly.
7. That the path of true wisdom is to seek first the kingdom of God, and to be ready to die; and "then" it matters little what is our portion here, or how suddenly or soon we are called away to meet our Judge. If our affections are not fixed on our riches, we shall leave them without regret. If our treasures are laid up in heaven, death will be but "going home," and happy will be that moment when we are called to our rest.
And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
See this passage explained in the notes at Matthew 6:25-33.
The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?
Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Little flock - Our Saviour often represents himself as a shepherd, and his followers as a flock or as sheep. The figure was beautiful. In Judea it was a common employment to attend flocks. The shepherd was with them, defended them, provided for them, led them to green pastures and beside still waters. In all these things Jesus was and is eminently the Good Shepherd. His flock was small. Few "really" followed him, compared with the multitude who professed to love him. But, though small in number, they were not to fear. God was their Friend. He would provide for them. It was his purpose to give them the kingdom, and they had nothing to fear. See Matthew 6:19-21.
Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.
Sell that ye have - Sell your property. Exchange it for that which you can use in distributing charity. This was the condition of their being disciples. Their property they gave up; they forsook it, or they put it into common stock, for the sake of giving alms to the poor, Acts 2:44; Acts 4:32; John 12:6; Acts 5:2.
Bags which wax not old - The word "bags," here, means "purses," or the bags attached to their girdles, in which they carried their money. See the notes at Matthew 5:38. By bags which wax not old Jesus means that we should lay up treasure in heaven; that our aim should be to be prepared to enter there, where all our wants will be forever provided for. Purses, here, grow old and useless. Wealth takes to itself wings. Riches are easily scattered, or we must soon leave them; but that wealth which is in heaven abides forever. It never is corrupted; never flies away; never is to be left.
Wax - This word is from an old Saxon word, and in the Bible means to "grow."
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;
Let your loins ... - This alludes to the ancient manner of dress. They wore a long flowing robe as their outer garment. See the notes at Matthew 5:38-41. When they labored, or walked, or ran, it was necessary to "gird" or tie this up by a "sash" or girdle about the body, that it might not impede their progress. Hence, to gird up the loins means to be "ready," to be active, to be diligent. Compare 2 Kings 4:29; 2 Kings 9:1; Jeremiah 1:17; Acts 12:8.
Your lights burning - This expresses the same meaning. Be ready at all times to leave the world and enter into rest, when your Lord shall call you. Let every obstacle be out of the way; let every earthly care be removed, and be prepared to follow him into his rest. Servants were expected to be ready for the coming of their lord. If in the night, they were expected to keep their lights trimmed and burning. When their master was away in attendance on a wedding, as they knew not the hour when he would return, they were to be continually ready. So we, as we know not the hour when God shall call us, should be "always" ready to die. Compare the notes at Matthew 25:1-13.
And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.
Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
Shall gird himself - Shall take the place of the servant himself. Servants who waited on the table were girded in the manner described above.
Shall make them sit ... - Shall place them at his table and feast them. This evidently means that if we are faithful to Christ, and are ready to meet him when he returns, he will receive us into heaven - will admit us to all its blessings, and make us happy there - as if "he" should serve us and minister to our wants. It will be as if a master, instead of sitting down at the table "himself," should place his faithful "servants" there, and be himself the servant. This shows the exceeding kindness and condescension of our Lord. For "us," poor and guilty sinners, he denied himself, took the form of a servant Philippians 2:7, and ministered to our wants. In our nature he has worked out salvation, and he has done it in one of the humblest conditions of the children of men. How should our bosoms burn with gratitude to him, and how should "we" be willing to serve one another! See the notes at John 13:1-17.
And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.
Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?
And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.
But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
Which knew his lord's will - Who knew what his master wished him to do. He that knows what God commands and requires.
Many stripes - Shall be severely and justly punished. They who have many privileges, who are often warned, who have the gospel, and do not repent and believe, shall be far more severely punished than others. They who are early taught in Sunday schools, or by pious parents, or in other ways, and who grow up in sin and impenitence, will have much more to answer for than those who have no such privileges.
But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
Few stripes - The Jews never inflicted more than forty stripes for one offence, Deuteronomy 25:3. For smaller offences they inflicted only four, five, six, etc., according to the nature of the crime. In allusion to this, our Lord says that he "that knew not" - that is, he who had comparatively little knowledge - would suffer a punishment proportionally light. He refers, doubtless, to those who have fewer opportunities, smaller gifts, or fewer teachers.
Much is given - They who have much committed to their disposal, as stewards, etc. See the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.
I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?
I am, come ... - The result of my coming will be that there will be divisions and contentions. He does not mean that he came "for" that purpose, or that he "sought" and "desired" it; but that such was the state of the human heart, and such the opposition of people to the truth, that that would be the "effect" of his coming. See the notes at Matthew 10:34.
And what will I ... - This passage might be better expressed in this manner: "And what would I, but that it were kindled. Since it is "necessary" for the advancement of religion that such divisions should take place; since the gospel cannot be established without conflicts, and strifes, and hatreds, I am even desirous that they should come. Since the greatest blessing which mankind can receive must be attended with such unhappy divisions, I am willing, nay, desirous that they should come." He did not wish evil in itself; but, as it was the occasion of good, he was desirous, if it "must" take place, that it should take place soon. From this we learn:
1. That the promotion of religion may be expected to produce many contests and bitter feelings.
2. That the heart of man must be exceedingly wicked, or it would not oppose a work like the Christian religion.
3. That though God cannot look on evil with approbation, yet, for the sake of the benefit which may grow out of it, he is willing to permit it, and suffer it to come into the world.
But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!
A baptism - See the notes at Matthew 20:22.
Am I straitened - How do I earnestly desire that it were passed! Since these sufferings "must" be endured, how anxious am I that the time should come! Such were the feelings of the Redeemer in view of his approaching dying hour. We may learn from this:
1. That it is not improper to "feel deeply" at the prospect of dying. It is a sad, awful, terrible event; and it is impossible that we should look at it aright "without" feeling - scarcely without trembling.
2. It is not improper to desire that the time should come, and that the day of our release should draw nigh, Philippians 1:23. To the Christian, death is but the entrance to life; and since the pains of death "must" be endured, and since they lead to heaven, it matters little how soon he passes through these sorrows, and rises to his eternal rest.
Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:
See the notes at Matthew 10:34-36.
For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is.
See the notes at Matthew 16:2-3.
South wind - To the south and southwest of Judea were situated Arabia, Egypt, and Ethiopia, all warm or hot regions, and consequently the air that came from those quarters was greatly heated.
How is it that ye do not discern this time! - You see a cloud rise, and predict a shower; a south wind, and expect heat. These are regular events. So you see my miracles; you hear my preaching; you have the predictions of me in the prophets; why do you not, in like manner, infer that "this is the time" when the Messiah should appear?
And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass.
Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?
When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.
See the notes at Matthew 5:25-26.
I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.