James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.Luke 16:1-17:19
USE OF OPPORTUNITY
In the last lesson thought was turned towards the heavenly calling of the disciples, of which earthly wealth is not necessarily a part. To the Jews, this was a great change, which we who, unlike them, never had a country on earth allocated to us, cannot well understand. For this reason our Lord now changes the character of His instruction, and shows in the parable of the unjust steward the results of the right use of opportunity, and in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the perilous consequences of the opposite.
“The lord” of Luke 16:8 is not Jesus Christ, but the steward’s earthly master who commended him for his foresight. The world which the sinner serves commends him in the same way for similar chicanery. On the other hand, Luke 16:9 is to be understood as in the RV. It is not “when ye fail,” but when “it shall fail,” the mammon of the worldly possessions leased to you for a little while, that the eternal friends you have made by the righteous use of it will “receive you into the eternal tabernacles.” We thus see that our future possession, so apt to be viewed as airy and intangible, comes out as a solid and substantial reality.
Of course the covetous Pharisees deride Him for teaching like this (Luke 16:13-15), therefore, after he rebukes them for their fleshly desires (Luke 16:18), He enforces what He has said by the story that follows (Luke 16:19-31). It is not said that this is a parable, and for all we know there may have been two such men on earth whose history in the other world answers to that set forth in language suited to the day. The vail is here lifted by Him who was competent to do it, and the condition of the lost in the unclothed state laid bare before us. Of what use then is earthly wealth so dearly prized by the covetous, if it be expended only in gratifying the selfish desires of its possessor?
This lesson will not be too long if we include the next chapter down to verse 20, where we reach a natural division of the book. The chief feature of that chapter is the healing of the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19), but the transition to it is our Lord’s discourse to His disciples in the duty of forgiveness (Luke 17:1-10). The occasions for the forgiveness would be many and unavoidable in a life of sin (Luke 17:1-2), but it should never be omitted (Luke 17:3-4). In the presence of such an obligation the disciples might well say “Lord increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). And yet as He teaches them, it is not faith they require as much as obedience. This obedience should be displayed without self- glorying (Luke 17:6-10).
The story of the ten lepers illustrates four principles of the Gospel: (1) the Lord visited the scenes of their wretchedness unasked; (2) they owned that among themselves, Jews and Samaritans there was no difference; (3) they supplicated divine mercy as those who felt their need of it; and (4) manifesting the obedience of faith they got the desired blessing. It is not till after all this that any difference is seen, and that in the case of the Samaritan. “He who was the most signal example of grace of them all, most valued it.” But what a gainer he was by turning back to glorify God! (Luke 17:19).
1. In what sense does Christ now change the character of His instruction?
2. Who is meant by “lord” in Luke 17:8?
3. How does this lesson show that the future hope of the saint is solid and substantial?
4. Have we any positive ground for calling the story of the rich man and Lazarus a parable?
5. How does the incident of the ten lepers illustrate the principles of the Gospel?