Jamieson-Fausset-Brown 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.
Lu 16:1-31. Parables of the Unjust Steward and of the Rich Man and Lazarus, or, the Right Use of Money.
1. steward—manager of his estate.
had wasted—rather, "was wasting."
And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.
Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
3. cannot dig … to beg, ashamed—therefore, when dismissed, shall be in utter want.
I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
4. may receive me, &c.—Observe his one object—when cast out of one home to secure another. This is the key to the parable, on which there have been many differing views.
So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
5-7. fifty … fourscore—deducting a half from the debt of the one, and a fifth from that of the other.
And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.
Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.
And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
8. the lord—evidently the steward's lord, so called in Lu 16:3, 5.
commended, &c.—not for his "injustice," but "because he had done wisely," or prudently; with commendable foresight and skilful adaptation of means to end.
children of this world—so Lu 20:34; compare Ps 17:14 ("their portion in this life"); Php 3:19 ("mind earthly things"); Ps 4:6, 7.
their generation—or "for their generation"—that is, for the purposes of the "world" they are "of." The greater wisdom (or shrewdness) of the one, in adaptation of means to ends, and in energetic, determined prosecution of them, is none of it for God and eternity—a region they were never in, an atmosphere they never breathed, an undiscovered world, an unborn existence to them—but all for the purposes of their own grovelling and fleeting generation.
children of light—(so Joh 12:36; Eph 5:8; 1Th 5:5). Yet this is only "as night-birds see better in the dark than those of the day owls than eagles" [Cajetan and Trench]. But we may learn lessons from them, as our Lord now shows, and "be wise as serpents."
And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
9. Make … friends of—Turn to your advantage; that is, as the steward did, "by showing mercy to the poor" (Da 4:27; compare Lu 12:33; 14:13, 14).
mammon of unrighteousness—treacherous, precarious. (See on Mt 6:24).
ye fail—in respect of life.
they may receive you—not generally, "ye may be received" (as Lu 6:38, "shall men give"), but "those ye have relieved may rise up as witnesses for you" at the great day. Then, like the steward, when turned out of one home shall ye secure another; but better than he, a heavenly for an earthly, an everlasting for a temporary habitation. Money is not here made the key to heaven, more than "the deeds done in the body" in general, according to which, as a test of character—but not by the merit of which—men are to be judged (2Co 5:10, and see Mt 25:34-40).
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
10. He, &c.—a maxim of great pregnancy and value; rising from the prudence which the steward had to the fidelity which he had not, the "harmlessness of the dove, to which the serpent" with all his "wisdom" is a total stranger. Fidelity depends not on the amount entrusted, but on the sense of responsibility. He that feels this in little will feel it in much, and conversely.
If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
11, 12. unrighteous mammon—To the whole of this He applies the disparaging term "what is least," in contrast with "the true riches."
And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?
12. another man's … your own—an important turn to the subject. Here all we have is on trust as stewards, who have an account to render. Hereafter, what the faithful have will be their own property, being no longer on probation, but in secure, undisturbed, rightful, everlasting possession and enjoyment of all that is graciously bestowed on us. Thus money is neither to be idolized nor despised: we must sit loose to it and use it for God's glory.
No servant 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.
13. can serve—be entirely at the command of; and this is true even where the services are not opposed.
hate … love—showing that the two here intended are in uncompromising hostility to each other: an awfully searching principle!
And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.
14-18. covetous … derided him—sneered at Him; their master sin being too plainly struck at for them to relish. But it was easier to run down than to refute such teaching.
And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
15. justify yourselves—make a show of righteousness.
highly esteemed among men—generally carried away by plausible appearances. (See 1Sa 16:7; and Lu 14:11).
The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
16. The law, &c.—(See Mt 11:13).
and every man presseth, &c.—Publicans and sinners, all indiscriminately, are eagerly pressing into it; and ye, interested adherents of the mere forms of an economy which is passing away, "discerning not the signs of this time," will allow the tide to go past you and be found a stranded monument of blindness and obstinacy.
And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.
17. it is easier, &c.—(See on Mt 5:17, 18)
Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.
18. putteth away his wife, &c.—(See on Mt 19:3-9). Far from intending to weaken the force of the law, in these allusions to a new economy, our Lord, in this unexpected way, sends home its high requirements with a pungency which the Pharisees would not fail to feel.
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
19. purple and fine linen, &c.—(Compare Es 8:15; Re 18:12); wanting nothing which taste and appetite craved and money could procure.
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
20, 21. laid—having to be carried and put down.
full of sores—open, running, "not closed, nor bound up, nor mollified with ointment" (Isa 1:6).
And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
21. desiring to be fed with—but was not [Grotius, Bengel, Meyer, Trench, &c.]. The words may mean indeed "was fain to feed on," or "gladly fed on," as in Lu 15:16 [Alford, Webster and Wilkinson, &c.]. But the context rather favors the former.
licked, &c.—a touching act of brute pity, in the absence of human relief. It is a case of heartless indifference, amidst luxuries of every kind, to one of God's poorest and most afflicted ones, presented daily before the eye.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
22. died—His burial was too unimportant to mention; while "the rich man died and was buried"—his carcass carried in pomp to its earthly resting-place.
in to Abraham's bosom—as if seen reclining next to Him at the heavenly feast (Mt 8:11).
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
23. in hell—not the final place of the lost (for which another word is used), but as we say "the unseen world." But as the object here is certainly to depict the whole torment of the one and the perfect bliss of the other, it comes in this case to much the same.
seeth Abraham—not God, to whom therefore he cannot cry [Bengel].
And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
24. Father Abraham—a well-founded, but unavailing, claim of natural descent (Lu 3:8; Joh 8:37).
mercy on me—who never showed any (Jas 2:3).
send Lazarus—the pining victim of his merciless neglect.
that he may—take me hence? No; that he dares not to ask.
dip … tongue—that is the least conceivable and the most momentary abatement of his torment; that is all. But even this he is told is (1) unreasonable.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
25, 26. Son—stinging acknowledgment of the claimed relationship.
thou … Lazarus, &c.—As it is a great law of God's kingdom, that the nature of our present desires shall rule that of our future bliss, so by that law, he whose "good things," craved and enjoyed, were all bounded by time, could look for none after his connection with time had come to an end (Lu 6:24). But by this law, he whose "evil things," all crowded into the present life, drove him to seek, and find, consolation in a life beyond the grave, is by death released from all evil and ushered into unmixed and uninterrupted good (Lu 6:21). (2) It is impossible.
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
26. besides all this—independently of this consideration.
a great gulf fixed—By an irrevocable decree there has been placed a vast impassable abyss between the two states, and the occupants of each.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
27-31. Then he said—now abandoning all hope for himself.
send him to my father's house, &c.—no waking up of good in the heart of the lost, but bitter reproach against God and the old economy, as not warning him sufficiently [Trench]. The answer of Abraham is, They are sufficiently warned.
For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
30. Nay—giving the lie to Abraham.
but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent—a principle of awful magnitude and importance. The greatest miracle will have no effect on those who are determined not to believe. A real Lazarus soon "rose from the dead," but the sight of him by crowds of people, inclined thereby to Christ, only crowned the unbelief and hastened the murderous plots of the Pharisees against the Lord of glory; nor has His own resurrection, far more overpowering, yet won over that "crooked and perverse nation."
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.