William Kelly Major Works 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 Chapter 16
LUKE 16: 1-13 398
The Lord here addresses His disciples.399
The last chapter consisted of parables spoken to the publicans and sinners that drew near to hear Him in the presence of the murmuring Pharisees and scribes. They had for their object to show how the sovereign grace of God makes the lost to be saved, and in this the mind and temper of Heaven in contrast with the self-righteous of the earth.
Now we have a weighty instruction for disciples. It is no longer sinners shown the way to God, but disciples taught the ways which become them before God, and this in view of the judgment of the world, more particularly of the elect nation. The Jews were now losing their special place. The peculiar privileges of Israel had wrought no deliverance for themselves or for the earth. Contrariwise they had caused the name of God to be blasphemed among the nations. They had been untrue to God; they had been ungracious and even unrighteous to man. The Lord accordingly sets forth in a parable the only wisdom which suits and adorns those who understand the present critical condition of the world.
"There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and he was accused unto him as wasting his possessions." This had been done by man, of course, in general, but by the Jew especially, as being the most favoured and therefore under a more stringent responsibility. He was not only a man, but a steward. There was a trust reposed in the Jew beyond all others; and most justly was he accused of wasting his master's goods. What had he done for God? He ought to have been a light in the earth; he ought to have been a guide of the blind; he ought to have been a witness of the true God. But he fell into idolatry when God was displaying Himself in the temple in the Shekinah; and now he was about to reject God Himself in the person of the Messiah,. His Son - a still more profound and gracious display of God. Thus he had altogether lost his opportunities, and wasted the goods of his Master. He had brought shame on the law of God, and the living oracles into contempt through his own vanity and pride.
Hence, in the parable, the master called the steward, and said to him, "What [is] this that400 I hear of thee? Give the reckoning of thy stewardship, for thou canst be no longer steward." The Jew was about to sink down into the level of all other nations, just as in the Old Testament times we hear that God had pronounced him Lo-ammi as set forth in Hosea. Then the last hope was gone, when not only Israel was swept away, but Judah became faithless to the true God. This was confirmed when the returned remnant in the days of Christ proved no better - rather worse. There was a feeble body which represented the Jews who returned from Babylon, and, it might have been a nucleus for the nation; but, instead of this, they were more and more hardened against God, till all ended in their rejecting the Messiah and the Holy Ghost sent. down from heaven.
"And the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord is taking the stewardship from me; I am not able to dig; I am ashamed to beg." He had no power; for the law rather provokes evil ways than gives good. "But what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." (Romans 8:3f.) On the other hand, the Jew was ashamed to beg. He was unwilling to take the place of a lost, good-for-nothing sinner, entirely dependent on God, looking up that God might do and give what he could not. Alas! the indomitable pride of the Jew rose up in rebellion against God's sentence of his impotence.
"I know 401 What I will do, that when I shall have been removed from the stewardship I maybe received 401a into their houses." This was prudent, and the precise point of earthly wisdom in the parable which the Lord commends for our admonition. Well for the Jew had he adopted it! "He called each of his own lord's debtors, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord! And he said, A hundred measures [baths] of oil.402 And he said unto him, Take thy bill and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then he said to another, And thou, how much owest thou? And he said, A hundred measures (cors)403 of wheat. And * he said unto him, Take thy bill and write eighty."
*Before "he says," ADP and some versions have "and." Edd. omit, after BLR, 13, 69, Amiat., Memph.
Thus plainly the steward assumes the title to sacrifice the present in view of the future. He acts with the utmost liberality with his master's goods. No doubt it cost him little or nothing. Nor is it the honesty of the step but its prudence which his master commends. He reduced the debt of the first one half, of the second considerably. He thus bound by his favour and leniency these debtors to himself; that, when he was turned out of his place, they might receive him into their houses. There is no ground to suppose that the parable makes light of his dishonesty. He is especially branded as the "unjust steward." Such really was the position and character of the Jew; they were all unrighteous in the sight of God. But had they done what the steward does when about to be discharged? No! He looked forward to the future, and acted at once upon the conviction. Were they not, on the contrary, absorbed in the present? Is not this the great snare of men, and of the Jew as much as others, to sacrifice the future for the present, not the present for the future?
"And the lord404 praised the unrighteous steward, because he had done prudently. For the sons of this age404a are in respect of their own generation404b more prudent than the sons of light." They look onward, though it be only on the earth, for they have a keen sense of their best earthly interests; but for the soul, for heaven, for Christ's love, for God's nature and will, men are apt to allow the smallest of present advantages to blot out all just thought of the future. This is an important consideration for our hearts as disciples. What the Lord is insisting upon is that the present - so fugitive and fallacious - is not the real prize for us; that the future - the eternal future - is the thing to consider, and that it should govern the present. For we cannot walk rightly as disciples unless filled with the sense of what is to be, not carried away by what is. What is it that spoils the testimony of disciples now? That they are living chiefly for the present moment. If circumstances guide, what can such be but as governed only by what is wished? This ruins, not merely the sinner as such, but the disciple, because he is only living for himself and the circumstances of this life. It is impossible to glorify the Lord thus. Let us hear His will and wisdom in this parable.
The unjust steward, as here portrayed, though bad in other respects, was wise in this, that he looked out steadily for the future; so that, when he lost his stewardship, he might be received kindly by the men whom he had befriended. For this it matters not that the goods were his master's rather than his own; indeed, we may see the deepest wisdom in the parable as it is, when we come to the application to our own practical conduct. For the only means whereby we can thus look out for the future is by reckoning what people - what self - would call ours, the resources of our master. We have nothing whereby to secure the future, except we use all as belonging to God. But this is the victory of faith, that instead of looking with a natural eye at the present moment, we resolutely contemplate the future, and act accordingly. Then, instead of seeking to hold fast what we have for ourselves, we learn to use all freely as in truth belonging to God. So assuredly those do who gain that which is future and eternal. Hence we find the Lord applies the illustration thus: "And I say unto you,405 make to yourselves friends with the mammon of unrighteousness,405a that, when it fails,* ye may be received into everlasting habitations."405b Are you thus making to yourselves friends with the mammon of unrighteousness? Instead of keeping money as something precious, treat it as what it really is.
*"It fails": so Edd. after pm ABpm DL, etc., Syrrsin pesch Memph. Arm. Aeth. Cyr. Alex. It has beyond doubt preponderant authority over "ye fail" [T.R. after corr EP, etc., Vulg. Clem. Alex.]; but it is difficult to see its superior force or even propriety (B.T.).
Observe that the Lord gives here an ignominious name to the objects man covets - money, property, and everything of the kind. He calls it, not only mammon, in itself a word of ill omen, but "the mammon of unrighteousness." He heaps plentiful disdain upon it; just as the apostle Paul counts all that man values most, even religiously as the vilest refuse which should be kept or thrust out of doors. This is a great point; for Saul of Tarsus had not always been disposed thus to sacrifice the present in view of the future. His place as a Jew, his tribe, his family, his earthly thoughts and feelings, his personal advantages, he once estimated as much every way to cherish. But when he viewed them in the light of Christ and of that glory to which he was hastening, he counted them but dung. (Php 3:8.) Who would ever think the earth at its best an object to look back on, when they have the glory before their eyes? Who would talk of getting rid of dung as a great sacrifice? Certainly everything, yet in religion too, of which men are apt most to boast, Paul calls dung; such he counted it, and sob to the last, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. Was not this really to act in the wisdom of the steward, not in his injustice, but in his looking out and onward? In Paul's case it was heavenly wisdom; and the love of Christ was its source and spring.
The meaning of the words "that they may receive you" is simply "that ye may be received into everlasting habitations." Just so the apostle says: "That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection from the dead." (Ibid., verse 10f.) This answers to being received into everlasting habitations when all that is of earth fails. To be received there is what should be of concern to the heart that loves the Lord and His will. There is no stress to be laid on the form of the phrase "they may receive you." This has misled not a few. Literally this might hold good on earth, as we see in verse 4, but spiritually it simply means "that ye may be received." Compare Luke 6:38, Luke 12:20; the first wrongly rendered in the Authorised Version, the last rightly. God alone receives into heaven: no one else has a title to receive there. The expression alludes to the parable, but is used with the utmost vagueness. It is a virtual impersonal - "that reception may be given you into the everlasting tabernacles."
Let us not over-estimate these sacrifices of the present, but imitate the apostle who shows how little he values the best things that earth honours. So our Lord Jesus here says, "He that is faithful in the least is faithful also in much."405c (Cf. Matthew 25:21; Mat 25:23.) The smallest thing affords a sphere in which one can glorify God; but there must be the disregard of the present in the light of the future. It is something to be generous in money matters; it is very much more to love the Church, and be devoted to the Master, suffering with Him and for Him. But there are countless ways in which He may be magnified. "He that is unrighteous in the least is unrighteous also in much." Yet, as all know, little things constantly test our reality. Many a man might not be dishonest about a thing of great value, but he might make too free in what is petty. There cannot be a greater fallacy than decrying a severe judgment formed about moral failure in matters of little pecuniary value, as it were making much ado about nothing, whereas it is in small things often that a man's true character is best known.
"If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who shall entrust to you the true?" The true riches cannot be entrusted where the heart has been false in that which is so trifling in the Lord's eyes as "the unrighteous mammon." 406 Nor is it only that present honour and riches are not "the true," but the mere counters of the hour. There is the further consideration: "If ye have not been faithful in that which is another's, who shall give unto you your*407 own?" Present property is not strictly one's own. The whole course of the Christian here is really that of one acting for another, even Christ. We are servants in trust for the Lord. The Christian ought to regard his time, his money, his abilities, his property, as the goods of his Master; and his business is to serve his Master, faithfully carrying out His will. This is of immense importance; because covetousness consists in endeavouring to make earthly things which God has not given your own. The wisdom of the disciple is to count what appears to belong to him as really his Master's.
*"Your own": so Blass, with AD, etc., all cursives, the Latt. Syrrpesch hcl hier Memph. Goth. Arm. Aeth. Hort, followed by Weiss, favours "our own," the reading of B and L. See, further, note 407 in Appendix.
Now, it is easy to be generous with another's money. Count your riches another's and act with all possible liberality in faith of the future. We should thus judge by faith what we have to be Christ's, and then be as free with it as the unjust steward was with his master's goods. Those who enter heaven are not men hard and grasping, as if by possessing more than is needed, a man's life consists of his substance. No doubt the natural spirit of man cleaves to what it counts its own (and perhaps particularly of the Jew), as if the present moment were of all importance. But the true wisdom is to be like the steward in his steady resolve to secure the future by acting freely with what belonged to his lord. When the glory comes, we shall have what is our own. What a wonderful truth, that the wide scene of Christ's glory in which we shall reign with Him will be ours! Then we shall bear power and glory without abusing it; now we can only safely use what we have by counting it Christ's and using it according to His will.
"No servant can serve two masters." If I have not Christ for my Master, I shall make myself so; and the moment we set up our own will, we find ourselves in Satan's service, for the fallen will is Satan's slave. "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and will love the other, or he will cleave to the one and despise the other." In the first we find the stronger case. With a man warm in his feelings everything is apt to be extreme. The other case supposes a person of feeble character. But in one way or another, whatever the character, to attempt this double service is fatal. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matthew 6:24.) Alas! mammon is the real ecumenical idol; it is the object of widest homage - not only in the world, but, grievous to add, in Christendom. By its own confession (witness the popular prize of that title) mammon now reigns supreme in the hearts of men generally throughout these lands professing the name of the Crucified, who most of all despised and denounced it.408
Next the Pharisees, not the disciples, come before us. They are characterised here as covetous.409 It is not their forms or their legalism but their love of money which was touched by the doctrine of the Lord to the disciples; for after they had "heard all these things," they "sneered at him." The evil against which the disciples were warned was at work in the Pharisees without a check. This state was not less corrupt than haughty.
"And he said unto them, Ye are they who justify themselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts; for that which amongst men is highly thought of410 is an abomination before God." Not so those who are justified before God by faith. Such do not justify themselves before men any more than before God, unless so far as they allow nature, and slip from their own ground of faith. Nevertheless, they are not free from the snare of covetousness; so far as they are influenced by the thoughts of men, they are exposed. "Men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself." (Psalm 49:18.) The intense selfishness of the heart naturally prefers its own care to that of God: thence is a link of worldly sympathy with the men of this age. Let us therefore beware, for "that which among men is highly thought of, is an abomination before God." No evil more common in the religious world of our own day as truly as in our Lord's. Ease, honour, influence, and position are as highly valued as ever, to the infinite disparagement of the truth. Any one can see how strongly the word of God rejects all these conditions of fallen Adam, and how incongruous they are with the cross of Christ. And they are only a worse abomination where men essay to join such worldliness with heavenly truth.
The Lord next insists upon the crisis that was come. For this, too, adds its emphasis to His rebuke. What is morally true may become more urgently a duty, and such is the fact in the case before us. The religion of the world always takes the ground of Pharisaism; it assumes more or less the present favour of God, and that worldly rank and prosperity are to be taken as a sign of it. Faith looks away from present things since sin came into the world, and each successive step in God's ways is but afresh confirmation of faith. "The law and the prophets [were] until John: from that time the glad tidings of the kingdom of God are preached,"' and every one forceth his way into it." It was in vain, therefore, to rest all upon the law and its rewards to faithfulness. In fact, they had broken the law; and because of this, indeed, were given the prophets, who reproved their iniquities, laid bare the actual state of ruin, and bore witness of a wholly new condition, which would end the present by judgment and introduce a new state, never to pass away. John Baptist, as the immediate herald of the Messiah, insisted on repentance in view of the immediate advent of Christ. This sweeps away all the self-righteousness of man. It is not that the law is not good; the defect lay not there, but in those who, being sinful, felt it not, but assumed to make out a righteousness of their own under law. "Since John's time," says our Lord, "the glad tidings of the kingdom of God are preached." It is not here as in Matthew 11:12: "The kingdom of the heavens is taken by violence and the violent seize on it." There it is a question of the true hope of Israel, and the necessity of breaking through all that opposes faith. But here it is much more ground opened to man if he believed. "The kingdom of God is preached, and every one forceth his way into it." "Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also; seeing it is one God who shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through their faith. Do we then make law void through faith? Far be it. Yea, we establish law." (Romans 3:29f.) Thus the great apostle. So here the Lord says, "And it is easier that the heaven and the earth should pass away than that one tittle of the law should fail." (Matthew 5:18.) Neither the truth nor faith enfeebles the law; rather do they maintain its authority over all that are under it as well as its intrinsic righteousness. Certainly our Lord not only honoured it to the highest degree, but gave it the weightiest sanction; 412 for He obeyed it perfectly in His life and was made a curse according to it in His death.
But those who while under it hope to stand on that ground before God do really destroy its authority, without intending or even knowing it. For they hope to be saved under law, though they know they have broken it and that it calls for their condemnation. And even those who, "being justified by faith," take the law as their rule of life at the least impair its authority and so put dishonour upon it. For what does the law denounce on those who fail to do the things that it demands? Does it not threaten death on God's part? And have they not failed to keep it? It is in vain therefore to plead that they are' justified persons: the law knows no such distinction. Justified or not, if they fail, do they not enfeeble its solemn threats?
How, then, does the truth set forth the deliverance and maintain the holy walk of the believer? Not by the notion most erroneously taught in the common text of Romans 7:6: "But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held." For the law is not dead. if so, the words of our Lord would be falsified; and not only one tittle of the law but the whole of it would have failed before heaven and earth pass away. But this is notoriously inexact, not only in the Authorised Version, but in the received Greek text, where one letter makes the difference between truth and error. The English margin is right. It is we who are dead to the law, not the law to any. The believer is shown to be dead with Christ, in Romans 6, to sin, and in Romans 7, to the law, "that we should serve in newness of spirit and not in oldness of letter." "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." The truth, therefore, is that, even had we been Jews, we are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, instead of living under it as our rule. And the very argument of the apostle is founded upon, or at least illustrated by, the principle that one cannot belong to two husbands at the same time without adultery. "If, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man she shall be called an adulteress"; if death come in, she is no adulteress though she belong to another man. And so it is with the Christian, for we now belong to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. Deliverance from law is essential to true Christian holiness. Excellent as the law is, its rule is to curse the lawless and disobedient; it "is not made for the righteous man" (1 Timothy 1:9) which every believer is; it is a rule of death for the bad, not of life for the good. Christ only is Life and the Light of life for the believer.
And does it not seem most striking that in the very next verse our Lord uses the same allusion on which the apostle reasons in the beginning of Romans 7? "Every one who putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery; and every one that marrieth one put away from her husband committeth adultery." (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9 Mark 10:11f.) Undoubtedly both principles apply to the literal fact most truly and in the letter. But can one doubt the connection with the verse before and the context? If so connected, it is a striking instance of the one Spirit throughout Scripture; if not so, it is exceedingly hard to understand why such a statement should close the Lord's words on this subject.413 No doubt the Jews allowed divorce for frivolous causes and marriage after such a divorce, and in both encouraged adultery.414 I cannot but think there is more in the connection here.
Luke 16: 19-31.415
We have seen the conclusion of the earthly state of things; the Jew, who had wasted his master's goods, losing his stewardship; the character of those who receive heavenly things; the close of all the earthly testimony and the necessity of a new one; the kingdom of God preached, which alone was gain (that or nothing); the attempt to keep the old thing being exposed as altogether evil in the sight of God.
This is followed up by the rich man and Lazarus - I was going to say by the parable, but the Lord does not so say, though it has this character, as it seems to me. It puts in a most vivid manner the condition of the soul viewed in the light of the future, not yet of Gehenna, but of torment in Hades. The light, therefore, of the future even before the judgment is let fall upon present things to judge them. "There was a rich man and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, making good cheer in splendour every day." According to a Jew's notion a good fortune, as men say, was happiness. The Jews regarded such prosperity as a mark of God's favour. His name was not to the Lord's mind worth recording, the beggar's was. The rich man had all that heart, or, rather, really flesh, could desire; and he gratified it. But it was all selfish enjoyment: God was not in it, nor was there even care for man. All centred in self. This was put to the proof and made evident by "a poor man named Lazarus,416 [who] lay at his gateway full of sores, and desiring to be filled with the crumbs which fell * from the table of the rich man."416a For him it was little more than desire. The rich man cared not for him, but for himself; the dogs were more considerate, and rendered him better favour than their master. They came and licked his sores.
Such was man, such the Jew in present life, according to his thoughts of earthly good; but when death comes, when that stands revealed which was beyond the grave, the difference at once appears in all its solemnity. Then we have things in their true light. "And it came to pass that the poor man died." And how different! There is not a word of his burial: perhaps, indeed, he was not buried; but he "was carried away by the angels into Abraham's bosom,"417 the place of especial blessedness according to a Jew, in the unseen world, with the most honourable of God's servants waiting on him.
*"With the crumbs which fell": so corr APXΓΔ, etc., nearly all cursives (1, 33, 69), Syrr. Amiat., Memph. Goth. Aeth. Edd. follow pm BL, Sah.: "with what fell."
"The rich man also died, and was buried." Here there might be splendour of retinue and ample show of grief in the eyes of men. But "in Hades418 lifting up his eyes, being in torments, he seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom." This is not a picture of the final state of judgment, but of a certain condition after death. This is of great importance. Luke gives us both, confirming what is seen in the Old Testament* and even adding to it. He gives its full prominence to the resurrection elsewhere; but here it was of consequence to know what would be even now for man's profit here below. In Hades, then, "lifting up his eyes, being in torments, he seeth Abraham afar off." We are not judges, save so far as Scripture speaks and we are subject to it, of what is entirely outside our experience. How far those who are lost can have the knowledge of the condition of those who are saved, it is not for as to pronounce on. Scripture is plain as to the distance between them. There is no mingling of the two together. But what would be incredibly distant to man living on the earth may be simply far off to those in the separate state, and the difference between them mutually known. Lazarus, then, according to the Word, was seen in Abraham's bosom by him who was in torment. "And he, crying out, said, Father Abraham, have compassion on me: and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering in this flame."
*I lay no stress on the bare fact or statement that man became "a living soul," but on the momentous difference of the way in which man alone, according to the Scripture, became such. What purpose had Jehovah Elohim in breathing into the nostrils the breath of life? To say that the fallen child of Adam derives the immortality of his soul. from Christ as distinct from this, or in any way but this, does not to me seem sound doctrine; it rather approaches the crochet of the learned but eccentric H. Dodwell. (B.T.)
Thus we have clear proof that, even before the judgment, the wicked man is in torment.411 Figures no doubt are employed, but these founded on that which would be most intelligible to us. It is through the body that we feel the world. From this the Lord takes figures in order to be understood by those whom He addresses in presenting according to His own wisdom the case of the unseen world. There at least the departed rich man has the sense of the need of mercy. It is well to see that this man does not in any way take the place of an infidel. There is no faith in him assuredly, but still he talks of "Father Abraham"; and though he has never looked to God for mercy, he sees that there at any rate the richest mercy was enjoyed in Abraham's bosom. He asks him, therefore, to send Lazarus that he might dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue. What a very small favour this had been once! utterly despicable - a drop of water, and above all, sent by such as Lazarus! it would have been detestable to him on earth. But the truth appears when man has left this life. Do we, then, hear while on the earth what the Lord says?
"I am suffering in this flame." He who tells us this is Jesus; and we know that He is truth, and that these are true sayings of God. Abraham's answer, too, is most noteworthy. "Child" (says he, for he does not repudiate the connection after the flesh), "remember that thou* hast fully received thy good things in thy lifetime, likewise Lazarus evil things; but now here† he is comforted, and thou art in suffering." He who was of Satan had good things on earth; he who was born of God received evil things here. The earth as it is gives no measure for the judgments of God: when Jesus comes, and the Kingdom is set up, it will be different. But the Jew and men in general have to learn that it is not so now, and that, before He comes, there is still the solemn truth that men show by their ways here how little they believe such words of God as these. But when they die, they will surely prove the truth of what they refused to hear in this world. "Now he is comforted here, and thou art in suffering."
*"Thou": so EXΔ, etc., 1, 33, have the emphatic σύ, which Edd. omit, after BDL, etc.
†"Here": so Edd., following ABD, etc., Syrr. Memph. Sah. Arm. Aeth. The omission in T. R. is supported by a few minuscules (1) only.
It is not the day of Messiah's public Kingdom. Luke lets us see what is deeper even than it, both in good and ill, the unseen portion of the righteous, as well as that of the unjust.420 "And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm is fixed, so that those who desire to pass hence to you cannot, nor do they [who desire to cross] from there pass over unto us." The severance between the good and evil in the intermediate state is incalculably great and fixed. There is no passing from one to the other. The notion of possible mercy in the separate condition is absolutely excluded by Scripture. It is the mere dream of men who wish to cling to evil as long as they can, or at least to enjoy themselves in this world, who therefore despise the warnings of God, being bent on holding fast or acquiring good things here, and utterly careless of the solemn lesson furnished by the rich man and Lazarus. "Between us and you a great chasm is fixed," says Abraham - between the departed righteous and those who die in their sins the separation is complete - "so that* they who desire to pass hence to you cannot." Still less can any pass to Abraham that would come from beyond the gulf. In every way such change is impassible.421
*Dean Alford here as elsewhere renders ὅπως as if it were exactly like in order that." I believe this to be a mistake in fact; and philologically it is a false principle that two words radically distinct in the same tongue ever mean precisely the same thing. (B.T.)
Thus, as no possibility of change remains for himself, he turns his attention to his family - "And he said, I beseech thee then, father, that thou wouldst send him to the house of my father, for I have five brothers, so that he may earnestly testify unto them, that they also may not come to this place of torment."422 But the answer of Abraham brings out another grand truth from the Lord's mind - the all-importance of the Word of God, and this, too, even in its lower forms. The New Testament undoubtedly has fuller and perfect light; but the Old is no less inspired. "But* Abraham saith to him,† They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them." Still he pleads: "Nay,423 father Abraham, but if one from the dead should go unto them they will repent." The answer of Abraham is decisive: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, not even if one rise from among [the] dead will they be persuaded."
*"But": so Edd., after ABDF, etc., Amiat. Memph. It is omitted - by E and 69.
†"To him": so Blass, with AD, Latt. Syrr. Memph. Other Edd. reject, as BL.
There is no proof that can succeed for eternity where the Word of God is rejected. Such is the testimony from the unseen world. I do not deny that, for this world, there may be conviction pressed by crushing judgments of God; but the tale before us is in view of present things before the Kingdom comes, and during this state of things there is no conviction so profound, no proof so deep, as that which is rendered by the Word of God. In fact also our Lord's own resurrection seals the truth of His words. For what so evident proof of the total failure of any other means to arouse man? Though He rose from the dead, out of the midst of a band of armed men set to watch as we know, men were not persuaded, least of all the Jewish priests and elders, who only hardened themselves more completely. As one portion of the people set themselves against the Lord during His life, the rest were equally chagrined by the truth of His resurrection. Thus all the people manifested their unbelief. It was bad to prove their want of sympathy with the only righteous One here below; it was, if possible, worse to refuse the testimony of grace which had raised Him from the dead and sent the message of salvation in His name. This Israel did.
But there was even more than this, and sooner. A Lazarus did proceed from the dead not long after at the call of Jesus, and many of the rich man's brethren came to see him when so raised. But, far from repenting, the chiefs at least, yea the chief priests, consulted together that they might put Lazarus also to death, as well as Him whose resurrection power only provoked their deadly hatred, instead of persuading them to hear Moses and the prophets.424
Hence the rich man who had departed, careless of the truth before man during his life, had no doubt received the due reward of his deeds; but those who rejected the testimony of Christ risen from the dead fall into a still greater gulf. Thus all the people are judged. The only light for the benighted soul, the only testimony that brings eternal life to the dead sinner, is the Word of God, received by faith.
NOTES ON THE SIXTEENTH CHAPTER.
398Luke 16:1-13. - The Expositor's treatment of this parable ranges itself with the general view taken by Athanasius and Augustine, Luther and Calvin. Cf. that by Maclaren, vol. ii., pp. 75-101.
399Luke 16:1. - It is important to note, for the lesson conveyed by the parable, whom the Lord has in view.
400Luke 16:2. - "What is this?" τί τοῦτο: cf. LXX. of Genesis 42:28. So English Revv., with Schanz, H. Holtzmann, and B. Weiss. For the A.V. "How," cf. Acts 14:15 ("why?"): so Luther, De Wette, Meyer, Weizsäcker, and Plummer here. See Spurgeon's Sermon. 192.
401Luke 16:4. - "I know," ἔγνων, "I am resolved": a dramatic aorist (Burton, § 45).
401a "I may be received": the passive again, to represent the active form with an indefinite subject, as often in Luke. So in verse 9.
402Luke 16:6. - "Baths," a liquid measure. Ten of these went to the cor (Ezekiel 45:14). See next note.
403Luke 16:7. - "Cors": a dry measure. It was the Hebrew homer, standard measure of capacity (Ezekiel 45:11), made up of ten ephahs: about eight English bushels.
404Luke 16:8. - "The lord," i.e., the steward's master; not (as Wellhausen) JESUS. As Montefiore remarks, 18: 6 is not an adequate parallel (Syn. Gospels, ii. 993).
"Unjust steward" expresses Christ's judgment of the man. Not only the words of the second part of the verse, but all of it is a comment of our Lord Himself: the whole of it proceeded from Him.
This verse has formed the text of sermons by Dr. Arnold and A. Hare.
404a "Sons of this age." The same phrase occurs in Luke 20:34, with which cf. the verse there following, "that aeon." It expresses adherents of the system that now goes by the name of "Secularism," of which Nietzsche constituted himself apostle.
"Sons of light": cf. John 12:36. "Children of light" occurs in 1 Thessalonians 5:5.
404b We have here a very noticeable instance of γενεά used morally. See note on 21: 32.
405Luke 16:9. - Jülicher, through rejection of its lesson as to wealth, has not caught the meaning of the parable.
There is a sermon from this verse by Augustine.
405a The "mammon of unrighteousness" has reference to material resources used as one's own, whereas they belong to GOD. That which is unfaithfulness in the one relation becomes fidelity in the other.
405b "Everlasting habitations (tabernacles)." Cf. "everlasting gospel" in the Apocalypse, which does not mean that the Gospel is to be preached endlessly. And so here we have a millennial connection, - Messianic blessing, as in Luke 19:9.
The indefinite subject of the verb "receive" (see note on verse 4) is only indirectly the "friends"; Matthew 25:40 helps to show that the subject is Christ Himself. Cf. Tennyson's "God accept him, Christ receive him."
The Catholic doctrine of almsgiving in the name of Christ is true when not applied to the life strictly endless.
405c Luke 16:10. - See Maclaren's sermon in Series 1. "Faithful in Little," etc.; also one of Henry Melvill, "Equity of Future Retribution."
406Luke 16:11. - "Unrighteous mammon." Here it is ἀδίκῳμ, i.e., false in contrast with genuine riches. For the ἀληθινόν, cf. John 1:9, John 17:3; and see Matthew 13:22, etc., "deceitfulness of riches."
407 "Your." The reading of "B" ("our ") is discredited by Wellhausen. It was a stupid blunder of a scribe who missed the point. Hort's adoption of it illustrates his partiality for that MS. Blass takes the reading τὸ ἐμόν, "mine," in cursive 151, to be equivalent to τὸ ὑμῶν, "yours."
Dean Vaughan explained "your own" as meaning "your soul" (sermon on the passage, p. 72), which is forced. Adeney has a good note ad loc., connecting the parable with the Kingdom of Heaven.
408Luke 16:13. - "God," without the article, showing that θεός and ὁ θεός may be equivalent.
"Mammon." Ibn Ezra considered this was a variation of the word hamon (abundance) in Psalm 37:16. There does not seem to be any proof for its being the name of any deity.
The parable is divisible into seven parts thus: verses 1, 2, 3-4, 5-7, 8-9, 10-12, 13.
A recent helpful book on the main subject is that of S. D. Gordon, entitled "Money: the Golden Channel of Service."
409Luke 16:14. - "Who were covetous," ὑπάρχοντες, i.e., essentially. Cf. Psalm 10:3, and Luke 20:47 below. "Their theory and practice (were) different" (Edersheim, "Sketches," etc., p. 126).
410Luke 16:15. - "Highly thought of" or, "lofty" (ὑψηλόν).
"Abomination." Elsewhere, idolatry (Matthew 24:15; Revelation 17:4 f., etc.).
411Luke 16:16. - "Is preached," εὐαγγελίζεται; the Gospel, as the A B C of the Kingdom; because "without faith it is impossible to please" God (Cf. 11: 2 with Hebrews 11:6).
"Forces his way," i.e., through struggle of soul overcomes his self-love and resistance of the Holy Spirit: such must be the meaning of the words in Matthew 11:12.
412Luke 16:17. - "The law": Marcion converted this into "My words."
413Luke 16:18. - See, in illustration of the Expositor's remarks, Carpenter, p. 236, resorting to the conventional stalking-horse of "different sources." In verses 14-18 J. Weiss finds three (L, Q, M).
Wellhausen characterizes verse 18 as "the quintessence of Mark 10:1 ff " The example, he remarks, used by our Lord was well adapted to show that His drastic treatment of the law was its veritable fulfilment. Cf. 1 Corinthians 7:10.
414 Hillel, for example, taught ("Gittin," ix. 10) that a man might divorce his wife for burning his dinner or oversalting his soup.
415Luke 16:19 ff. - Colin Campbell: "In this parable is concentrated the whole Ebionite doctrine of the Gospel" (p. 274); but see note 149a. Moreover, our Lord does not describe this story as a "parable."
Tennyson has turned this passage to account in "In Memoriam," xxxi.
416 "Lazarus." This is the only parable - if indeed it be rightly so called (cf. Exposition) - in which a personal name is introduced.
416a Luke 16:21. - "Napkins were not used for the hands. The guests wiped their hands on bits of bread and then threw the pieces under the table" (Montefiore).
417Luke 16:22. - Garvie: "The rich man's funeral was the last of his good things; the first of Lazarus' good things was his happy death."
Adeney: "Lazarus is supposed to be seated next to Abraham in the banquet of the blessed." Cf. John 1:18. Our Lord here seems to recognize certain truth in the representation of the "separate state" contained in the uncanonical writings called Pseudepigrapha, which were familiar to His hearers. See convenient manual by W. J. Deane.
Dr. J. Lightfoot was of opinion that Paradise is the scene. Cf. "the Paradise" of Luke 23:43, of which the pseudepigraphical writings had already spoken. The view of the Westminster Confession (xxxii.), as briefly stated in the,"Minor Catechism" (ans. to Q. 37), is that, "the souls of believers at death. . . . do immediately pass into glory." So Weymouth, in note to his version of the New Testament at Matthew 16:18, denying that believers at death enter Hades. The Expositor has expressed himself similarly in his remarks on 23: 43. Dalman considers that Lazarus here is conceived of as in heaven. See, further, note 585.
418Luke 16:23. - "Hades." Wellhausen would identify this with "Gehenna" (Luke 12:5), the place of retribution (Tobit xiii. 2). Should we not rather say Tartarus? (2 Peter 2:4). Cf. Enoch xx. 2, where "Uriel" is represented as its ruler. Sheol is likewise spoken of in connection with a flame in Song of Solomon 8:6. For the Biblical representation of Sheol (Hades) the article by Dalman in Hauck's Encyclopaedia (the American "Schaff-Herzog") should be consulted.
419 The "torment" (βάσανος) of verses 23 and 28 has already set in, with doom to follow: cf. 2 Peter 2:9, where κολαζομένους is rendered in R.V. by "under punishment." Similar must be the self-accusing thoughts of guilty persons during confinement preliminary to their appearance before a tribunal.
According to the old Greeks, judgment was to be at death; the belief of the Jews was that it is to be at the end of things.
The "Catholic" theory is that everyone is judged at death, for which Hebrews 9:27 is assigned, as well as at the Last Day. According to the Catechism, No. 76, the so-called general judgment "will be held in the valley of Jehoshaphat," which is a curious confusion of Joel 3:12 (living) with Revelation 20:11 (dead).
420Luke 16:25. - Schmiedel ("Jesus in Modern Criticism," p. 72) and others object that the rich man is not said to be godless. Not much insight, however, is required for apprehending the sense of his impenitence: this comes out in his own words. The Bedfordshire tinker, by the word about Dives put into the mouth of the "Interpreter" in "Pilgrim's Progress," entered into this narrative better than the smart professor at Zürich; as Spurgeon also in his sermons, 243, 518. We are actually invited by Schmiedel to believe that "the unrighteous steward is admitted into the everlasting habitations" (ibid.). The same writer naively adds, "Jesus cannot have said such things." The canons of "modern criticism" surely need looking after.
Bishop Andrewes and Charles Simeon have preached on the verse.
421Luke 16:26. - B. Weiss compares Hebrews 11:29. As he says, the real lesson of the "parable," so-called, begins here.
Observe how the words of this verse exclude all thought of "Purgatory" (Neil).
See sermons on Eternal Punishment by Archer Butler and Dr. George Salmon.
422Luke 16:27. - For the Jewish doctrine of Purgatory, underlying the Kaddish, prayer for a departed father, see Abrahams, p. 86 f. In LUKE it is the deceased person who is the petitioner.
423Luke 16:30. - "Nay," or "No, no" (οὐχί).
424Luke 16:31. - Cf. John 12:9-11. In the last of his useful notes on this chapter, Wellhausen remarks that "the motive of repentance here is not the Kingdom of God, but Heaven and Hell. The thought behind the story is that the Jews do not believe in the Risen Christ, from unbelief in the Law and the Prophets."
As to the critics' romance that we have here the germ of John's account of the raising from the dead of his "Lazarus," which is regarded as a development of this "parable," see note 205 in Exposition of the Fourth Gospel.
The whole of this passage of Luke is of importance in connection with what Delitzsch has described as the "False Doctrine" of "Soul Sleep": see his "Biblical Psychology," p. 490 ff., where he shows the misuse that has been made of Jeremiah 51:39.
Henry Martyn has a sermon from verse 31 on "Scripture more persuasive than Miraculous Appearances."
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.
I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
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.
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.
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.
If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust 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?
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.
And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.
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.
The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.
Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
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;
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
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.
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.
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.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
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.
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.