Luke 16:3
Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord takes away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
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(3) I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.—In the outer framework of the parable there is something eminently characteristic in this utterance of the steward’s thoughts. He has lost the manliness and strength which would have fitted him for actual labour. He retains the false shame which makes him prefer fraud to poverty. He shudders at the thought that it might be his lot to sit, like Lazarus, and ask an alms at the rich man’s door. Spiritually, we may see what happens to a religious caste or order, like the Pharisees, when it forfeits its true calling by misuse. It has lost the power to prepare the ground for future fruitfulness by the “digging,” which answers, as in Luke 13:8, to the preliminary work of education and other influences that lie outside direct religious activity. It is religious and ecclesiastical, or it is nothing. It is ashamed to confess its spiritual poverty, and to own that it is “poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). Anything seems better than either of those alternatives.

16:1-12 Whatever we have, the property of it is God's; we have only the use of it, according to the direction of our great Lord, and for his honour. This steward wasted his lord's goods. And we are all liable to the same charge; we have not made due improvement of what God has trusted us with. The steward cannot deny it; he must make up his accounts, and be gone. This may teach us that death will come, and deprive us of the opportunities we now have. The steward will make friends of his lord's debtors or tenants, by striking off a considerable part of their debt to his lord. The lord referred to in this parable commended not the fraud, but the policy of the steward. In that respect alone is it so noticed. Worldly men, in the choice of their object, are foolish; but in their activity, and perseverance, they are often wiser than believers. The unjust steward is not set before us as an example in cheating his master, or to justify any dishonesty, but to point out the careful ways of worldly men. It would be well if the children of light would learn wisdom from the men of the world, and would as earnestly pursue their better object. The true riches signify spiritual blessings; and if a man spends upon himself, or hoards up what God has trusted to him, as to outward things, what evidence can he have, that he is an heir of God through Christ? The riches of this world are deceitful and uncertain. Let us be convinced that those are truly rich, and very rich, who are rich in faith, and rich toward God, rich in Christ, in the promises; let us then lay up our treasure in heaven, and expect our portion from thence.Said within himself - Thought, or considered.

My lord - My master, my employer.

I cannot dig - This may mean either that his employment had been such that he could not engage in agriculture, not having been acquainted with the business, or that he was "unwilling" to stoop to so low an employment as to work daily for his support. "To dig," here, is the same as to till the earth, to work at daily labor.

To beg - These were the only two ways that presented themselves for a living - either to work for it, or to beg.

I am ashamed - He was too proud for that. Besides, he was in good health and strength, and there was no good reason "why" he should beg - nothing which he could give as a cause for it. It is proper for the sick, the lame, and the feeble to beg; but it is "not" well for the able-bodied to do it, nor is it well to aid them, except by giving them employment, and compelling them to work for a living. He does a beggar who is able to work the most real kindness who sets him to work, and, as a general rule, we should not aid an able-bodied man or woman in any other way. Set them to work, and pay them a fair compensation, and you do them good in two ways, for the habit of labor may be of more value to them than the price you pay them.

3. cannot dig … to beg, ashamed—therefore, when dismissed, shall be in utter want. See Poole on "Luke 16:1" Then the steward said within himself,.... As the Scribes and Pharisees were wont to do, Matthew 3:9

what shall I do? he does not say, what will become of me? I am undone, and what shall I do to be saved? or what shall I do for my Lord and Master I have so much injured? or what shall I do to make up matters with him? or what account shall I give? but what shall I do for a maintenance? how shall I live? what shall I do to please men, and gain their opinion and good will, and so be provided for by them? of this cast were the Pharisees, men pleasers, and self-seekers:

for my Lord taketh away from me the stewardship: the priesthood was changed, and there was a change also of the law; the ceremonial law was abrogated, and the ordinances of the former dispensation were shaken and removed; so that these men must of course turn out of their places and offices:

I cannot dig; or "plough", as the Arabic version renders it; or do any part of husbandry, particularly that which lies in manuring and cultivating the earth; not but that he was able to do it; but he could not tell how to submit to such a mean, as well as laborious way of life; for nothing was meaner among the Jews than husbandry: they have a saying, that , "you have no trade", or business, "lesser", or meaner "than husbandry" (g):

and to beg I am ashamed; for nothing could be more disagreeable, to one who had lived so well in his master's house, and in so much fulness and luxury, as the Scribes and Pharisees did. The Jews have a saying, that (h).

"want of necessaries, , "is better than begging": (and says one) I have tasted the bitterness of all things, and I have not found any thing more bitter "than begging:"''

and which was literally true of the Jews, after the destruction of Jerusalem; when multitudes of them were condemned to work in the mines; and vast numbers were scattered about every where as vagabonds, begging their bread; both which were very irksome to that people: though both these phrases may be mystically understood: and "digging" may intend a laborious searching into the Scriptures, and a diligent performance of good works: neither of which the Pharisees much cared for, though they made large pretensions to both; nor did they dig deep to lay a good foundation whereon to build eternal life and happiness: nor could they attain to the law of righteousness by all their toil and labour, they would be thought to have taken: and for "begging", they were above that: read the Pharisee's prayer in Luke 18:11 and you will not find one petition in it. To ask any thing at the throne of grace, in a way of mere grace and favour, and not merit: or to beg any thing at the hands of Christ, as life, righteousness, pardon, cleansing, healing, food, &c. they were ashamed of, and cared not for.

(g) T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 63. 1.((h) Mischar Hapeninim apud Buxtorf. Florileg, Heb. p. 262.

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.
Luke 16:3. This reflexion of the steward issued from the consciousness that he cannot deny his guilt, for he sees his dismissal as the near and certain result (ἀφαιρεῖται, present) of the rendering of the account demanded of him. If he were to be represented as innocent, the parable must needs have placed in his mouth a justification, or at least have assigned to him the corresponding epithet. This is also in opposition to Francke,[188] Hölbe.

ὅτι] equivalent to ΕἸς ἘΚΕῖΝΟ ὍΤΙ, see on Mark 16:14.

ΣΚΆΠΤΕΙΝ] in fields, gardens, vineyards; it is represented in Greek writers also as the last resource of the impoverished;[189] Aristoph. Av. 1432: σκάπτειν γὰρ οὐκ ἐπίσταμαι. See Wolf and Kypke.

οὐκ ἰσχύω] not being accustomed to such labour, he feels that his strength is not equal to it.

ἐπαιτεῖν] infinitive, not participial. On the distinction in sense, see Maetzner, ad Lycurg. p. 165. These reflections are not inserted with a view to the interpretation, but only for the depicting of the crisis.

[188] According to Francke, Jesus desires to represent the risks of being rich in the passionate rich man, who arranges the dismissal without any inquiry. He is the indebted chief person. The steward is falsely accused: he is driven from the house as not ἄδικος; but the rich man, first of all, drives him by his cruelty to the ἀδικία, which, moreover, was only a momentary one, as the (inequitable) γράμματα were only once used; while, on the other hand, they were only used for the purpose of putting matters on an equitable footing again. In the latter reference Dav. Schulz precedes with the assumption, that the steward wished before his dismissal to do some good. He assumes with equal contradiction of the text, that the setting down of the items of account was done with the knowledge of the master. Comp. also Schneckenburger, p. 57.

[189] Hence—for the steward, before he decides on the expedient, ver. 4, sees digging and begging before him—it is not to be supposed, with Brauns, that he paid the amounts written down, ver. 6 f., from his own funds. Contrary to the text, contrary to ver. 3 f., and contrary to τῆς ἀδικίας, ver. 8, which refers to that writing down. This, moreover, is in opposition to Hölbe, who, in a similar misinterpretation of vv. 6, 7, brings out as the meaning of the parable, that “the publicans, decried by the Pharisees as robbers, etc., are frequently not so. In spite of their being repudiated, they are equitable people, and frequently combine with great experience of life and prudence a heart so noble that they acquire friends as soon as this is only known.”Luke 16:3. εἶπε ἐν ἑ.: a Hebraism, as in Matthew 3:9; Matthew 9:3. The steward deliberates on the situation. He sees that his master has decided against him, and considers what he is to do next, running rapidly over all possible schemes.—σκάπτειν, ἐπαιτεῖν: these two represent the alternatives for the dismissed: manual labour and begging; digging naturally chosen to represent the former as typical of agricultural labour, with which the steward’s position brought him much into contact (Lightfoot). But why these two only mentioned? Why not try to get another situation of the same kind? Because he feels that dismissal in the circumstances means degradation. Who now would trust him? ἐπαιτεῖν = προσαιτεῖν (Mark 10:46, John 9:8).3. 1 cannot dig] Rather, to dig I am not strong enough.

to beg I am ashamed] Sir 40:28, “better die than beg.”Luke 16:3. Σκάπτειν· ἐπαιτεῖν, dig; beg) Death leaves no opportunity of either labouring or begging: Ecclesiastes 9:10 [There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest]. This accessory ornament of the parable [the digging and begging] is accommodated to the spiritual sense in the Apodosis, as far as the circumstances of the case admit.[167] The complete and utter ἀπορία, helplessness, of the steward is implied, if he is to have no place of refuge with the debtors of his Lord.—αἰσχύνομαι, I am ashamed) We may suppose him to mean, that he was ashamed to beg, by reason of excessive modesty, and a sense of his unworthiness.

[167] The Apodosis to the parable is in Luke 16:9; and ὅταν ἐκλίπῃ, when ye fail, there, corresponds to σκάπτειν οὐκ ἰσχύω, ἐπαιτεῖν αὐσχύνομαι, I cannot dig, to beg I am ashamed, in this ver., implying utter ‘failure’ of resources.—E. and T.Verse 3. - What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship. This day of dismissal must be prepared for; very carefully, very anxiously, the man who has received the sentence of doom ponders over his future. The lesson of the Master is spoken to all; it is a solemn warning to each of us to see what we can do by way of providing for the inevitable day when we shall find ourselves alone and naked and perhaps friendless in the great, strange world to come. The hero of the parable seems suddenly, after a life of carelessness and thoughtlessness, to have awakened to a sense of his awful danger. So the voice of the real Owner of the goods, which we have so long deluded ourselves into thinking were our own, comes to us, bidding us make ready to give them back again to him, their Owner, and at the same time to render an account of our administration of them. The voice comes to us in the varied forms of conscience, sickness, misfortune, old age, sorrow, and the like; well for us if, when we hear it, we at once determine, as did the steward of the parable, to make a wise use of the goods in our power for the little time they are still left to us to dispose of as we will. Taketh away

Or is taking away. He was not yet dispossessed, as is shown by what follows.

I cannot (οὐκ ἰσχύω)

See on Luke 14:30. "I have not strength." His luxurious life had unfitted him for hard labor. In Aristophanes ("Birds," 1431), a sycophant is asked: "Tell me, being a young man, do you lodge informations against strangers?" He replies: "Yes; why should I suffer, for I know not how to dig ?"

To beg (ἐπαιτεῖν)

See on besought, Matthew 15:23.

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