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.
Verses 1-31. - The Lord's teaching on the right use of earthly possessions with regard to the prospect of another world, in the form of the two parables of the unjust steward, and Dives and Lazarus. Verses 1, 2. - And he said also unto his disciples. There is no doubt that this important teaching belongs to the last portion of our Lord's life, and it is probable that it is closely connected with the parable of the prodigal son just related. It is not likely that two such weighty sermons had been preached at the same time, but in the evening, or on the following day, or at least on the next sabbath, the same auditory that listened to the prodigal son we believe were startled and enthralled by the story of the unjust steward, and then, or very shortly after, by the awful and vivid picture of life beyond the grave in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. There is a close link of thought between the parable of the unjust steward and that of the prodigal. The heroes of both these narratives, in the first instance, had a considerable share of this world's goods entrusted to their charge, and by both, in the early portions of the story, these goods were misused and wasted. The Greek words used of the "wasting" of the prodigal and of the steward were in both cases the same (Luke 15:13; Luke 16:1). No parable in the New Testament has been so copiously discussed or has received so many end such varying interpretations at the hands of expositors. We will at once put aside all the ingenious, but from our point of view mistaken, interpretations which see in "the steward" the Pharisees, the publicans, Judas Iscariot, or Satan. The parable has a broader, a more direct, a more universally interesting, meaning. It contains a deep and important teaching for every man or woman who would wish to rank among the followers, of Jesus Christ. Now, our Lord would have all men look forward gravely and calmly to the certain event of their death, and. in view of that event, would have them make careful and thoughtful preparation for the life which was to come after death. To press this most important lesson home, the Master, as his custom was at this late period of his ministry, conveyed his instruction in the form of a parable. The sketch of a steward about to be dismissed from his office, and who thus would be stripped of his income, was a fit emblem of a man about to be removed from this world by death. The steward in the parable-story felt that, when dismissed, he would be as it were alone, stripped of all, and destitute. The soul of such a man, when dead, would be also stripped of everything, would be alone and destitute. The question here might be asked - Why take for the principal figure of the parable so immoral a character as an unjust steward? The answer is well suggested by Professor Bruce, "For the simple reason that his misbehaviour is the natural explanation of the impending dismissal. Why should a faithful steward be removed from office? To conceive such a case were to sacrifice probability to a moral scruple." Roughly, then, two things all-important to us are taught here:
(1) that dismissal, death, will certainly come;
(2) that some provision certainly ought to be made for the life that lies beyond - the life that comes after the dismissal, or death. There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. 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. The story of the parable contains little incident. There is the rich man, clearly a noble of high rank, whose residence is at a distance from his estates, the scene of the little story. Over these he has placed, as administrator or factor, the one called here a steward; the revenues of the lands this official has wasted; he appears to have been generally a careless if not a dishonest servant. The owner of the estates, when he becomes aware of the facts of the case, at once gives notice of dismissal to the steward, desiring him, however, before yielding up his office, to give in his accounts. Appalled at the sudden and utter destitution which lay before him, the steward occupies the short time of office yet remaining to him in devising a plan by which he would secure the good offices of certain persons who were in debt to his master. He (the steward) had yet a little time of power remaining before he was turned adrift; he would turn this to account, and would do a good turn to these men, poor neighbours of his, and debtors to his lord, while he was in office, and so win their friendship, and, on the principle that one good turn deserves another, would be able to reckon on their gratitude when all else had failed him. With the immorality of the act by which he won the good will of these debtors of his master we have nothing to do; it is simply a detail of the picture, which is composed of figures and imagery chosen for their fitness to impress the lesson intended to be taught. Give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. This taking away the position and privileges of the man represents the act of death, in which God takes away from us all the varied gifts, the possessions, and the powers large or small with which we are eutrusted during our lifetime. Our day of dismissal will be the day of our passing away from this life.
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.
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.
I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
Verse 4. - I am resolved what to do. The first part of the parable teaches, then, this great and all-important lesson to men - that they will do well to provide against the day of dismissal from life. The second part points out very vividly how kindness, charity, beneficence, towards those poorer, weaker, more helpless than ourselves is one way, and that a very sure and direct way, cf. so providing against the inevitable dissmission, or death.
So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
Verses 5, 6, and 7 simply paint in the details of the interesting picture of the parable. This singular plan of providing for himself by becoming a benefactor of the debtor, remarks Professor Bruce, was by no means the only possible one under the circumstances; but the Speaker of the parable made his hero make choice of it as the aim of the imaginary narrative was to teach the value of beneficence as a passport into the eternal habitations. Various explanations have been suggested to account for the difference in the gifts to the debtors. It is probable that when our Lord spoke the parable, reasons for these varied gifts were given, such as the circumstances of the debtors. It is scarcely now worth while to frame ingenious guesses respecting the details, which apparently do not affect the grand lessons which the story was intended to teach.
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.
Verse 8. - And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely. This, again, is a detail which has little bearing on the main teaching. It is a graphic and sarcastic eulogy which a good-humoured man of the world would pronounce upon a brilliant and skilful, although unprincipled, action, and it completes the story as a story. It seems evident that the intentions of the steward in regard to the debtors were carried out, and that they were really indebted to him for the release of a part of their indebtedness, and that the owner of the property did not dispute the arrangement entered into by his steward when in office. For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. This was a melancholy and sorrowful reflection. It seems to say, "I have been painting, indeed, from the life. See, the children of this world, men and women whose ends and aims are bounded by the horizon of this world, who only live for this life, how much more painstaking and skilful are they in their working for the perishable things of this world than are the children of light in their noble toiling after the things of the life to come. The former appear even more in earnest in their search after what they desire than do the latter. There is underlying the Lord's deep and sorrowful reflection here, a mournful regret over one feature that is, alas! characteristic of well-nigh all religious life - the unkindness which religious professors so often show to one another. One great division of Christianity despises, almost hates, the other; sect detests sect; a very slight difference in religious opinion bars the way to all friendship, often to even kindly feeling. With truth Godet remarks here "that the children of this world use every means for their own interest to strengthen the bonds which unite them to their contemporaries of the same stamp, but, on the other hand, the children of light neglect this natural measure of prudence; they forget to use God's goods to form bonds of love to the contemporaries who might one day give them a full recompense, when they themselves shall want everything, and these shall have abundance."
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.
Verse 9. - And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness. Then, with his usual solemn formula, "I say unto you," the Lord gave out his moral interpretation of the parable. His words were addressed to possessors of various degrees of wealth. "You will soon have to give up all your worldly goods; be prudent in time, make some real friends out of the mammon of unrighteousness; by means of that money entrusted to your care, do good to others who are in need." The mammon of unrighteousness. This word "mammon" does not denote, as some have supposed, the name of a deity, the god of wealth or money, but it signifies "money" itself. It is a Syriac or Aramaic term. The words, "of unrighteousness," are added because in so many cases the getting of money is tainted with unrighteousness in some form or other; and, when possessed, it so often hardens the heart, as the Lord himself said in another place (Luke 18:25), that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. "What the steward of my story," said the Master, "did to men of his world, see that you with your money do toward those who belong to your world." That, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. So that when you shall be dismissed from being stewards of God's possessions, that is, when ye shall die, "when ye suffer the last eclipse and bankruptcy of life," that then others, your friends, may receive you (welcome you) into everlasting dwellings. The majority of the older authorities here, instead of" when ye fail," read, "when it (money) shall fail you" (by the event of your death). The sense of the passage, however, remains the same, whichever reading be adopted. But now a deeply interesting question arises - When the Lord speaks of friends receiving us after death into eternal homes, to what friends is he alluding? Great expositors, Ewald and Meyer, for instance, tell us that he means the angels. But the plain sense of the parable points, not to angels, but to poor, weak, suffering persons whom we have helped here; these, then, must be the friends who will receive us, or welcome us, in the world to come. A further query suggests itself - How will these be able to receive us? To such a question no definite reply can be given. We know too little of the awful mysteries of that world to be able even to hazard a surmise as to the help or the comfort which grateful, blessed spirits will be able to show to their brethren the newly arrived, when they receive them. His word here must suffice us; well will it be for us, if one day we practically discover the holy secret for ourselves. Godet has a weighty note with which he concludes his exposition of this difficult but most instructive parable: "There is no thought more fitted than that of this parable, on the one hand to undermine the idea of merit belonging to alms-giving (what merit could be got out of that which is another's? and is not all money, are not all goods out of which we bestow our alms, God's?); and on the other, to encourage us in the practice of that virtue which assures us of friends and protectors for the grave moment of our passing into the world to come." One beautiful and exquisitely comforting thought is shrined in this playful and yet intensely solemn utterance of Jesus. The eternal tents, the "many mansions," as John calls them, will have among their occupants, it is certain, many a one whose life on earth was hard and sorrowful. These are now enjoying bliss indescribable, these poor Lazaruses, to whom this world was so sad, so dreary a habitation. And perhaps a portion of their blessedness consists in this power, to which the Lord makes allusion here, of assisting others - the helped here becoming the helpers there. Although the teaching of Christ and his chosen servants here and elsewhere shows us distinctly that no merit can attach to almsgiving, seeing that our alms are only given out of property entrusted to us for a short time by God for this and other similar purposes, yet the same authoritative teaching informs us that God has regard to almsdeeds done in the true spirit of love, in determining our eternal destiny. Thus a message direct from heaven informs the Roman legionary Cornelius that his prayers and alms were come up for a memorial before God. Paul writes to Timothy to charge the Ephesus Christians "that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life." In the parable of Lazarus and Dives we shall find this principle yet more clearly illustrated. These are only a few out of the many passages where this generosity and almsgiving is commended to the believer with peculiar earnestness.
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.
Verse 10. - 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. This and the next three verses are closely connected with the parable of the unjust steward. Our Lord no doubt continued speaking, and these four verses contain a general resume of what may be called his reflections on the important piece of teaching he had just delivered. We have here the broad rule, upon which God will decide the soul's future, laid down. If the man has been faithful in his administration of the comparatively unimportant goods of earth, it is clear that he can be entrusted with the far more important things which belong to the world to come. There is, too, in these words a kind of limitation and explanation of the foregoing parable of the unjust steward. The conduct of that steward, regarded in one point of view, was held to be wise, and we, though in a very different way, were advised to imitate it; yet here we are distinctly told that it is fidelity, not unfaithfulness, which will be eventually re-warded - the just, not the unjust steward.
If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
Verse 11. - The unrighteous mammon. As above in the parable, "mammon" signifies money. The epithet "unrighteous" is used in the same sense as in ver. 9, where we read of the "mammon of unrighteousness."
And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?
Verse 12. - And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's. Here we have our earthly possessions plainly spoken of as the goods of another, that is, of God, and of these goods we are but the temporary stewards. Who shall give you that which is your own? We have here a very magnificent promise. Although on earth man can possess nothing of his own - here he is but a steward for a time of property belonging to another - yet a prospect is held out to him that, if he be found faithful in the trust while on earth, in the world to come something will be given to him really and truly his own. There will be no dismissal or death there.
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.
Verse 13 - No servant can serve two masters... Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Very vividly is this experience brought out in the great parable which immediately follows There the rich man was evidently one who observed the sacred ritual of the Law of Moses: this we learn without doubt from his conversation after death with Abraham. Thus he tried, after his light, to serve God, but he also served mammon: this we learn, too, clearly from the description given to us of his life, from the mention of the gorgeous apparel and the sumptuous feeding. The service of the two was incompatible, and we know from the sombre sequel of the story to which master the rich man really held, and whom - alas for him! - in his heart he despised.
And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.
Verse 14. - And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. This shows that many of the dominant sect had been present and had listened to the parable of the unjust steward. Although scrupulous, and in a way religious men, these Pharisees were notorious for their respect and regard for riches, and all that riches purchase, and they felt, no doubt deeply, the Lord's bitter reproach of covetousness. They, the rulers and leaders of Israel, the religious guides, were evidently attacked in such teaching as they had been lately listening to, not the common people whom they so despised. The scornful words alluded to in the expression, "they derided him," were no doubt directed against the outward poverty of the popular Galilaean Teacher. "It is all very well," they would say, "for one springing from the ranks of the people, landless, moneyless, to rail at wealth and the possessors of wealth; we can understand such teaching from one such as you."
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.
Verse 15. - And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts. The part the Pharisees played in public imposed upon the people. The great influence which they exercised was in great measure due to the respect generally felt for their strict and religious lives. The hypocrisy of this famous sect - it was probably in many cases unconscious hypocrisy - and the false colouring which it gave religion, contributed not a little to the state of things which led to the final disruption of the Jewish nation as a nation some forty years after these words were spoken. It is only a student of the Talmud who can form any notion of the Pharisee mind; a superficial study even of parts of this strange, mighty collection will show why our Lord was so seemingly hard in his rebukes of these often earnest and religious men; it will show, too, why the same Divine Master at times seemed to change his words of bitter wrath into accents of the tenderest sympathy and love. For that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. Especially alluding to that haughty pride of men in wealth and money, which, after all, is not theirs.
The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
Verse 16. - The Law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. Some expositors discern so little connection between the sayings contained in these verses which intervene between the two great parables of the unjust steward and the rich man and Lazarus, that they consider them as a number of sayings of the Master collected by Luke and insorted here. A clear thread, however, runs through the whole piece between the two parables. Probably, however, here, as in many parts of the Gospel, we only have just a bare sketch, or precis, of what the Lord said; hence its fragmentary character. Here (in the sixteenth verse), the Master went on speaking to the Pharisees who derided him (ver. 14). "Up to the period of John the Baptist," said the Master, "the old state of things may be said to have continued in force. With him began a new era; no longer were the old privileges to be confined to Israel exclusively; gradually the kingdom of God was to be enlarged, the old wall of separation was to be taken down. See, every man is pressing into it; the new state of things has already begun; you see it in the crowds of publicans, sinners, Samaritans, and others pressing round me when I speak of the kingdom of God."
And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.
Verse 17. - And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the Law to fail. "Yet think not," went on the Master, "that, though things are changing, the Divine Law will ever fail. The mere temporary and transitory regulations will, of course, give place to a new order, but not the smallest part of one letter of the Divine moral Law will fail." "One tittle." This is the rendering of a Greek word the diminutive of "horn," which denoted the horn or extremity of a Hebrew letter, by the omission or addition of which - to give an instance - the letter d becomes the letter r; thus with the horn it is ד, daleth, d; without the horn ר, resh, r. The heresiarch Marcion (second century) here, in his recension of St. Luke, changes the text thus: "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of my sayings to fail." Marcion, who refused fallow the Divine origin of any part of the Old Testament, was afraid of the testimony which this assertion of our Lord would give to the Divine authority of the Pentateuch. In illustration of his saying that the moral Law given to the Jews was changeless, and while earth endured would never fail, the Master instances one grave chapter of the Law with which there had been much tampering-that of divorce. "See," he said, "the new state of things which I am now teaching, instead of loosening the cords with which the old Law regulated human society, will rather tighten them. Instead of a laxer code being substituted, I am preaching a yet severer one. My law of divorce is a severer one than that written down by Moses."
Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.
Verse 18. - Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband, committeth adultery. The teaching of the rabbis in the time of our Lord on the question of the marriage he was exceedingly lax, and tended to grave immorality in the family life. In the late unlawful marriage of Herod Antipas with Herodias, in which so many sacred and family ties were rudely torn asunder, no rabbi or doctor in Israel but one had raised his voice in indignant protest, and that one was the friend and connection of Jesus of Nazareth, the prophet John the Baptist. Divorce for the most trivial causes was sanctioned by the rabbis, and even such men as Hillel, the grandfather of that Gamaliel whom tradition speaks of as the rabbi whose lectures were listened to by the Boy Jesus, taught that a man might divorce his wife if in the cooking she burnt his dinner or even over salted his soup (see Talmud, treatise 'Gittin,' 9:10). SS. Luke and Paul, different to the great masters of profane history, like Thucydides, or Livy, or Xenophon, were evidently at no pains to round off their narratives. They give us the account of the Lord's words and works very much as they had them from the first listeners and eye-witnesses. When the notes and memories were very scant and fragmentary, as appear to have been the case in the Lord's discourse which St. Luke interposes between the parable of the steward and that of Dives and Lazarus, the fragmentary notes are reproduced without any attempt to round off the condensed, and at first sight apparently disconnected, utterances. So here, directly after the fragmentary report of certain sayings of Jesus, the great parable of Lazarus and Dives is introduced with somewhat startling abruptness; nothing of St. Luke's is added - simply the original report as Luke or Paul received it is reproduced. The following is probably the connection in which the famous parable was spoken. When the Lord spoke the parable-story of the unjust steward, he pressed home to the listeners, as its great lesson, the necessity of providing against the day of death, and he showed how, by the practice of kindness here towards the poor, the weak, and the suffering, they would make to themselves friends who would in their turn be of use to them - who would, in their hour of sore need, when death swept them out of this life, receive them into everlasting habitations. We believe that the Master, as he spoke these things, purposed - either on that very occasion, or very shortly after, when his listeners were again gathered together - supplementing this important teaching by another parable, in which the good of having friends in the world to come should be clearly shown. The parable of Lazarus as Dives, then, may be regarded as a piece of teaching following on to and closely connected with the parable of the unjust steward. Nine verses, however, as we have seen are inserted between the two parables. Of these, vers. 10-13 are simply some reflections of the Master on the parable of the steward just spoken. Then comes ver. 14 - a scornful interruption on the part of the Pharisee listeners. Our Lord replies to this (vers. 15-18), and then goes on, either then or very soon after, to the same auditory, with the parable of Lazarus and Dives, which is, in fact, a direct sequel to the parable of the unjust steward, and which St. Luke proceeds to relate without any further preamble.
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
Verse 19. - There was a certain rich man. He is thus introduced by the Lord without any details respecting his age or place of residence - nameless, too! Seems he not to have been reading from that book where he found the name of the poor man written, but found not the name of the rich; for that book is the book of life?" (Sermon 178. 3 of St. Augustine). Tradition says his name was Nimeusis, but it is simply a baseless tradition. Which was clothed in purple and fine linen. The words which describe the life of Dives were chosen with rare skill; they are few, but enough to show us that the worldly hero of the story lived a life of royal magnificence and boundless luxury. His ordinary apparel seems to have been purple and fine linen. This purple, the true sea purple, was a most precious and rare dye, and the purple garment so dyed was a royal gift, and was scarcely used save by princes and nobles of very high degree. In it the idol-images were sometimes arrayed. The fine linen (byssus) was worth twice its weight in gold. It was in hue dazzlingly white. And fared sumptuously every day. With this princely rich man banquets were a matter of daily occurrence. Luther renders the Greek here, "lebte herrlich und in Freuden." Thus with all the accompaniments of grandeur this nameless mighty one lived, his halls ever filled with noble guests, his antechambers with servants. Everything with him that could make life splendid and joyous was in profusion. Some have suspected that our Lord took, as the model for his picture here, the life of the tetrarch Herod Antipas. The court of that magnificent and luxurious prince would certainly have well served as the original of the picture; but Herod was still living, and it is more likely that Jesus was describing the earth-life of one who had already been" dismissed" from his earthly stewardship, and who, when he spoke the parable, was in the world to come.
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
Verses 20, 21. - 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. In striking contrast to the life of the rich man, the Master, with a few touches, paints the life of the beggar Lazarus. This giving a name to a personage in the parable occurs nowhere else in the evangelists' reports of our Lord's parabolic teaching. It probably was done in this case just to give us a hint, for it is nothing more, of the personal character of the poor sufferer who in the end was so blessed. The object of the parable, as we shall see, did not include any detailed account of the beggar-man's inner life; just this name is given him to show us why, when he died, he found himself at once in bliss. Among the Jews the name very often describes the character of him who bears it. The Greek name Lazarus is derived from two Hebrew words, El-ezer ("God-help"), shortened by the rabbis into Leazar, whence Lazarus. He was, then, one of those happy ones whose confidence, in all his grief and misery, was in God alone. Well was his trust, as we shall see, justified. The gate at which he was daily laid was a stately portal (πυλών). Lazarus is represented as utterly unable to win his bread. He was a constant sufferer, covered with sores, wasting under the dominion of a loathsome, incurable disease. This representative of human suffering has taken a strange hold on the imagination of men. In many of the languages of Europe the name of the beggar of the parable appears in the terms "lazar," "lazar-house," and "lazaretto," "lazzaroni." Unable himself to walk, some pitying friend or friends among the poor - the poor are never backward in helping others poorer than themselves, thus setting a noble example to the rich - brought him and laid him daily close by the splendid gates of the palace of Dives. The crumbs signify the broken fragments which the servants of the rich man would contemptuously, perhaps pityingly, toss to the poor helpless beggar-man as he lay by the gate. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. These were the wild, homeless pariah dogs so common in all Eastern cities, who act as the street-scavengers, and are regarded as unclean. This mention of the dogs clustering round him does not suggest any contrast between the pitying animals and pitiless men, but simply adds additional colour to the picture of the utter helplessness of the diseased sufferer; there he lay, and as he lay, the rough homeless dogs would lick his unbandaged wounds as they passed on the forage.
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;
Verse 22. - And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. At last kind death came, and relieved Lazarus of his sufferings. His dismissal, as might have been expected, preceded that of the rich man; for he was enfeebled by a deadly disease. We must not, of course, press too much the details we find in parables; still, from our Lord's way of speaking of the great change in the cases of both Lazarus and Dives, it would seem as though there was absolutely no pause between the two lives of this world and the world to come. The rich man evidently is pictured as closing his eyes upon his gorgeous surroundings here, and opening them directly again upon his cheerless surroundings there. Lazarus is described as being borne at once into Abraham's bosom. Indeed, some interpret the words as signifying that the body as well as the soul was carried by angels into Paradise. It is, however, better, with Calvin, to understand the expression as alluding only to Lazarus's soul; of the body of the pauper nothing was said, as men probably contemptuously, if not carelessly, buried it with the burial rites which such homeless, friendless ones too often receive. The place whither the blest Lazarus went is termed "Abraham's bosom." This term was used by the Jews indifferently, with "the garden of Eden," or "under the throne of glory," for the home of happy but waiting souls. The rich man also died, and was buried. There is a terrible irony here in this mention of burial. This human pageantry of woe was for the rich man what the carrying by the angels into Abraham's bosom was for Lazarus - it was his equivalent; but while these empty honours were being paid to his senseless, deserted body, the rich man was already gazing on the surroundings of his new and cheerless home. After the moment's sleep of death, what an awakening!
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Verse 23. - And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments; more accurately, in Hades (the unseen world of the dead) he lift up his eyes. The idea of suffering does not lie in these first words, but in the participle "being in torments," which immediately follows. It is noticeable that, in this Divine picture of unhappy life in the other world there is no coarse, vulgar word-painting such as we meet with so often in mediaeval human works. The very fact of the man's being unhappy is gently represented. The graver aspect of the torments we learn from the hapless one's own words. Still, it is all very awful, though the facts are so gently told us. "Being in torments:" How could it be otherwise for such a one as Dives? The home of the loving, where Abraham was, would be no home for that selfish man who had never really loved or cared for any one save himself. What were the torments? men with hushed voices ask. A little further on the doomed one speaks of a flame and of his tongue apparently burning, owing to the scorching heat; but it would be a mistake to think of a material flame being intended here. There is nothing in the description of the situation to suggest this; it is rather the burning never to be satisfied, longing for something utterly beyond his reach, that the unhappy man describes as an inextinguishable flame. Were it desirable to dwell on these torments, we should remind men how lustful desires change rapidly into torture for the soul when the means for gratifying them exist not. In the case of Dives, his delight on earth seems to have been society, pleasant jovial company, the being surrounded by a crowd of admiring friends, the daily banquet, the gorgeous apparel, the stately house, - these details more than hint at the pleasure he found in the society of courtier-friends; but in the other world he seems to have been quite alone. Whereas among the blessed there appears to be a sweet companionship. Lazarus is in the company of Abraham, who, of course, only represents a great and goodly gathering. "Abraham's bosom" is simply the well-known expression for that feast or banquet of the happy souls judged worthy of an entrance into Paradise. But in that place where the rich man lifted up his eyes there seems a strange and awful solitariness. A total absence of everything, even of external causes of trouble, is very noticeable. He was alone; alone with his thoughts. 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.
Verse 24. - 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. His intense longing seems to be for companionship. "Oh for a friend," he seems to say, "who could speak to me, comfort me, give me the smallest alleviation of the pain I suffer!" What picture of a hell was ever painted by man comparable to this vision of eternal solitude, peopled alone by remorseful memories, described by Jesus? As the Divine Speaker advanced in his thrilling, melancholy description of the rich man's condition in the world to come, how vividly must the listeners have recalled the Master's earnest advice to them, in his former parable of the steward, to make to themselves while here friends who would receive them into everlasting habitations! They saw the meaning of that detail of the parable then. Were flay, in their luxurious abundance, were they making friends here who would help them there in the eternal tents? Were they not, perhaps, making the same mistake as the rich man of the story? The question might be asked - Why is Abraham, the father of the chosen race, the centre of this blessed life in Hades? In reply, firstly, it must be remembered that the whole colouring of this parable is peculiarly rabbinic, and in the schools of the rabbis the life of the blessed in Paradise is represented as a banquet, over which, until Messiah come, Abraham is represented as presiding. And, secondly, when the parable was spoken, the Saviour was actually on earth; his great redemption work had still to be accomplished. There was truth as well as error mingled in that strange rabbinical teaching. Messiah, as Messiah, when the parable was being probably acted, had not entered that realm where Abraham and many another holy and humble man of heart were in the enjoyment of exquisite bliss.
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.
Verse 25. - 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. Abraham here simply bids the tortured man to call to his memory the circumstances of the life he had lived on earth, telling him that in these circumstances he would find the reason for his present woeful state. It was no startling record of vice and crime, or even of folly, that the father of the faithful calls attention to. He quietly recalls to the rich man's memory that on earth he had lived a life of princely splendour and luxury, and that Lazarus, sick and utterly destitute, lay at his palace gate, and was allowed to lie there unpitied and unhelped. And because of the studied moderation of its language, and the everyday character of its hero Dives - for he, the rich man, not Lazarus, is the real hero, the central character of the great parable-lesson - the lesson of the parable goes home necessarily to many more hearts than it would have done had the hero been a monster of wickedness, a cold calculating or else a plausible villain, a man who shrank not from sacrificing the lives and happiness of his fellow-men if their lives or happiness stood in his way. Dives was merely a commonplace wealthy man of the world, with self-centred alms, and the sin for which he was condemned to outer darkness was only that everyday sin of neglecting out of the mammon of unrighteousness - in other words, out of his money - to make for himself friends who should receive him into the eternal tents.
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.
Verse 26. - 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. Although the whole thought which runs through this parable is new, and peculiar to Christ, yet the colouring of the picture is nearly all borrowed from the great rabbinic schools; one of the few exceptions to this rule being this chasm or gulf which separates the two regions of Hades. The rabbis represented the division as consisting only of a wall. "What is the distance between Paradise and Gehenna? According to R. Johanan, a wall; according to other teachers, a palm-breadth, or only a finger-breadth" ('Midrash on Koheleth'). What, asks the awestruck reader, is this dreadful chasm? why is it impassable? will it be for ever there? will no ages of sorrow, no tears, no bitter heartfelt repentance succeed in throwing a bridge across it? Many have written here, and kindly souls have tried to answer the stern question with the gentle, loving reply which their souls so longed to hear. What is impossible to the limitless love of God? Nothing, wistfully says the heart. But, when interrogated closely, the parable and, indeed, all the Master's teaching on this point preserves a silence complete, impenetrable.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
Verses 27, 28. - 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. The condemned acquiesces in this dread fact; convinced of the utter impossibility of any interchange of sympathy between him and the dwellers in the realms of bliss, he ceases to pray for any alleviation of his own sad and wretched state. But another wail of woe quickly rises from the awful solitude. What means this second prayer of the doomed man? Are we to read in it the first signs of a new and noble purpose in the lost soul, the first dawning of loving thoughts and tender care for others? It seems, perhaps, unkind not to recognize this; but the Divine Speaker evidently had another purpose here when he put these words into the mouth of the lost rich man - he would teach the great lesson to the living that a selfish life is inexcusable. On first thoughts, the rich man's request to Abraham appears prompted alone by his anxiety for the future of his brothers who were still alive; but on examination it would seem, to use the striking words of Professor Bruce, that he wished rather to justify his own sad past by some such. reflection as this: "Had only some one come from the dead with the calm, clear light of eternity shining in his eyes, to inform me that this life beyond is no table, that Paradise is a place or state of unspeakable bliss, and Gehenna a place or state of unspeakable woe, I should have renounced my voluptuous, selfish ways, and entered on the path of piety and charity. If one had come to me from the dead, I had surely repented, and so should not have come to this place of torment."
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.
Verse 29. - Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. The reply of Abraham was especially addressed to those Jews who were standing round him and even asking for a sign. They had all read and heard again and again the Books of Moses and the records of the prophets; if these guides had failed to show them the right way, a special messenger sent to them would be quite useless.
And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
Verses 30, 31. - 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. The Master not only wished to drive home this momentous truth to the hearts of the group of varied ranks and orders listening to him then; his words were for a far larger auditory, so he prolongs the dialogue between Dives and Abraham. "If Lazarus from the dead would only go to them," pleaded the lost soul. "Even if I send," replied Abraham, "and Lazarus goes, they will not be persuaded." They would see him, listen to him, perhaps, and then, when the first feelings of amazement and fear were dying away, would find some plausible reasons for disregarding the messenger and his message. Criticism would discuss the appearance; it would be disposed of by attributing it to an hallucination, or others would suggest that the visitant from the other world had never been really dead, and these pleas would be readily taken up by others who cared not to examine the question for themselves, and so life, careless, selfish, thoughtless, would go on as it had done aforetime. A striking example of what the Lord asserted through the medium of the shade of Abraham took place within a few days from that time. Another Lazarus did come back again from the dead into the midst of that great company of friends and mourners and jealous watchers of Jesus gathered round the sepulchral cave of Bethany, and though some true, faithful hearts welcomed the mighty sign with awful joy, still it served not to touch the cold and calculating spirit of Pharisee, scribe, and Sadducee, thirsting for the blood of the Master, whom they feared and hated, and whose word had summoned back the dead into their midst. The mighty wonder wrought no change there. One went unto them from the dead, and yet their hard hearts only took counsel together how they might put Lazarus again to death. And so the parable and this particular course of teaching came to a close. Perhaps it is the deepest, the most soul-stirring of all the utterances of the Master. Expositors for eighteen centuries have drawn out of its clear, fathomless depths new and ever new truths. It is by no means yet exhausted. This voice from the other side of the veil charms and yet appals, it terrifies and yet enthrals all ages, every class, each rank of men and women. There are many other important items of special teaching which have been scarcely touched on in the notes above. Among the more interesting of these is the brief notice of the life which the blessed lead in Paradise. The happy dead are represented as a wide family circle. Abraham is pictured with Lazarus in his bosom. The image is taken from the way guests used to sit at a banquet. John at the Last Supper occupied a similar position with regard to the Master (John 13:23, 25) to that occupied by Lazarus with regard to Abraham here. The two extremes of the social scale are thus represented as meeting in that blessed company on terms of the tenderest friendship. With these were Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets (Luke 13:28). "All the just," as Marcion gives it in his recension of St. Luke. And while the Paradise-life for the blessed dead is described as a holy communion of saints, there is evidently no corresponding communion in the case of the unhappy dead. The selfish rich man finds himself in an awful solitude. The suffering is rather represented by the image of the void; there are no external causes of pain apparently; hence his longing to speak a word with Lazarus, to feel the touch of a friendly sympathizing hand, if only for a moment, to distract his burning remorseful thoughts. There was nothing to live for there, nothing to hope for, but he felt he must go on living - hopeless. As no special crime, no glaring sin of lust or wanton excess or selfish ambition, is laid to the rich man's charge, and yet when dead he is represented as lifting up his eyes, being in torments, many, especially men belonging to those schools which are generally unfriendly to the religion of Jesus Christ, have endeavoured to show that the condemned was condemned on account of his riches, while the saved was saved because of his deep poverty. Nor is this error alone common to the Tubingen school, and to brilliant free-lances in religious literature like M. Renan. Some such mistaken notion doubtless materially aided the rise and the popularity of the mendicant orders, who played so important a part in the Christianity of the Middle Ages in so many lands. But the burden of our thrilling parable emphatically is not "Woe to the rich! blessed are the poor!" The crime of the life to which so awful a punishment was meted out as the guerdon, was selfish inhumanity, which Christ teaches us is the damning sin. (See his words in his great picture of the final judgment, Matthew 25:41-46.) Lazarus was no solitary individual; he was one of the many suffering poor who abound in this world, and to find whom the rich need not go far from their own gates. Lazarus represents here the opportunity for the exercise of Dives's humanity. Of this, and doubtless many like opportunities, Dives cared not to avail himself. He was apparently no ill-natured, cruel man, he was simply self-centred, delighting in soft living, generous wines, costly fare, sumptuous clothing, good society. He loved to be surrounded with applauding, pleasant guests; but the Lazaruses of the world, for him, might pine away and die in their nameless awful misery. Professor Bruce, with great force, puts the following words into the beggar Lazarus's mouth; these words tell us with startling clearness what was the sin of Dives: "I was laid at this man's gate; he knew me; he could net pass from his house into the street without seeing my condition, as a leprous beggar, yet as a beggar I died." Dives here was endowed richly with all the materials of human happiness, but he kept all his happiness to himself, he took no trouble whatever to diffuse his joy and gladness, his bright and many-coloured life among that great army of weak, poor, woe-begone brothers and sisters who go far to make up the population of every great city. That riches are not in themselves a ground for exclusion from the blessed life is plainly shown by the position occupied by Abraham in that happy family circle of the blessed. For Abraham, we know, was a sheik possessed of vast wealth. Then, too, in the latter part of the parable, when the imminent danger which the five brothers of the lost Dives ran of being similarly lost, was discussed, the danger is represented as springing from their careless disregard of the Law and the prophets, and not from the fact of their being rich men. When Ezekiel sought for examples of the most righteous men that had ever lived, he chose, it must be remembered, as exemplars of mortals living the fair, noble life loved of God, three men distinguished for their rank and riches - Noah, Daniel, and Job (Ezekiel 14:14, 20).
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.