The Earthly Life a Heavenly Training
Luke 16:9
And I say to you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when you fail…

It has been observed by an eminent critic, that the words, "mammon of unrighteousness" might be better rendered, "mammon of deceitfulness"; for Christ never condemned the possession of wealth as in itself an unrighteous thing. It is very often the righteous reward of praiseworthy toil. But He speaks of it as deceitful, because he who trusts to it will find that its promises are lies, and will fail at last, leaving him miserably alone; and with this failure Christ contrasts the certainty of eternal possessions. We can enter now into the meaning of the parable. If the riches of life — which are only one and a comparatively insignificant circumstance in man's earthly history — may prepare him for eternity, then it follows that every circumstance of life — our wealth or our poverty, our work or our rest — may form a training. Here, then, seems to be the thought which Christ has shadowed forth in this earthly form — Every circumstance of man's life may become a training for immortality. It is obvious that if this be true it is of supreme importance. But how is it possible for all our life to become a training for immortality? or, to use the words of Christ, how may we so make friends of our earthly circumstances, that when they have passed, we may have been prepared by their employment for the everlasting habitations? The tenth and eleventh verses of this chapter imply two great principles on which this possibility is founded — the eternity of God's law, and the perpetuity of man's character. On the one hand, it is possible to make every circumstance of life part of one grand training, because the law of the immortal life is the law of a blessed life here. "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." These words imply that the law of God which guides us here extends over all worlds. The life of time is ruled by no different law from that which prevails in the great life of eternity. The faithfulness which makes men blessed here, is the same law of life which creates their blessedness there. This is obviously the first great principle that renders it possible for us to make our present circumstances an education for the everlasting world. If the law which prevails there were essentially different from that which prevails here, then no present conduct, no employment of the earthly, could prepare for the heavenly; we should have to learn a new rule of life, and every present circumstance would be vain as affording a preparation for the life to come. This is all we need know of the future, as far as regards our present conduct. This thought may perhaps be made clear to every one by taking an illustration with which we are all familiar. We know that in different countries different customs are adopted and different laws prevail. Actions, which in this land would be thought natural, would be considered absurd in another. Deeds, which in one land are common, might else. where be regarded as crimes. The man who would travel into other countries must first of all acquaint himself with their social customs, and study the requirements of their laws. He thus prepares himself to enter other lands without danger, and live another life without difficulty. Now we have a journey to make at no distant period into another world. We stand looking at its dim outlines, seeing friend after friend depart, waving us their sad, solemn farewells, and knowing that we must soon set out for that distant region. But the law, whose fulfilment is love, pervades every world of the blessed. The love of God, which forms the Christian blessedness in this low earth, is the source of the highest angels' bliss in the great eternity. Therefore we have no new law of life to learn. The other fact requisite to show this is the perpetuity of human character. See verse 11: "If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?" In their deepest meaning these words involve this principle — "Unfaithful in time, unfaithful in eternity." Some illustration of this perpetuity of human character is afforded us by the difficulty of changing men's characters in this world. How, for instance, can you change the character of a hard, selfish, worldly man? You cannot do it by reasoning. We know not what state may await us after death, but as far as we can gather from the teachings of the Bible, death immortalizes character. All life's affections, and fellowships, and friendships — all the revelations we have of human nobleness and grandeur — if they teach us more of God by revealing the Godlike, become a discipline for eternity. Every glory in nature — the pomp of autumn, the rejoicing beauty of the spring, the splendour of the sunset, or the majesty of the starry hosts — everything, in fact, in the outer world which raises our thoughts to the Divine, becomes a training for the immortal. Every dark temptation that makes us strong in resistive might; every gloomy doubt that by its conquest helps to strengthen our faith, every sorrow that drives us to repose more utterly on the eternal love, becomes a schooling for the higher world, where the presence of the Father is boundless joy. In conclusion, let us observe the practical application of the words of our text. They are a call to action. The duty to which Christ here summons us is to watch the formation of character. They contain also a lesson of encouragement.

(E. L. Hull, B. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: I tell you, make for yourselves friends by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when you fail, they may receive you into the eternal tents.

The Christian's Farewell to Business
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