And I say to you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when you fail…
I. First, then, I desire to consider briefly that strange, new standard of value which is set up here. On the one side is placed the whole glittering heap of all material good that man can touch or handle, all that wealth can buy of this perishable world; and on the other hand there are the modest and unseen riches of pure thoughts and high desires, of a noble heart, of a life assimilated to Jesus Christ. The two are compared in three points — as to their intrinsic magnitude, as to their quality, as to our ownership of them. Of the great glittering heap our Lord says: "It is nothing, at its greatest it is small"; and of the other our Lord says: "At its smallest it is great." All the wealth of all the Rothschilds is too little to fill the soul of the poorest beggar that stands by their carriage door with hungry eyes. The least degree of truth, of love, of goodness, is bigger in its power to fill the heart than all the externals that human avarice can gather about it. Can we thus enter into the understanding of Christ's scale and standard, and think of all the external as "that which is least," and of all the inward as "that which is much"? The world looks at worldly wealth through a microscope which magnifies the infinitesimally small, and then it looks at "the land that is very far off" through a telescope turned the wrong way, which diminishes all that is great. But if we can get up by the side of Jesus Christ and see things with His eyes and from His station, it will be as when a man climbs a mountain, and the little black line, as it seemed to him when looked at from the plain, has risen up into a giant cliff; and all the big things down below, as they seemed when he was among them, have dwindled. That white speck is a palace; that bit of a green patch there, over which the skylark flies in a minute, is a great lord's estate. Oh, dear brethren, we do not need to wait to get to heaven to learn heaven's tables of weights and measures! One grain of true love to God is greater in its power to enrich than a California of gold. Take, again, the second antithesis, the "unrighteous mammon" and "the true riches." That word, "unrighteous" in its application to material good, is somewhat difficult. If we keep strictly to the antithesis "unrighteous" must be the opposite of "true." The word would then come to mean very nearly the same as "deceitful" — that which betrays. And so we have presented to us the old familiar thought that external good of all sorts looks to be a great deal better than it is. It promises a great many things that it never fulfils, tempting us as a fish is tempted to the hook by a bait which hides the hook. But the inward riches of faith, true holiness, lofty aspirations, Christ-directed purposes, all these are true. They promise no more than they perform. They bring more than they said they would. No man ever said, "I have tasted Thy love, and lo! it does not satisfy me! I have realized Thy help, and lo! it has not been enough!" And then the last contrast is between "another's" and "your own." Another's? Well, that may mean God's; and therefore you are stewards, as the whole parable that precedes the text has been teaching. But I am not sure that that is the only, nor indeed the principal reference of the word here. And I think when our Lord speaks of all outward possessions as being, even whilst mine, another's, He means to point there, not only to the fact of stewardship, but also to the fact of the limitations and defects of all outward possessions of outward good. That is to say, there is no real contact between the outward things that a man has and himself. The only things that you really have, paradox as it sounds, are the things that you are. All the rest you hold by a very slight tie, like the pearls that are sewn upon some half-barbarous Eastern magnate's jacket, which he shakes off as he walks. So men say, "This is mine!" and it only means "It is not yours." There is no real possession, even while there is an apparent one, and just because there is no real contact, because there is always a gap between the man and his goods, because he has not, as it were, gathered them into himself, therefore the possession is transient as well as incomplete. It slips away from the hand even whilst you hold it. And just as we may say, "There is no present, but everything is past or future, and what we call the present is only the meeting point of these two times," so we may say, there is no possession, because everything is either coming into my hands or going out of them, and my apparent ownership is only for a moment. I simply transmit.'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands.And so it passes. And then consider the common accidents of life which rob men of their goods, and the waste by the very act of use, which gnaws them away as the sea does the cliffs; and, last of all, death's separation. What can be taken out of a man's hands by death has no right to be called his.
II. Notice for a moment the other broad principle that is laid down in these three verses, as to THE HIGHEST USE OF THE LOWER GOOD. Whether you are a Christian man or whether you are not, this is true about you, that the way in which you deal with your outward goods, your wealth, your capacity of all sorts, may become a barrier to your possessing the higher, or it may become a mighty help. There are plenty of people, and some of them listening to me now, who are kept from being Christians because they love the world so much. The world thinks that the highest use of the highest things is to gain possession of the lowest thereby, and that truth and genius and poetry are given to select spirits and are wasted unless "they make money out of them. Christ's notion of the relationship is exactly the opposite, that all the out. ward is then lifted to its noblest purpose when it is made rigidly subordinate to the highest; and that the best thing that any man can do with his money is so to spend it as to "purchase for himself a good degree," "laying up for himself in store a good foundation that he may lay hold on eternal life."
III. And now let me say one last word as to THE FAITHFULNESS WHICH THUS UTILIZES THE LOWEST AS A MEANS OF POSSESSING MORE FULLY THE HIGHEST. You will be "faithful" if, through all your administrations of your possessions, there runs, first, the principle of stewardship; you will be "faithful" if, through all your administration of your earthly possessions, there runs, second, the principle of sacrifice; you will be "faithful" if, through all your administration of your earthly possessions, there runs, third, the principle of brotherhood.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.