The parable of the unjust steward. (1-12) Christ reproves the hypocrisy of the covetous Pharisees. (13-18) The rich man and Lazarus. (19-31)
Verses 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.
Verses 13-18 To this parable our Lord added a solemn warning. Ye cannot serve God and the world, so divided are the two interests. When our Lord spoke thus, the covetous Pharisees treated his instructions with contempt. But he warned them, that what they contended for as the law, was a wresting of its meaning: this our Lord showed in a case respecting divorce. There are many covetous sticklers for the forms of godliness, who are the bitterest enemies to its power, and try to set others against the truth.
Verses 19-31 Here the spiritual things are represented, in a description of the different state of good and bad, in this world and in the other. We are not told that the rich man got his estate by fraud, or oppression; but Christ shows, that a man may have a great deal of the wealth, pomp, and pleasure of this world, yet perish for ever under God's wrath and curse. The sin of this rich man was his providing for himself only. Here is a godly man, and one that will hereafter be happy for ever, in the depth of adversity and distress. It is often the lot of some of the dearest of God's saints and servants to be greatly afflicted in this world. We are not told that the rich man did him any harm, but we do not find that he had any care for him. Here is the different condition of this godly poor man, and this wicked rich man, at and after death. The rich man in hell lifted up his eyes, being in torment. It is not probable that there are discourses between glorified saints and damned sinners, but this dialogue shows the hopeless misery and fruitless desires, to which condemned spirits are brought. There is a day coming, when those who now hate and despise the people of God, would gladly receive kindness from them. But the damned in hell shall not have the least abatement of their torment. Sinners are now called upon to remember; but they do not, they will not, they find ways to avoid it. As wicked people have good things only in this life, and at death are for ever separated from all good, so godly people have evil things only in this life, and at death they are for ever put from them. In this world, blessed be God, there is no gulf between a state of nature and grace, we may pass from sin to God; but if we die in our sins, there is no coming out. The rich man had five brethren, and would have them stopped in their sinful course; their coming to that place of torment, would make his misery the worse, who had helped to show them the way thither. How many would now desire to recall or to undo what they have written or done! Those who would make the rich man's praying to Abraham justify praying to saints departed, go far to seek for proofs, when the mistake of a damned sinner is all they can find for an example. And surely there is no encouragement to follow the example, when all his prayers were made in vain. A messenger from the dead could say no more than what is said in the Scriptures. The same strength of corruption that breaks through the convictions of the written word, would triumph over a witness from the dead. Let us seek to the law and to the testimony, ( isaiah 8:19 isaiah 8:20 ) , for that is the ( 2 Peter. 1:19 ) Circumstances in every age show that no terrors, or arguments, can give true repentance without the special grace of God renewing the sinner's heart.
Luke 16:1-31 . PARABLES OF THE UNJUST STEWARD AND OF THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS, OR, THE RIGHT USE OF MONEY.
1. steward--manager of his estate.
had wasted--rather, "was wasting."
3. cannot dig . . . to beg, ashamed--therefore, when dismissed, shall be in utter want.
4. may receive me, &c.--Observe his one object--when cast out of one home to secure another. This is the key to the parable, on which there have been many differing views.
5-7. fifty . . . fourscore--deducting a half from the debt of the one, and a fifth from that of the other.
8. the lord--evidently the steward's lord, so called in Luke 16:3 Luke 16:5 .
commended, &c.--not for his "injustice," but "because he had done wisely," or prudently; with commendable foresight and skilful adaptation of means to end.
children of this world--so Luke 20:34 ; compare Psalms 17:14 ("their portion in this life"); Philippians 3:19 ("mind earthly things"); Psalms 4:6 Psalms 4:7 .
their generation--or "for their generation"--that is, for the purposes of the "world" they are "of." The greater wisdom (or shrewdness) of the one, in adaptation of means to ends, and in energetic, determined prosecution of them, is none of it for God and eternity--a region they were never in, an atmosphere they never breathed, an undiscovered world, an unborn existence to them--but all for the purposes of their own grovelling and fleeting generation.
children of light--(so John 12:36 , Ephesians 5:8 , 1 Thessalonians 5:5 ). Yet this is only "as night-birds see better in the dark than those of the day owls than eagles" [CAJETAN and TRENCH]. But we may learn lessons from them, as our Lord now shows, and "be wise as serpents."
9. Make . . . friends of--Turn to your advantage; that is, as the steward did, "by showing mercy to the poor" ( Daniel 4:27 ; compare Luke 12:33 , Luke 14:13 Luke 14:14 ).
mammon of unrighteousness--treacherous, precarious.
ye fail--in respect of life.
they may receive you--not generally, "ye may be received" (as Luke 6:38 , "shall men give"), but "those ye have relieved may rise up as witnesses for you" at the great day. Then, like the steward, when turned out of one home shall ye secure another; but better than he, a heavenly for an earthly, an everlasting for a temporary habitation. Money is not here made the key to heaven, more than "the deeds done in the body" in general, according to which, as a test of character--but not by the merit of which--men are to be judged ( 2 Corinthians 5:10 , and see Matthew 25:34-40 ).
10. He, &c.--a maxim of great pregnancy and value; rising from the prudence which the steward had to the fidelity which he had not, the "harmlessness of the dove, to which the serpent" with all his "wisdom" is a total stranger. Fidelity depends not on the amount entrusted, but on the sense of responsibility. He that feels this in little will feel it in much, and conversely.
11, 12. unrighteous mammon--To the whole of this He applies the disparaging term "what is least," in contrast with "the true riches."
12. another man's . . . your own--an important turn to the subject. Here all we have is on trust as stewards, who have an account to render. Hereafter, what the faithful have will be their own property, being no longer on probation, but in secure, undisturbed, rightful, everlasting possession and enjoyment of all that is graciously bestowed on us. Thus money is neither to be idolized nor despised: we must sit loose to it and use it for God's glory.
13. can serve--be entirely at the command of; and this is true even where the services are not opposed.
hate . . . love--showing that the two here intended are in uncompromising hostility to each other: an awfully searching principle!
14-18. covetous . . . derided him--sneered at Him; their master sin being too plainly struck at for them to relish. But it was easier to run down than to refute such teaching.
15. justify yourselves--make a show of righteousness.
highly esteemed among men--generally carried away by plausible appearances. (See 1 Samuel 16:7 ; and Luke 14:11 ).
16. The law, &c.--(See Matthew 11:13 ).
and every man presseth, &c.--Publicans and sinners, all indiscriminately, are eagerly pressing into it; and ye, interested adherents of the mere forms of an economy which is passing away, "discerning not the signs of this time," will allow the tide to go past you and be found a stranded monument of blindness and obstinacy.
17. it is easier,
18. putteth away his wife, intending to weaken the force of the law, in these allusions to a new economy, our Lord, in this unexpected way, sends home its high requirements with a pungency which the Pharisees would not fail to feel.
19. purple and fine linen, &c.--(Compare Esther 8:15 , Revelation 18:12 ); wanting nothing which taste and appetite craved and money could procure.
20, 21. laid--having to be carried and put down.
full of sores--open, running, "not closed, nor bound up, nor mollified with ointment" ( Isaiah 1:6 ).
21. desiring to be fed with--but was not [GROTIUS, BENGEL, MEYER, TRENCH, &c.]. The words may mean indeed "was fain to feed on," or "gladly fed on," as in Luke 15:16 [ALFORD, WEBSTER and WILKINSON, &c.]. But the context rather favors the former.
licked, &c.--a touching act of brute pity, in the absence of human relief. It is a case of heartless indifference, amidst luxuries of every kind, to one of God's poorest and most afflicted ones, presented daily before the eye.
22. died--His burial was too unimportant to mention; while "the rich man died and was buried"--his carcass carried in pomp to its earthly resting-place.
in to Abraham's bosom--as if seen reclining next to Him at the heavenly feast ( Matthew 8:11 ).
23. in hell--not the final place of the lost (for which another word is used), but as we say "the unseen world." But as the object here is certainly to depict the whole torment of the one and the perfect bliss of the other, it comes in this case to much the same.
seeth Abraham--not God, to whom therefore he cannot cry [BENGEL].
24. Father Abraham--a well-founded, but unavailing, claim of natural descent ( Luke 3:8 , John 8:37 ).
mercy on me--who never showed any ( James 2:3 ).
send Lazarus--the pining victim of his merciless neglect.
that he may--take me hence? No; that he dares not to ask.
dip . . . tongue--that is the least conceivable and the most momentary abatement of his torment; that is all. But even this he is told is (1) unreasonable.
25, 26. Son--stinging acknowledgment of the claimed relationship.
thou . . . Lazarus, &c.--As it is a great law of God's kingdom, that the nature of our present desires shall rule that of our future bliss, so by that law, he whose "good things," craved and enjoyed, were all bounded by time, could look for none after his connection with time had come to an end ( Luke 6:24 ). But by this law, he whose "evil things," all crowded into the present life, drove him to seek, and find, consolation in a life beyond the grave, is by death released from all evil and ushered into unmixed and uninterrupted good ( Luke 6:21 ). (2) It is impossible.
26. besides all this--independently of this consideration.
a great gulf fixed--By an irrevocable decree there has been placed a vast impassable abyss between the two states, and the occupants of each.
27-31. Then he said--now abandoning all hope for himself.
send him to my father's house, &c.--no waking up of good in the heart of the lost, but bitter reproach against God and the old economy, as not warning him sufficiently [TRENCH]. The answer of Abraham is, They are sufficiently warned.
30. Nay--giving the lie to Abraham.
but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent--a principle of awful magnitude and importance. The greatest miracle will have no effect on those who are determined not to believe. A real Lazarus soon "rose from the dead," but the sight of him by crowds of people, inclined thereby to Christ, only crowned the unbelief and hastened the murderous plots of the Pharisees against the Lord of glory; nor has His own resurrection, far more overpowering, yet won over that "crooked and perverse nation."