David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
Money and Righteousness
A. The story of the dishonest steward.
1. (1-8) What the dishonest steward did.
He also said to His disciples: There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. So he called him and said to him, What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his masters debtors to him, and said to the first, How much do you owe my master? And he said, A hundred measures of oil. So he said to him, Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty. Then he said to another, And how much do you owe? So he said, A hundred measures of wheat. And he said to him, Take your bill, and write eighty. So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.
a. He also said to His disciples: This seems to be a different occasion than the previous chapter. Here Jesus taught His disciples, not the multitude mentioned in Luke 15:1-2. However, as Jesus taught His disciples, a group of Pharisees also listened (Luke 16:14).
b. There was a certain rich man who had a steward: A steward was a manager, especially a manager of money or property. In the story Jesus told, the stewards boss (the rich man) heard that his steward had cheated him (wasting his goods), and he called him to account.
i. The steward had followed a career of embezzlement. (Barclay)
ii. Give an account of your stewardship are words that everyone will hear, both sinner and saint. All will have to give account in some way, and we will give account to God. Spurgeon once noted that each of us will have to give account of our stewards whip regarding our time, our talents, our substance, and our influence.
iii. For each of us, our stewardship will one day come to an end. The preachers voice, mental faculties, and strength will not last forever. The wealth of this world may not last even in this life. A mothers stewardship over her children changes and diminishes greatly. If Jesus does not come first, we all will die and pass from this life to the next.
c. What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me: When the steward knew that he would be called to account, he knew his poor management would be exposed. He also knew that other options were unattractive to him (I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg).
d. So he called every one of his masters debtors to him: So, the steward made friends with his masters debtors by settling their accounts for less than they actually owed. Therefore the steward, knowing he would be called to account, used his present position to prepare him for the next stage of his life.
e. So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly: While not approving his conduct, the master did in fact approve the stewards shrewdness. Jesus added the thought that the businessmen of his day (sons of this world) were more wise, bold, and forward-thinking in the management of what they had (more shrewd) than the people of God were with managing what they had (the sons of light).
i. Some consider this to be one of Jesus most difficult parables, because it seems that Jesus used an obviously dishonest man as an example for His disciples. Yet God sometimes uses evil things familiar to us with to illustrate a particular point, without praising the thing itself. Other examples of this principle are when Paul used things like war and slavery as illustrations of the Christian life.
ii. Yet, the dishonest steward was a good example on several points. First, he knew he would be called to account for his life and he took that seriously. Christians should take seriously the idea that they will be called to account, and that idea can be a joy if we are properly about our Masters business. Second, he took advantage of his present position to arrange a comfortable future.
iii. Jesus assessment is still true: the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. If we pursued the Kingdom of God with the same vigor and zeal that the children of this world pursue profits and pleasure, we would live in an entirely different world. It could be said that it is to the shame of the Church that Coca-Cola is more widely distributed than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Simply, it is because the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.
iv. Go to the men of the world, thou Christian, and do not let it be said that the devils scholars are more studious and earnest than Christs disciples. (Maclaren)
2. (9) Using money now with an eye to eternity.
And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.
a. Make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon: Jesus transferred the principle of the parable, reminding us that we need to use our present resources to plan ahead for eternity.
i. Unrighteous mammon: The word mammon is from the Aramaic word mammon, which originally meant, that in which one puts ones trust, hence wealth. (Pate)
ii. Jesus called it unrighteous mammon because Riches promise much, and perform nothing: they excite hope and confidence, and deceive both: in making a man depend on them for happiness, they rob him of the salvation of God and of eternal glory. (Clarke)
b. That when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home: The world is filled with financial planners and advisers; and it is good for Christians to learn how to use their money wisely. But when most Christians talk about wise money management, they forget to practice the most important kind of long term investing: investing with an eye to eternity, an everlasting home.
i. The important thing is to invest your resources for the Lord now; most of us wait until the day when we think we will have enough.
ii. In a survey taken long ago (1992), people were asked how much money they would have to make to have the American dream. Those who earn $25,000 or less a year thought they would need around $54,000. Those in the $100,000 annual income bracket said that they could buy the dream for an average of $192,000 a year. These figures indicate that we typically think we must double our income in order to find the good life – instead of finding it now.
3. (10-12) Faithfulness in the little things shows how one will be faithful in the large things.
He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another mans, who will give you what is your own?
a. He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much: In these words of Jesus, money is considered to be one of the least things. Therefore, if a person cannot be faithful in managing the things that are least, they should not be trusted to be faithful in handling the things that are much.
i. If one is false and unfaithful in everyday life, it doesnt matter if they know how to project a Christian image; they are also false and unfaithful in the spiritual life - and no one should entrust them with true riches (spiritual riches).
b. If you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? In this sense, those who are leaders among Gods people must be good managers of their own money. If a person cant be faithful before God with the money He gives, how can they be faithful with the care of people?
i. This certainly does not mean that leaders in the church have to be wealthy or make a lot of money. It is an issue of how they manage the resources God has given to them, not how great their resources are.
ii. Unfortunately, when it comes to the question who will commit to your trust the true riches, far too many Christians are willing to entrust their spiritual care to a person who cant even care for the things of unrighteous mammon.
c. If you have not been faithful in what is another mans: Here, Jesus seems to refer to the fact that all our riches belong to God, and we must see that we are managing His resources. Faithfulness in this will result in blessing that is our own (who will give you what is your own).
i. So God is testing men by giving them money, that He may know how far to trust them in the mart of the New Jerusalem. (Meyer)
4. (13) No one can be faithful to more than one master.
No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
a. No servant can serve two masters: Having two masters is not like working two jobs. Jesus has the master and slave relationship in view. A slave cant belong to two masters at the same time.
i. Jesus states that serving two masters is a simple impossibility. If you think that you are successfully serving two masters, you are deceived. One can have both money and God; but one cannot serve both money and God.
ii. Certainly, Jesus spoke about the heart here. Many people would say they love God, but their service of money shows that in fact they do not. How can we tell Who or what we serve? One way is by this principle: You will sacrifice for your God. If you will sacrifice for the sake of money, but will not sacrifice for the sake of Jesus, dont deceive yourself: money is your God.
iii. On a Friday afternoon in 1990, a businessman staggered to the steps of his Los Angeles office. Before he died of the gunshot wound to his chest, he called out the names of his three children. But he still had his $10,000 Rolex watch clutched in his hand. He was the victim of a rash of Rolex robberies - and was killed as a sacrifice to his god.
iv. A 1992 story in the Los Angeles Times told about Michelle, a successful writer and editor, who fears the day her husband might discover her secret stash of credit cards, her secret post office box or the other tricks she uses to hide how much money she spends shopping for herself. I make as much money as my husband . . . If I want a $500 suit from Ann Taylor, I deserve it and dont want to be hassled about it. So the easiest thing to do is lie, she explains. Last year, when her husband forced her to destroy one of her credit cards, Michelle went out and got a new one without telling him. I do live in fear. If he discovers this new VISA, hell kill me.
v. A school teacher explained more: Men just dont understand that shopping is our drug of choice, she joked, even while admitting that some months her salary goes exclusively to paying the minimum balance on her credit cards. Walking through the door of South Coast Plaza is like walking though the gates of heaven. God made car trunks for women to hide shopping bags in.
vi. A young professional named Mary explained: Shopping is my recreation. Its my way of pampering myself. When you walk into [a mall] and you see all the stores, its like something takes over and you get caught up in it.
b. You cannot serve God and mammon: Some think that just because they are not rich, they are not a slave to money (mammon). But you dont have to be rich to serve mammon; the poor have just as much potential for greed and covetousness as the rich have.
i. When God is served, Mammon is used beneficently. When Mammon is served, the claims of God are ignored. (Morgan)
ii. The worldlings wisdom (as the ostrichs wings) to make him outrun others upon earth, and in earthly things; but helps him never a wit toward heaven. (Trapp)
iii. Money possessing a man is the direst curse, for it hardens his heart and paralyzes his noblest powers. The money of a God-possessed man is a blessing, for it becomes the means of his expressing his sympathy with his fellows. (Morgan)
5. (14-15) Jesus responds to the Pharisees derision.
Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him. And He said to them, You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
a. And they derided Him: The derision of the Pharisees was based on their own self-interest. They were lovers of money. Often we reject the message of Jesus because it hits too close to home.
i. Derided: The word literally means that they turned up their noses at him. (Barclay)
b. You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts: It is one thing to justify yourselves before men, because smooth words and a loving smile can deceive men. But God knows your hearts - when you serve another master, it is impossible to be justified before God, no matter what men think.
i. For some people the idea God knows your hearts is comfort; for others it is a curse.
c. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God: God judges our hearts with a different set of values. Men may honor someone because of their wealth or their public display of spirituality; but God sees who they really are.
6. (16-18) The unchanging nature of Gods law.
The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail. Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.
a. The law and the prophets were until John: Jesus indicated that the ministry of John the Baptist marked the end of one great aspect of Gods work. Since that time (the time ending with John ministry) the good news of a new covenant is presented, with an order that is different than the law yet it fulfills the law.
b. The kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it: In Jesus day, there were hundreds of revolutionaries willing to use violence to bring in the kingdom of God. While we do not imitate their violence, we do imitate their dedication, their willingness to sacrifice, and their passion to see the Messiah reign. In a sense, we are also at war.
i. Pate suggested that pressing into it does not describe the appropriate effort and zeal necessary to pursue the kingdom of God. Instead he thought it described the attempt of demonic powers (and their human agents) to forcefully enter and disrupt or destroy the work of Gods kingdom, describing opposition to the work of Jesus. Certainly in a sense, both are true.
c. It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail: As Jesus spoke of a new aspect of Gods work beginning after the ministry of John the Baptist, He didnt want any to think that the new aspect of Gods work ignored or neglected the law.
i. But the new order that we must press into is not an order of rebellion; it is a new order of submission and obedience to God; His new order fulfills the law.
d. Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery: For example, the law concerning marriage is still binding - no matter how some Rabbis tried to explain it away. Some Rabbis taught that if a woman burned her husbands breakfast, it was grounds for divorce. Others considered finding a prettier woman was an acceptable reason to divorce.
i. Jesus here taught the ideal regarding marriage and divorce, and it is dangerous for us to establish doctrine on isolated statements of Jesus without taking into account the whole counsel of His teaching.
ii. Since Jesus also taught that sexual immorality was acceptable grounds for divorce (Matthew 5:31-32, 19:7-9) and later the Apostle Paul added that desertion by an unbelieving spouse was also an acceptable reason (1 Corinthians 7:15). Because of those two clear allowances, we must regard Jesus command here to refer to the one who divorces his wife without Biblical cause and marries another; that this one commits adultery.
iii. Again, Jesus emphasized the point: Under the new covenant (since the ministry of John the Baptist), God still cares about His law and our obedience.
B. The story of Lazarus and the rich man.
1. (19-21) Lazarus and the rich man on earth.
There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich mans table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
a. There was a certain rich man: Jesus did not present this story as a parable, and in no other parable did Jesus actually name an individual (as the poor man is here named). We have every reason to believe that Jesus gave us an actual case history, one He knew from His eternal perspective.
b. Clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day: The rich mans wealth was evident by his fine linen clothing (luxurious and expensive), and by his excess with food (most people in that culture fared sumptuously only a few times a year).
i. Fared sumptuously: The word used for feasting is the word that is used for a gourmet feeding on exotic and costly dishes. He did this every day. (Barclay)
ii. The rich man is unnamed, but was traditionally given the name Dives, which is simply Latin for rich.
c. A certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs: Not far from the rich man – at his gate was a desperately poor and sick man. The rich man didnt do anything against Lazarus, except neglect and ignore him.
i. Here are two men, and day after day there is not the space of twenty yards between them, yet a distance like the sea divides the two. (Morrison)
ii. The name is the Latinized form of Eleazar and means God is my help. (Barclay)
iii. Fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich mans table: Food was eaten with the hands and, in very wealthy houses, the hands were cleaned by wiping them on hunks of bread, which were then thrown away. This is what Lazarus was waiting for. (Barclay)
iv. The dogs came and licked his sores: Jesus described the misery of the beggar in these strong, nauseating details.
2. (22-23) Lazarus and the rich man in Hades.
So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abrahams bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
a. So it was that the beggar diedThe rich man also died and was buried: Both men eventually died. Lazarus did not even have the honor of a burial in this life, yet heaven honored him, being carried by the angels to Abrahams bosom. The rich man had the honor of a burial, but no angelic escort or pleasant destination.
i. It would seem obvious that when the beggar was carried by the angels, it was his soul or spirit that was carried; the immaterial and eternal aspect of his being. Except for the angels carrying work, the same was true of the rich man. His body was buried and remained on earth, but he was in torments in Hades.
ii. The idea of Abrahams bosom can be explained in one of three ways. (Pate)
The thought of a parents love and care, as in John 1:18 (The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father).
iii. We should not think that Lazarus was saved by his poverty, any more than we should think that the rich man was damned by his wealth. Lazarus must have had a true relationship of faith with the true God, and the rich man did not. Their life circumstances made that faith easier or more difficult, but did not create it.
b. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom: The rich man was not far from Lazarus; yet he was a world apart. His place was full of torment and pain, while Lazarus enjoyed the comfort and care of Abraham.
i. Having punishment without pity, misery without mercy, sorrow without succor, crying without compassion, mischief without measure, torments without end, and past imagination. (Trapp)
c. Being in torments in Hades: In this story Jesus described a place He called Hades, which seems to have been the common abode of the dead. The rich man and Lazarus were not in the same place, but they were not far from each other. It may be best to say that they were in two areas of the same place (Hades), one a place of torments and the other a place of comfort (the bosom of Abraham).
i. From this story of Jesus, we find some hints regarding the world beyond as it existed in the past and as it exists now. From Jesus description, one may say that at that time – before the finished work of Jesus on the cross – that the spirit or soul of the human dead went to a place called Hades. Some in Hades rested in comfort; others suffered under torments of fire.
ii. Hades is a Greek word, but it seems to carry much the same idea as Sheol, a Hebrew word with the idea of the place of the dead. Sheol has no direct reference to either torment or eternal happiness. The idea of Sheol is often simply the grave and the understanding of the afterlife in the Old Testament is much less clear than in the New Testament.
iii. Hades is technically not hell, or what is also known as the Lake of Fire. That place is called Gehenna, a Greek word borrowed from the Hebrew language. In Mark 9:43-44, Jesus spoke of hell (gehenna), a Greek translation of the Hebrew Valley of Hinnom, a place outside Jerusalems walls desecrated by Molech worship and human sacrifice (2 Chronicles 28:1-3; Jeremiah 32:35). It was also a garbage dump where rubbish and refuse were burned. The smoldering fires and festering worms of the Valley of Hinnom made it a graphic and effective picture of the fate of the damned. This place is also called the lake of fire in Revelation 20:13-15, prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).
iv. Hades is something of a waiting place until the day of final judgment (Revelation 20:11-13). Yet since Jesus finished work on the cross, there is no waiting for believers who die; they go directly to heaven, to the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). It is reasonable to think that when Jesus visited Hades as part of His redemptive work (Acts 2:24-27, Acts 2:31) and when Jesus preached in Hades (1 Peter 3:18-19), that Jesus set the captives in Hades free (Ephesians 4:8-9, Isaiah 61:1). Jesus work and preaching offered salvation for those like Lazarus, who in faith awaited it (Hebrews 11:39-40), and it also sealed the condemnation of the wicked and unbelieving.
3. (24-26) The rich mans plea.
Then 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. But Abraham said, Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.
a. Father Abraham, have mercy on me: The rich man was definitely a descendant of Abraham, and the great father of faith did not disown him. Yet having Abraham as father was not enough to escape his torment in the life to come. Now the rich man was the beggar, pleading with Abraham.
i. Again, the rich man was not in torment because he was rich; but because he lived a life apart from love and trust in God, and this was demonstrated by his life. Abraham himself was richer than the man in this story of Jesus.
b. Send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finer in water and cool my tongue: Even in the afterlife the rich man thought of himself as superior and as Lazarus as his servant. This shows that death did not take away his sense of entitlement and station in life.
i. And he could not plead he was ignorant of Lazarus, for he recognized him at once in Abrahams bosom. It was not want of knowledge, then, but want of thought that was the innermost secret of his tragedy. (Morrison)
ii. Death also did not take away the rich mans sense of desire, only the fulfillment of that desire. This was true torment, and he was desperate for even a drop of relief.
c. Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things: Through his earthly life the rich man enjoyed all the good things of life; yet did not share them or use them to prepare for the life to come.
i. The rich man is therefore a contrast to the previous parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-12). The unjust steward used his present position to prepare for his next position; the rich man did not.
d. Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot: Though the rich man could see and speak with Abraham, he wasnt close to him at all. There was a great gulf fixed between them, and their destinies were fixed for all time.
i. We remember that all this happened to the rich mans spirit or soul, the immaterial part of his being. His body was still buried, yet he did not cease or suspend existence or awareness.
ii. We see no idea of soul sleep or annihilation; not of spiritual progression or reincarnation. Also, There is no hint here of purgatory or remedial cleansing. The chasm was fixed, it is assumed, by God. (Pate)
4. (27-31) The rich man thinks of his brothers.
Then he said, I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my fathers house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment. Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent. But he said to him, If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.
a. I beg you therefore, father: It is again emphasized that now the rich man is the beggar, not Lazarus.
b. Send him to my fathers house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them: It is again seen that the rich man still thought of Lazarus as a servant to him. He asked Abraham to send Lazarus on another assignment (perhaps in a dream or vision), this time for the benefit of his five brothers.
i. Obviously the rich man remembered and cared about his relatives even when he passed from earth to the life to come. His memory was not wiped clean or given a new consciousness.
c. Lest they also come to this place of torment: Now the rich man cared about others not going to torment. He lived his life utterly unconcerned of this, either for himself or for others. If he himself could go to his brothers, he would; but he seemed to understand that this was also impossible, so much so that he did not even ask for it.
i. The mention of the five brothers is the first indication that the rich man thought about anyone except himself. Unfortunately, his concern for others came when it was too late to do any good.
d. They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them: Abraham pointed out that the rich mans brothers had all the necessary information to escape the torment of Hades. Listening to Moses and the prophets and doing what they said to do was enough.
i. Abraham said to him: Luke uses the historic present tense for Abrahams reply: Abraham says, They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them. (Pate)
ii. When Gods whole creation having been ransacked by the hand of science, has only testified to the truth of revelation - when the whole history of buried cities and departed nations has but preached out the truth that the Bible was true - when every strip of land in the far-off East has been an exposition and a confirmation of the prophecies of Scripture; if men are yet unconvinced, do ye suppose that one dead man rising from the tomb would convince them? (Spurgeon)
iii. If the Holy Scripture be not in the hands of God enough to bring you to the faith of Christ, then, though an angel from heaven, then, though the saints from glory, then, though God himself should descend on earth to preach to you, you would go on unwed and unblest. (Spurgeon)
e. No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent: The rich man immediately objected, knowing that his family did not take Moses and the prophets seriously. He desperately hoped that if someone came from the dead, it would be more convincing than the Word of God. Yet it would not be more convincing, because if they would not believe because of Gods Word, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.
i. The rich man knew what his brothers must do, and what he did not do: repent. He mistakenly hoped that a spectacular appearance of one from the dead would persuade them; but Abraham knew it would not. After all, the unbeliever thinks the Bible already speaks too much of judgment and hell; they dont want to hear more of it, even if the messenger came from the world beyond.
ii. Of course, Jesus did rise from the dead; yet many did not believe then. Additionally, a man named Lazarus also came back from the dead (John 11:38-44) and the religious leaders did not believe him; they tried to kill him (John 12:9-10).
iii. With this story Jesus showed the weakness of trusting in signs to bring people to faith. It is easy to think that if people saw a spectacular enough sign, they would be compelled to believe. But what creates faith unto salvation is hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17); a sign may or may not have a role in that work. God, working through His word, has power unto salvation. He declares that the sacred writings are in themselves as powerful as anything like the delivery of their message by one risen from the dead. (Morgan)
iv. Although a churchyard should start into life, and stand up before the infidel who denies the truth of Christianity; I declare I do not believe there would be enough evidence in all the churchyards in the world to convince him. Infidelity would still cry for something more. (Spurgeon)
v. I do believe that Lazarus from Abrahams bosom would not be so good a preacher as a man who has not died, but whose lips have been touched with a live coal from off the altar. (Spurgeon)
vi. The rich man wasnt lost because he was rich. He was lost because he did not listen to the law and the prophets. Many will also be lost for the same reason.
vii. In one way the rich man of Jesus story was very different than the religious leaders, the Pharisees. He lived a life of gourmet excess and indulgence, and the Pharisees were rigid and disciplined and super self-controlled. Yet they shared this with the rich man: they cared nothing for the needy around them, and despised them with neglect. Thats why they were so offended when Jesus taught and cared for tax collectors and sinners (Luke 15:1-2). A hundred miles may separate two rivers, but for all that, they flow from the same lake. (Morrison)
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