David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
Luke 16:1-31 - MONEY AND RIGHTEOUSNESS
A. The story of the dishonest steward.
1. (Luke 16:1-8) 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 master’s 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. There was a certain rich man who had a steward: A steward is a manager, especially a manager of money or property. The steward’s boss (the rich man) hears that his steward is cheating him (wasting his goods), and he calls him to account.
b. What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me: When the steward knows that he will be called into account, he knows that he can never pass the scrutiny of his master. He also knows that other options are unattractive to him (I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg).
c. So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him: So, the steward makes friends with his master’s debtors by settling their accounts for less than they actually owe. The steward, knowing he will be called to account, used his present position to prepare him for the next stage of his life.
i. So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly: While not approving his conduct, the master did in fact approve the steward’s shrewdness.
d. For obvious reasons, this is Jesus’ most notorious parable. How could Jesus use such an obviously dishonest man as an example for His disciples?
i. God uses evil things that we are familiar 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.
e. Yet, the dishonest steward is a praiseworthy 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 about our Master’s business! Second, he took advantage of his present position to arrange a comfortable future.
f. 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.
i. 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.
ii. “Go to the men of the world, thou Christian, and do not let it be said that the devil’s scholars are more studious and earnest than Christ’s disciples.” (Maclaren)
2. (Luke 16:9) 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 transfers the principle illustrated by the story of the unjust steward to us - we need to use our present resources to plan ahead for eternity.
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.
c. 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.
i. In a 1992 survey, 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 would have to have double our income in order to find the good life.
3. (Luke 16:10-12) 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 man’s, 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. Yet, if a person cannot be faithful in managing the things that are least, how will they ever be faithful in handling the things that are great?
i. If you are false and unfaithful in everyday life, even if you put on the Christian image, you are also false and unfaithful in your spiritual life - and no one should entrust you with spiritual riches.
b. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon: Why does Jesus call 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)
c. Who will commit to your trust the true riches? In this sense, those who are leaders of God’s people must be good managers of their own money. If a person can’t be faithful before God with the money He has given them, 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 can’t even care for the things of unrighteous mammon.
d. If you have not been faithful in what is another man’s: here, Jesus seems to be referring 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.
4. (Luke 16:13) 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; here, Jesus has the master and slave relationship in view. A slave can’t 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 is talking 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 are serving? One way is by remembering 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, don’t 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 don’t 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, he’ll kill me.”
v. A school teacher explained more: “Men just don’t 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. It’s my way of pampering myself. When you walk into [a mall] and you see all the stores, it’s 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 can’t be a slave to money (mammon). But you don’t have to be rich to serve mammon; the poor can be just as greedy and covetous as the rich person is.
5. (Luke 16:14-15) 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.
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 are serve another master, it is impossible to be justified before God, no matter what men think.
c. God judges our hearts with a different set of values: for what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. Men may honor you because of your wealth and your public display of spirituality. But God sees who you really are.
6. (Luke 16:16-18) The unchanging nature of God’s 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: Now, since that time (the time ending with John the Baptist’s 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 great 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. We are at war!
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.
c. Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery: For example, the law concerning marriage is still binding - no matter how some Rabbis may try 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 to be acceptable grounds for divorce.
i. Jesus here teaches the ideal regarding marriage and divorce, and it is dangerous for us to for doctrine on isolated statements of Jesus without taking into account the whole counsel of His teaching.
d. But if you won’t respond to what God has clearly shown you (such as what the Bible teaches about divorce), how can you hope to receive His Word on other things? We must be careful that we never do what the Pharisees did: show an outward agreement with the word of God, but inwardly resisting it and thus denying it.
B. The story of Lazarus and the rich man.
1. (Luke 16:19-21) 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 man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.”
a. There was a certain rich man: Significantly, Jesus does not present this story as a parable, and in no other parable does Jesus actually name an individual (as the poor man is named here). We have every reason to believe that Jesus is giving us an actual “case history,” that He would know because He is the man from heaven.
b. Clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day: The rich man’s wealth is shown by his clothing (luxurious, expensive clothes), and by his excess with food (most people in that culture fared sumptuously only a few times a year).
i. The rich man is unnamed, but is traditionally give the name Dives, which is simply Latin for “rich.”
c. The dogs came and licked his sores: The destitute poverty of Lazarus is shown by the fact that he must resort to begging with the dogs.
2. (Luke 16:22-26) Lazarus and the rich man in Hades.
“So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s 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. 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. So it was that the beggar died: Lazarus was so destitute that he did not even get a burial. But because of his devotion to God, he ends up with Abraham and all the righteous in the afterlife.
i. We must never think that Lazarus was saved by his poverty, any more than we would think that the rich man was damned by his wealth. Lazarus must have had a true relationship of faith with the true God.
ii. Lazarus doesn’t seem to ask God, “Why was it so unfair on earth?” Now he knows, now all questions are answered.
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 is also not far from Lazarus; yet he is a world apart. His place full of torment and pain; now, the rich man is the beggar, pleading with Lazarus for a drop of water.
i. Again, the rich man was not in torment because he was rich. If it were so, then it would be a contradiction for Abraham to be shown as righteous, because he was far richer than “Dives” could ever have been.
ii. The only sin charged to the rich man was selfishness - all he lived for was himself. This was enough. He could say, “I never hurt anybody,” but living purely for yourself is enough to condemn you.
iii. Also, this story is the contrast to the parable of the unjust steward; the rich man was one who didn’t use any of his resources to prepare for the world to come.
c. Hades: Jesus describes Hades (called Sheol in the Old Testament), which was the common abode of the dead.
i. Some who are in Hades rest in comfort (the bosom of Abraham), but others are in fires of torment.
ii. Hades is not the Lake of Fire - what we usually think of as Hell, referred to in Revelation 20:15, and called Gehenna in the Old Testament. Instead, Hades is a “waiting place” until the day of final judgment (Revelation 20:11-13).
iii. Jesus went to Hades, but did not stay there (Acts 2:24-27, Acts 2:31). Jesus preached in Hades (1 Peter 3:18-19). Jesus set the captives in Hades free (Ephesians 4:8-9, Isaiah 61:1). Jesus’ work and preaching offered salvation for those who in faith awaited it (Hebrews 11:39-40), and sealed the condemnation of the wicked and unbelieving.
iv. Since Jesus’ work on the cross (the believer’s day of judgment), there is no “waiting” for believers who die. They go directly to the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).
3. (Luke 16:27-31) The rich man’s request.
“Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s 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. Send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them: Now the rich man is concerned for his brothers on earth. The first indication we have that the rich man thought of anyone else comes after it is too late.
b. If one goes to them from the dead, they will repent: The rich man thought that if someone came from the dead, it would be more convincing than the word of God. But it wouldn’t be more convincing, because if they won’t believe because of God’s Word, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.
i. “I do believe that Lazarus from Abraham’s 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)
ii. Of course, One did rise from the dead - Jesus, yet they did not believe then.
iii. Jesus exposes the fallacy of trusting in signs to bring people to Jesus. We often think that if people would see 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). God, working through His word, has power unto salvation.
iv. The rich man wasn’t lost because he was rich. He was lost because he did not listen to the law and the prophets. Will you be lost for the same reason?
Visit Our Sponsors
Search This Commentary