Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
Luke 16:1-31. Parables of the unjust steward and of the rich man and Lazarus, or, the right use of money.
steward — manager of his estate.
accused — informed upon.
had wasted — rather, “was wasting.”
cannot dig to beg, ashamed — therefore, when dismissed, shall be in utter want.
may receive me, etc. — 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.
fifty fourscore — deducting a half from the debt of the one, and a fifth from that of the other.
the lord — evidently the steward‘s lord, so called in Luke 16:3, Luke 16:5.
commended, etc. — 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 Psalm 17:14 (“their portion in this life”); Philemon 3:19 (“mind earthly things”); Psalm 4:6, Psalm 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 groveling 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.”
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. (See on Matthew 6:24).
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).
He, etc. — 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.
unrighteous mammon — To the whole of this He applies the disparaging term “what is least,” in contrast with “the true riches.”
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.
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!
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.
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).
The law, etc. — (See Matthew 11:13).
and every man presseth, etc. — 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.
it is easier, etc. — (See on Matthew 5:17, Matthew 5:18)
putteth away his wife, etc. — (See on Matthew 19:3-9). Far from 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.
purple and fine linen, etc. — (Compare Esther 8:15; Revelation 18:12); wanting nothing which taste and appetite craved and money could procure.
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).
desiring to be fed with — but was not [Grotius, Bengel, Meyer, Trench, etc.]. The words may mean indeed “was fain to feed on,” or “gladly fed on,” as in Luke 15:16 [Alford, Webster and Wilkinson, etc.]. But the context rather favors the former.
licked, etc. — 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.
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).
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].
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.
Son — stinging acknowledgment of the claimed relationship.
thou Lazarus, etc. — 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.
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.
Then he said — now abandoning all hope for himself.
send him to my father‘s house, etc. — 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.
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.”
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