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Bible Commentaries

Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospels

Luke 16

Verses 1-7

Ver 1. And he said to his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused to him that he had wasted his goods.2. And he called him, and said to him, How is it that I hear this of you? give an account of your stewardship; for you may be no longer steward.3. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord takes away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.4. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.5. So he called every one of his lord’s debtors to him, and said to the first, How much owe you to my lord?6. And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said to him, Take your bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.7. Then said he to another, And how much owe you? And he said, A hundred measures of wheat. And he said to him, Take your bill, and write fourscore.

BEDE; Having rebuked in three parables those who murmured because He received penitents, our Savior shortly after subjoins a fourth and a fifth on almsgiving and frugality, because it is also the fittest order in preaching that almsgiving should be added after repentance. Hence it follows, And he said to his disciples, There was a certain rich man.

PSEUDO. There is a certain erroneous opinion inherent in mankind, which increases evil and lessens good. It is the feeling that all the good things we possess in the course of our life we possess as lords over them, and accordingly we seize them as our especial goods. But it is quite the contrary. For we are placed in this life not as lords in our own house, but as guests and strangers, led whither we would not, and at a time we think not of. He who is now rich, suddenly becomes a beggar. Therefore whoever you are, know yourself to be a dispenser of the things of others, and that the privileges granted you are for a brief and passing use. Cast away then from your soul the pride of power, and put on the humility and modesty of a steward.

BEDE; The bailiff is the manager of the farm, therefore he takes his name from the farm. But the steward, or director of the household, is the overseer of money as well as fruits, and of every thing his master possesses.

AMBROSE; From this we learn then, that we are not ourselves the masters, but rather the stewards of the property of others.

THEOPHYL. Next, that when we exercise not the management of our wealth according to our Lord’s pleasure, but abuse our trust to our own pleasures, we are guilty stewards. Hence it follows, And he was accused to him.

PSEUDO-CHRYS. Meanwhile he is taken and thrust out of his stewardship; for it follows, And he called him, and said to him, What is this that I hear of you? give an account of your stewardship, for you can be no longer steward. Day after day by the events which take place our Lord cries aloud to us the same thing, showing us a man at midday rejoicing in health, before the evening cold and lifeless; another expiring in the midst of a meal. And in various ways we go out from our stewardship; but the faithful steward, who has confidence concerning his management, desires with Paul to depart and be with Christ. But he whose wishes are on earth is troubled at his departing.

Hence it is added of this steward, Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do, for my Lord takes away from me the stewardship? I cannot dig, to beg I all ashamed. Weakness in action is the fault of a slothful life. For no one would shrink who had been accustomed to apply himself to labor. But if we take the parable allegorically, after our departure hence there is no more time for working; the present life contains the practice of what is commanded, the future, consolation. If you have done nothing here, in vain then are you careful for the future, nor will you gain any thing by begging. The foolish virgins are an instance of this, who unwisely begged of the wise, but returned empty. For every one puts on his daily life as his inner garment; it is not possible for him to put it off or exchange it with another.

But the wicked steward aptly contrived the remission of debts, to provide for himself an escape from his misfortunes among his fellow-servants; for it follows, I am resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. For as often as a man perceiving his end approaching, lightens by a kind deed the load of his sins, (either by forgiving a debtor his debts, or by giving abundance to the poor,) dispensing those things which are his Lord’s, he conciliates to himself many friends, who will afford him before the judge a real testimony, not by words, but by the demonstration of good works, nay moreover will provide for him by their testimony a resting-place of consolation. But nothing is our own, all things are in the power of God.

Hence it follows, So he called every one of his Lord’s debtors to him, and said to the first, How much owe you to my Lord? And he said, A hundred casks of oil.

BEDE, A cadus in Greek is a vessel containing three urns. It follows, And he said to him, Take your bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty, forgiving him the half.

It follows, Then said he to another, And how much owe you? And he said, A hundred measures of wheat. A corus is made up of thirty bushels. And he said to him, Take your bill, and write fourscore, forgiving him a fifth part. It may be then simply taken as follows: whosoever relieves the want of a poor man, either by supplying half or a fifth part, will be blessed with the reward of his mercy.

AUG. Or because out of the hundred measures of oil, he caused fifty to be written down by the debtors, and of the hundred measures of w heat, fourscore, the meaning thereof is this, that those things which every Jew performs toward the Priests and Levites should be the more attendant in the Church of Christ, that whereas they give a tenth, Christians should give a half, as Zaccheus gave of his goods, or at least by giving two tenths, that is, a fifth, exceed the payments of the Jews.

Verses 8-13

Ver 8. And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.9. And I say to you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.10. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.11. If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?12. And if you have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?13. No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

AUG. The steward whom his Lord cast out of his stewardship is nevertheless commended because he provided himself against the future. As it follows, And the Lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely; we ought not however to take the whole for our imitation. For we should never act deceitfully against our Lord in order that from the fraud itself we may give alms.

ORIGEN; But because the Gentiles say that wisdom is a virtue, and define it to be the experience of w hat is good, evil, and indifferent, or the knowledge of what is and what is not to be done, we must consider whether this word signifies many things, or one. For it is said that God by wisdom prepared the heavens. Now it is plain that wisdom is good, because the Lord by wisdom prepared the heavens. It is said also in Genesis, according to the LXX, that the serpent was the wisest animal, wherein he does not make wisdom a virtue, but evil-minded cunning. And it is in this sense that the Lord commended the steward that he had done wisely, that is, cunningly and evilly. And perhaps the word commended was spoken not in the sense of real commendation, but in a lower sense; as when we speak of a man being commended in slight and indifferent matters, and in a certain measure clashings and sharpness of wit are admired, by which the power of the mind is drawn out.

AUG. On the other hand this parable is spoken that we should understand that if the steward who acted deceitfully, could be praised by his lord, how much more they please God who do their works according to His commandment.

ORIGEN; The children of this world also are not called wiser but more prudent than the children of light, and this not absolutely and simply, but in their generation. For it follows, For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light, &c.

BEDE; The children of light and the children of this world are spoken of in the same manner as the children of the kingdom, and the children of hell. For whatever works a man does, he is also termed their sun.

THEOPHYL. By the children of this world then He means those who mind the good things which are on the earth; by the children of light, those who beholding the divine love, employ themselves with spiritual treasures. But it is found indeed in the management of human affairs, that we prudently order our own things, and busily set ourselves to work, in order that when we depart we may have a refuge for our life; but when we ought to direct the things of God, we take no forethought for what shall be our lot hereafter.

GREG. In order then that after death they may find something in their own hand, let men before death place their riches in the hands of the poor. Hence it follows, And I say to you, d/lake to yourselves friends of the man of unrighteousness, &c.

AUG. That which the Hebrews call mammon, in Latin is "riches." As if He said, "Make to yourselves friends of the riches of unrighteousness." Now some misunderstanding this, seize upon the things of others, and so give something to the poor, and think that they are doing what is commanded. That interpretation must be corrected into, Give alms of your righteous labors. For you will not corrupt Christ your Judge. If from the plunder of a poor man, you were to give any thing to the judge that he might decide for you, and that judge should decide for you, such is the force of justice, that you would be ill pleased in yourself. Do not then make to yourself such a God. God is the fountain of Justice, give not your alms then from interest and usury. I speak to the faithful, to whom we dispense the body of Christ. But if you have such money, it is of evil that you have it. Be no longer doers of evil. Zaccheus said, Half my goods I give to the poor. See how he runs who runs to make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; and not to be held guilty from any quarter, he says, If have taken any thing from any one, I restore fourfold. According to another interpretation, the mammon of unrighteousness are all the riches of the world, whenever they come. For if you seek the true riches, there are some in which Job when naked abounded, when he had his hears full towards God. The others are called riches from unrighteousness; because they are not true riches, for they are full of poverty, and ever liable to chances. For if they were true riches, they would give you security.

AUG. Or the riches of unrighteousness are so called, because they are not riches except to the unrighteous, and such as rest in their hopes and the fullness of their happiness. But when these things are possessed by the righteous, they have indeed so much money, but no riches are theirs but heavenly and spiritual.

AMBROSE. Or he spoke of the unrighteous Mammon, because by the various enticements of riches covetousness corrupts our hearts, that we may be willing to obey riches.

BASIL; Or if you have succeeded to a patrimony, you receive what has been amassed by the unrighteous; for in a number of predecessors some one must needs be found who has unjustly usurped the property of others. But suppose that your father has not been guilty of exaction, whence have you your money? If indeed you answer, "From myself;" you are ignorant of God, not having the knowledge of your Creator; but if, "From God," tell me the reason for which you receive it. Is not the earth and the fullness thereof the Lord’s? If then whatever is ours belongs to our common Lord, so will it also belong to our fellow-servant.

THEOPHYL. Those then are called the riches of unrighteousness which the Lord has given for the necessities of our brethren and fellow-servants, but we spend upon ourselves. It became us then, from the beginning, to give all things to the poor, but because we have become the stewards of unrighteousness, wickedly retaining what was appointed for the aid of others, we must not surely remain in this cruelty, but distribute to the poor, that we may be received by them into everlasting habitations. For it follows, That, when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

GREG. But if through their friendship we obtain everlasting habitations, we ought to calculate that when we give we rather offer presents to patrons, than bestow benefits upon he needy.

AUG. For who are they that shall have everlasting habitations but the saints of God? and who are they that are to be received by them into everlasting habitations but they who administer to their want, and whatsoever they have need of, gladly supply. They are those little ones of Christ, who have forsaken all that belonged to them and followed Him; and whatsoever they had have given to the poor, that they might serve God without earthly shackles, and freeing their shoulders from the burdens of the world, might raise them aloft as with wings.

AUG. We must not then understand those by whom we wish to be received into everlasting habitations to be as it were debtors of God; seeing that the just and holy are signified in this place, who cause those to enter in, who administered to their necessity of their own worldly goods.

AMBROSE; Or else, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that by giving to the poor we may purchase the favor of angels and all the saints.

CHRYS. Mark also that He said not, "that they may receive you into their own habitations." For it is not they who receive you. Therefore when He said, Make to yourselves friends, he added, of the mammon of unrighteousness, to show, that their friendship will not alone protect us unless good works accompany us, unless we righteously cast away all riches unrighteously amassed. The most skillful then of all arts is that of almsgiving. For it builds not for us houses of mud, but lays up in store an everlasting life. Now in each of the arts one needs the support of another; but when we ought to show mercy, we need nothing else but the will alone.

CYRIL; Thus then Christ taught those who abound in riches, earnestly to love the friendship of the poor, and to have treasure in heaven. But He knew the sloth of the human mind, how that they who court riches bestow no work of charity upon the needy. That to such men there results no profit of spiritual gifts, He shows by obvious examples, adding, He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.

Now our Lord opens to us the eye of the heart, explaining what He had said, adding, If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteousness mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? That which is least then is the mammon of unrighteousness, that is, earthly riches, which seem nothing to those that are heavenly wise. I think then that a man is faithful in a little, when he imparts aid to those who are bowed down with sorrow. If then we have been unfaithful in a little thing, how shall we obtain from hence the true riches, that is, the fruitful gift of Divine grace, impressing the image of God on the human soul?

But that our Lord’s words incline to this meaning is plain from the following; for He says, And if you have not been faithful in that which is another man’s who shall give you that which is your own?

AMBROSE; Riches are foreign to us, because they are something beyond nature, they are not born with us, and they do not pass away with us. But Christ is ours, because He is the life of man. Lastly, He came to His own.

THEOPHYL. Thus then hitherto He has taught us how faithfully we ought to dispose of our wealth. But because the management of our wealth according to God is no otherwise obtained than by the indifference of a mind unaffected towards riches, He adds, No man can serve two masters.

AMBROSE; Not because the Lord is two, but one. For although there are who serve mammon, yet he knows no rights of lordship; but has himself placed upon himself a yoke of servitude. There is one Lord, because there is one God. Hence it is evident, that the power of the Father and the Son is one and He assigns a reason, thus saying, For either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.

AUG. But these things were not spoken indifferently or at random. For no one when asked whether he loves the devil, answers that he loves him, but rather that he hates him; but all generally proclaim that they love God. Therefore either he will hate the one, (that is, the devil,) and love the other, (that is, God;) or will hold to the one, (that is, the devil, when he pursues as it were temporal wants,) and will despise the other, (that is, God,) as when men frequently neglect His threats for their desires, who because of His goodness flatter themselves that they will have impunity.

CYRIL; But the conclusion of the whole discourse is what follows, You cannot serve God and man. Let us then transfer all our devotions to the one, forsaking riches.

BEDE; Let then the covetous hear this, that we can not at the same time serve Christ and riches; and yet He said not, "Who has riches," but, who serves riches; for he who is the servant of riches, watches them as a servant; but he who has shaken off the yoke of servitude, dispenses them as a master; but he who serves mammon, verily serves him who is set over those earthly things as the reward of his iniquity, and is called the prince of this world.

Verses 14-18

Ver 14. And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.15. And he said to them, you are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knows your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.16. The Law and the Prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presses into it.17. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.18. Whosoever puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery: and whosoever marries her that is put away from her husband commits adultery.

BEDE; Christ had told the Pharisees not to boast of their own righteousness, but to receive penitent sinners, and to redeem their sins by almsgiving. But they derided the Preacher of mercy, humility, and frugality; as it is said, And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard these things; and derided him: it may be for two reasons, either because He commanded what was not sufficiently profitable, or cast blame upon their past superfluous actions.

THEOPHYL. But the Lord detecting in them a hidden malice, proves that they make a presence of righteousness. Therefore it is added, And he said to them, you are they which justify yourselves before men.

BEDE; They justify themselves before men who despise sinners as in a weak and hopeless condition, but fancy themselves to be perfect and not to need the remedy of almsgiving; but how justly the depth of deadly pride is to be condemned, He sees who will enlighten the hidden places of darkness. Hence it follows, But God knows your hearts.

THEOPHYL. And therefore you are an abomination to Him because of your arrogance, and love of seeking after the praise of men; as He adds, For that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

BEDE; Now the Pharisees derided our Savior disputing against covetousness, as if He taught things contrary to the Law and the Prophets, in which many very rich men are said to have pleased God; but Moses also himself promised that the people whom he ruled, if they followed the Law, should abound in all earthly goods. These the Lord answers by showing that between the Law and the Gospel, as in these promises so also in the commands, there is not the slightest difference. Hence He adds, The Law and the Prophets were until John.

AMBROSE; Not that the Law failed, but that the preaching of the Gospel began, for that which is inferior seems to be completed when a better succeeds.

CHRYS. He hereby disposes them readily to believe on Him, because if as far as John’s time all things were complete, I am He who am come. For the Prophets had not ceased unless I had come; but you will say, "how" were the Prophets until John, since there have been many more Prophets in the New than the Old Testament. But He spoke of those prophets who foretold Christ’s coming.

EUSEB. Now the ancient prophets knew the preaching of the kingdom of heaven, but none of them had expressly announced it to the Jewish people, because the Jews having a childish understanding were unequal to the preaching of what is infinite. But John first openly preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, as well as also the remission of sins by the laver of regeneration. Hence it follows, Since that time the kingdom of heaven is preached, and every one presses into it.

AMBROSE; For the Law delivered many things according to nature, as being more indulgent to our natural desires, that it might call us to the pursuit of righteousness. Christ breaks through nature as cutting off even our natural pleasures. But therefore we keep under nature, that it should not sink us down to earthly things, but raise us to heavenly.

EUSEB. A great struggle befalls men in their ascent to heaven. For that men clothed with mortal flesh should be able to subdue pleasure and every unlawful appetite, desiring to imitate the life of angels, must be compassed with violence. But who that looking upon those who labor earnestly in the service of God, and almost put to death their flesh, will not in reality confess that they do violence to the kingdom of heaven.

AUG. They also do violence to the kingdom of heaven, in that they not only despise all temporal things, but also the tongues of those who desire their doing so. This the Evangelist added, when he said that Jesus was derided when He spoke of despising earthly riches.

BEDE; But lest they should suppose that in His words, the Law and the Prophets were until John, He preached the destruction of the Law or the Prophets, He obviates such a notion, adding, And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law should fail. For it is written, the fashion of this world passes away. But of the Law, not even the very extreme point of one letter, that is, not even the least things are destitute of spiritual sacraments. And yet the Law and the Prophets were until John, because that could always he prophesied as about to come, which by the preaching of John it was clear had come.

But that which He spoke beforehand concerning the perpetual inviolability of the Law, He confirms by one testimony taken therefrom for the sake of example, saying, Whosoever puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery: and whosoever marries her that is put away from her husband, commits adultery; that from this one instance they should learn that He came not to destroy but to fulfill the commands of the Law.

THEOPHYL. For that to the imperfect the Law spoke imperfectly is plain from what he says to the hard hearts of the Jews, "If a man hate his wife, let him put her away," because since they were murderers and rejoiced in blood, they had no pity even upon those who were united to them, so that they slew their sons and daughters for devils. But now there is need of a more perfect doctrine. Wherefore I say, that if a man puts away his wife, having no excuse of fornication, he commits adultery, and he who marries another commits adultery.

AMBROSE; But we must first speak, I think, of the law of marriage, that we may afterwards discuss the forbidding of divorce. Some think that all marriage is sanctioned by God, because it is written, Whom God has joined, let not man put asunder. How then does the Apostle say, If the unbelieving depart, let him depart? Herein he shows that the marriage of all is not from God. For neither by God’s approval are Christians joined with Gentiles. Do not then put away your wife, lest you deny God to be the Author of your union. For if others, much more ought you to bear with and correct the behavior of your wife. And if she is sent away pregnant with children, it is a hard thing to shut out the parent and keep the pledge; so as to add to the parents’ disgrace the loss also of filial affection. Harder still if because of the mother you drive away the children also. Would you suffer in your lifetime your children to be under a step-father, or when the mother was alive to be under a step-mother? How dangerous to expose to error the tender age of a young wife. How wicked to desert in old age one, the flower of whose growth you have blighted. Suppose that being divorced she does not marry, this also ought to be displeasing to you, to whom though an adulterer, she keeps her troth. Suppose she marries, her necessity is your crime, and that which you suppose marriage, is adultery.

But to understand it morally. Having just before set forth that the kingdom of God is preached, and said that one tittle could not fall from the Law, He added, Whosoever puts away his wife, &c. Christ is the husband; whomsoever then God has brought to His son, let not persecution sever, nor lust entice, nor philosophy spoil, nor heretics taint, nor Jew seduce. Adulterers are all such as desire to corrupt truth, faith, and wisdom.

Verses 19-21

Ver 19. There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:20. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,21. And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

BEDE; Our Lord had just before advised the making friends of the Mammon of unrighteousness, which the Pharisees derided. He next confirms by examples what he had set before them, saying, There was a certain rich man, &c.

CHRYS. There was, not is, because he had passed away as a fleeting shadow.

AMBROSE; But not all poverty is holy, or all riches criminal, but as luxury disgraces riches, so does holiness commend poverty.

It follows, And be was clothed in purple and fine linen.

BEDE; Purple, the color of the royal robe, is obtained from sea shells, which are scraped with a knife. Byssus is a kind of white and very fine linen.

GREG. Now if the wearing of fine and precious robes were not a fault, word of God would never have so carefully expressed this. For no one seeks costly garments except for vainglory, that he may seem more honorable than others; for no one wishes to be clothed with such, where he cannot be seen by others.

CHRYS. Ashes, dust, and earth he covered with purple, and silk; or ashes, dust, and earth bore upon them purple and silk. As his garments were, so was also his food. Therefore with us also as our food is, such let our clothing be Hence it follows, And he fared sumptuously everyday.

GREG. And here we must narrowly watch ourselves, seeing that banquets can scarcely be celebrated blamelessly, for almost always luxury accompanies feasting; and when the body is swallowed up in the delight of refreshing itself, the heart relaxes to empty joys.

It follows, And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus.AMBROSE; This seems rather a narrative than a parable, since the name is also expressed.

CHRYS. But a parable is that in which an example is given, while the names are omitted. Lazarus is interpreted, "one who was assisted." For he was poor, and the Lord helped him.

CYRIL; Or else; This discourse concerning the rich man and Lazarus was written after the manner of a comparison in a parable, to declare that they who abound in earthly riches, unless they will relieve the necessities of the poor, shall meet with a heavy condemnation. But the tradition of the Jews relates that there was at that time in Jerusalem a certain Lazarus who was afflicted with extreme poverty and sickness, whom our Lord remembering, introduces him into the example for the sake of adding greater point to His words.

GREG. We must observe also, that among the heathen the names of poor men are more likely to be known than of rich. Now our Lord mentions the name of the poor, but not the name of the rich, because God knows and approves the humble, but not the proud. But that the poor man might be more approved, poverty and sickness were at the same time consuming him; as it follows, who was laid at his gate full of sores.

PSEUDO-CHRYS. He lay at his gate for this reason, that the rich might not say, I never saw him, no one told me; for he saw him both going out and returning. The poor is full of sores, that so he might set forth in his own body the cruelty of the rich. You see the death of your body lying before the gate, and you pity not. If you regard not the commands of God, at least have compassion on your own state, and fear lest also you become such as he. But sickness has some comfort if it receives help. How great then was the punishment in that body, in which with such wounds he remembered not the pain of his sores, but only his hunger; for it follows, desiring to be fed with the crumbs, &c. As if he said, What you throw away from your table, afford for alms, make your losses gain.

AMBROSE; But the insolence and pride of the wealthy is manifested afterwards by the clearest tokens, for it follows, and no one gave to him. For so unmindful are they of the condition of mankind, that as if placed above nature they derive from the wretchedness of the poor an incitement to their own pleasure, they laugh at the destitute, they mock the needy, and rob those whom they ought to pity.

AUG. For the covetousness of the rich is insatiable, it neither fears God nor regards man, spares not a father, keeps not its fealty to a friend, oppresses the widow, attacks the property of a ward.

GREG. Moreover the poor man saw the rich as he went forth surrounded by flatterers, while he himself lay in sickness and want, visited by no one. For that no one came to visit him, the dogs witness, who fearlessly licked his sores, for it follows, moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

PSEUDO-CHRYS. Those sores which no man deigned to wash and dress, the beasts tenderly lick.

GREG. By one thing Almighty God displayed two judgments. He permitted Lazarus to lie before the rich man’s gate, both that the wicked rich man might increase the vengeance of his condemnation, and the poor man by his trials enhance his reward; the one saw daily him on whom he should show mercy, the other that for which he might be approved.

Verses 22-26

Ver 22. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;23. And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.24. And 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.25. But Abraham said, Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and you are tormented.26. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

PSEUDO-CHRYS. We have heard how both fared on earth, let us see what their condition is among the dead. That which was temporal has passed away; that which follows is eternal. Both died; the one angels receive, the other torments; for it is said, And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels, &c. Those great sufferings are suddenly exchanged for bliss. He is carried after all his labors, because he had fainted, or at least that he might not tire by walking; and he was carried by angels. One angel was not sufficient to carry the poor man, but many come, that they may make a joyful band, each angel rejoicing to touch so great a burden. Gladly do they thus encumber themselves, that so they may bring men to the kingdom of heaven

But he was carried into Abraham’s bosom, that he might be embraced and cherished by him; Abraham’s bosom is Paradise. And the ministering angels carried the poor man, and placed him in Abraham’s bosom, because though he lay despised, he yet despaired not nor blasphemed, saying, This rich man living in wickedness is happy and suffers no tribulation, but I cannot get even food to supply my wants.

AUG. Now as to your thinking Abraham’s bosom to be any thing bodily, I am afraid lest you should be thought to treat so weighty a matter rather lightly than seriously. For you could never be guilty of such folly, as to suppose the corporeal bosom of one man able to hold so many souls, nay, to use your own words, so many bodies as the Angels carry thither as they did Lazarus. But perhaps you imagine that one soul to have alone deserved to come to that bosom. If you would not fall into a childish mistake, you must understand Abraham’s bosom to be a retired and hidden resting-place where Abraham is; and therefore called Abraham’s, not that it is his alone, but because he is the father of many nations, and placed first, that others might imitate his preeminence of faith.

GREG. When the two men were below on earth, that is, the poor and the rich, there was one above who saw into their hearts, and by trials exercised the poor man to glory, by endurance awaited the rich man to punishment. Hence it follows, The rich man also cried.

CHRYS. He died then indeed in body, but his soul was dead before. For he did none of the works of the soul. All that warmth which issues from the love of our neighbor had fled, and he was more dead than his body. But no one is spoken of as having ministered to the rich man’s burial as to that of Lazarus. Because when he lived pleasantly in the broad road, he had many busy flatterers; when he came to his end, all forsook him. For it simply follows, and was buried in hell. But his soul also when living was buried, enshrined in its body as it were in a tomb.

AUG. The burial in hell is the lowest depth of torment which after this life devours the proud and unmerciful.

PSEUDO-BASIL. Hell is a certain common place in the interior of the earth, shaded on all sides and dark, in which there is a kind of opening stretching downward, through which lies the descent of the souls who are condemned to perdition.

PSEUDO-CHRYS. Or as the prisons of kings are placed at a distance without, so also hell is somewhere far off without the world, and hence it is called the outer darkness.

THEOPHYL. But some say that hell is the passing from the visible to the invisible, and the unfashioning of the soul. For as long as the soul of the sinner is in the body, it is visible by means of its own operations. But when it flies out of the body, it becomes shapeless.

CHRYS. As it made the poor man’s affliction heavier while he lived to lie before the rich man’s gate, and to behold the prosperity of others, so when the rich man was dead it added to his desolation, that he lay in hell and saw the happiness of Lazarus, feeling not only by the nature of His own torments, but also by the comparison of Lazarus’s honor, his own punishment the more intolerable. Hence it follows, But lifting up his eyes. He lifted up his eyes that he might look on him, not despise him; for Lazarus was above, he below. Many angels carried Lazarus; he was seized by endless torments. Therefore it is not said, being in torment, but torments. For he was wholly in torments, his eyes alone were free, so that he might behold the joy of another. His eyes are allowed to be free that he may be the more tortured, not having that which another has. The riches of others are the torments of those who are in poverty.

GREG. Now if Abraham sate below, the rich man placed in torments would not see him. For they who have followed the path to the heavenly country, when they leave the flesh, are kept back by the gates of hell; not that punishment smites them as sinners, but that resting in some more remote places, (for the intercession of the Mediator was not yet come,) the guilt of their first fault prevents them from entering the kingdom.

CHRYS. There were many poor righteous men, but he who lay at his door met his sight to add to his woe. For it follows, And Lazarus in his bosom. It may here be observed, that all who are offended by us are exposed to our view. But the rich man sees Lazarus not with any other righteous man, but in Abraham’s bosom. For Abraham was full of love, but the man is convicted of cruelty. Abraham sitting before his door followed after those that passed by, and brought them into his house, the other turned away even them that abode within his gate.

GREG. And this rich man forsooth, now fixed in his doom, seeks as his patron him to whom in this life he would not show mercy.

THEOPHYL. He does not however direct his words to Lazarus, but to Abraham, because he was perhaps ashamed, and thought Lazarus would remember his injuries; but he judged of him from himself. Hence it follows, And he cried and said.

PSEUDO-CHRYS. Great punishments give forth a great cry. Father Abraham. As if he said, I call you father by nature, as the son who wasted his living, although by my own fault I have lost you as a father. Have mercy on me. In vain you work repentance, when there is no place for repentance; your torments drive you to act the penitent, not the desires of your soul. He who is in the kingdom of heaven, I know not whether he can have compassion on him who is in hell. The Creator pities His creature. There came one Physician who was to heal all; others could not heal. Send Lazarus. You err, wretched man. Abraham cannot send, but he can receive. To dip the tip of his finger in water. You would not deign to look upon Lazarus, and now you desire his finger. What you seek now, you ought to have done to him when alive. You are in want of water, who before despised delicate food. Mark the conscience of the sinner; he durst not ask for the whole of the finger. We are instructed also how good a thing it is not to trust in riches. See the rich man in need of the poor who was before starving. Things are changed, and it is now made known to all who was rich and who was poor. For as in the theaters, when it grows towards evening, and the spectators depart, then going out, and laying aside their dresses, they who seemed kings and generals are seen as they really are, the sons of gardeners and fig-sellers. So also when death is come, and the spectacle is over, and all the masks of poverty and riches are put off, by their works alone are men judged, which are truly rich, which poor, which are worthy of honor, which of dishonor.

GREG. For that rich man who would not give to the poor man even the scraps of his table, being in hell came to beg for even the least thing. For he sought for a drop of water, who refused to give a crumb of bread.

BASIL; But he receives a meet reward, fire and the torments of hell; the parched tongue; for the tuneful lyre, wailing; for drink, the intense longing for a drop; for curious or wanton spectacles, profound darkness; for busy flattery, the undying worm. Hence it follows, That he may cool my tongue, for I am tormented in the flame.

CHRYS. But not because he was rich was he tormented, but because he was not merciful.

GREG. We may gather from this, with what torments he will be punished who robs another, if he is smitten with the condemnation to hell, who does not distribute what is his own.

AMBROSE; He is tormented also because to the luxurious man it is a punishment to be without his pleasures; water is also a refreshment to the soul which is set fast in sorrow.

GREG. But what means it, that when in torments he desires his tongue to be cooled, except that at his feasts having sinned in talking, now by the justice of retribution, his tongue was in fierce flame; for talkativeness is generally rife at the banquet.

CHRYS. His tongue too had spoken many proud things. Where the sin is, there is the punishment; and because the tongue offended much, it is the more tormented.

CHRYS. Or, in that he wishes his tongue to be cooled, when he was altogether burning in the flame, that is signified which is written, Death and life are in the hands of the tongue, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation; which from pride he did not do, but the tip of the finger means the very least work in which a man is assisted by the Holy Spirit.

AUG. You say that the members of the soul are here described, and by the eye you would have the whole head understood, because he was said to lift up his eyes; by the tongue, the jaws; by the finger, the hand. But what is the reason that those names of members when spoken of God do not to your mind imply a body, but when of the soul they do? It is that when spoken of the creature they are to be taken literally, but when of the Creator metaphorically and figuratively. Will you then give us bodily wings, seeing that not the Creator, but man, that is, the creature, says, If I take not the wings in the morning? Besides, if the rich man had a bodily tongue, because he said, to cool my tongue, in us also who live in the flesh, the tongue itself has bodily hands, for it is written, Death and life are in the hands of the tongue.

GREG. NYSS.. As the most excellent of mirrors represents an image of the face, just such as the face itself which is opposite to it, a joyful image of that which is joyful, a sorrowful of that which is sorrowful; so also is the just judgment of God adapted to our dispositions. Wherefore the rich man because he pitied not the poor as he lay at his gate, when he needs mercy for himself, is not heard, for it follows, And Abraham said to him, Son, &c.

CHRYS. Behold the kindness of the Patriarch; he calls him son, (which may express his tenderness,) Yet gives no aid to him who had deprived himself of cure. Therefore he says, Remember, that is, consider the past, forget not that you delighted in your riches, and you received good things in your life, that is, such as you thought to be good. You could not both have triumphed on earth, and triumph here. Riches can not be true both on earth and below. It follows, And Lazarus likewise evil things; not that Lazarus thought them evil, but he spoke this according to the opinion of the rich man, who thought poverty, and hunger, and severe sickness, evils. When the heaviness of sickness harasses us, let us think of Lazarus, and joyfully accept evil things in this life.

AUG. All this then is said to Him because he chose the happiness of the world, and loved no other life but that in which he proudly boasted; but he says, Lazarus received evil things, because he knew that the perishableness of this life, its labors, sorrows, and sickness, are the penalty of sin, for we all die in Adam who by transgression was made liable to death.

CHRYS. He says, You received good things in your life, (as if your due;) as though he said, If you have done any good thing for which a reward might be due, you have received all things in that world, living luxuriously, abounding in riches, enjoying the pleasure of prosperous undertakings; but he if he committed any evil has received all, afflicted with poverty, hunger, and the depths of wretchedness. And each of you came hither naked; Lazarus indeed of sin, wherefore he receives his consolation; you of righteous wherefore you endure your inconsolable punishment; and hence it follows, But now he is comforted, and you are tormented.

GREG. Whatsoever then you have well in this world, when you recollect to have done any thing good, be very fearful about it, lest the prosperity granted you be your recompense for the same good. And when you behold poor men doing any thing blameably, fear not, seeing that perhaps those whom the remains of the slightest iniquity defiles, the fire of honesty cleanses.

CHRYS. But you will say, Is there no one who shall enjoy pardon, both here and there? This is indeed a hard thing, and among those which are impossible. For should poverty press not, ambition urges; if sickness provoke not, anger inflames; if temptations assail not, corrupt thoughts often overwhelm. It is no slight toil to bridle anger, to check unlawful desires, to subdue the swellings of vain-glory, to quell pride or haughtiness, to lead a severe life. He that does not these things, can not be saved.

GREG. It may also be answered, that evil men receive in this life good things, because they place their whole joy in transitory happiness, but the righteous may indeed have good things here, yet not receive them for reward, because while they seek better things, that is, eternal, in their judgment whatever good things are present seem by no means good.

CHRYS. But after the mercy of God, we must seek in our own endeavors for hope of salvation, not in numbering fathers, or relations, or friends. For brother does not deliver brother; and therefore it is added, And beside all this between us and you there is a great gulf fixed.

THEOPHYL. The great gulf signifies the distance of the righteous from sinners. For as their affections were different, so also their abiding places do not slightly differ.

CHRYS. The gulf is said to be fixed, because it cannot be loosened, moved, or shaken.

AMBROSE; Between the rich and the poor then there is a great gulf, because after death rewards cannot be changed. Hence it follows, So that they who would pass from hence to you cannot, nor come thence to us.

CHRYS. As if he says, We can see, we cannot pass; and we see what we have escaped, you what you have lost; our joys enhance your torments, your torments our joys.

GREG. For as the wicked desire to pass over to the elect, that is, to depart from the pangs of their sufferings, so to the afflicted and tormented would the just pass in their mind by compassion, and wish to set them free. But the souls of the just, although in the goodness of their nature they feel compassion, after being united to the righteousness of their Author, are constrained by such great uprightness as not to be moved with compassion towards the reprobate. Neither then do the unrighteous pass over to the lot of the blessed, because they are bound in everlasting condemnation, nor can the righteous pass to the reprobate, because being now made upright by the righteousness of judgment, they in no way pity them from any compassion.

THEOPHYL. You may from this derive an argument against the followers of Origen, who say, that since an end is to be placed to punishments, there will be a time when sinners shall be gathered to the righteous and to God.

AUG. For it is shown by the unchangeableness of the Divine sentence, that no aid of mercy can be rendered to men by the righteous, even though they should wish to give it; by which he reminds us, that in this life men should relieve those they can, since hereafter even if they be well received, they would not be able to give help to those they love. For that which was written, that they may receive you into everlasting habitations, was not said of the proud and unmerciful, but of those who have made to themselves friends by their works of mercy, whom the righteous receive, not as if by their own power benefiting them, but by Divine permission.

Verses 27-31

Ver 27. Then he said, I pray you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house:28. For I have five brethren; that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment.29. Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.30. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will repent.31. And he said to him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

GREG. When the rich man in flames found that all hope was taken away from him, his mind turns to those relations whom he had left behind, as it is said, Then said he, I pray you therefore, father Abraham, to send him to my father’s house.

AUG. He asks that Lazarus should be sent, because he felt himself unworthy to offer testimony to the truth. And as he had not obtained even to be cooled for a little while, much less does he expect to be set free from hell for the preaching of the truth.

CHRYS. Now mark his perverseness; not even in the midst of his torments does he keep to truth. If Abraham is your father, how say you, Send him to your father’s house? But you have not forgotten your father, for he has been your ruin.

GREG. The hearts of the wicked are sometimes by their own punishment taught the exercise of charity, but in vain; so that they indeed have an especial love to their own, who while attached to their sins did not love themselves. Hence it follows, For I have five brethren, that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment.

AMBROSE; But it is too late for the rich man to begin to be master, when he has no longer time for learning or teaching.

GREG. And here we must remark what fearful sufferings are heaped upon the rich man in flames. For in addition to his punishment, his knowledge and memory are preserved. He knew Lazarus whom he despised, he remembered his brethren whom he left. For that sinners in punishment may be still more punished, they both see the glory of those whom they had despised, and are harassed about the punishment of those whom they have unprofitably loved. But to the rich man seeking Lazarus to be sent to them, Abraham immediately answers, as follows, Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.

CHRYS. As if he said, your brethren are not so much your care as God’s, who created them, and appointed them teachers to admonish and urge them. But by Moses and the Prophets, he here means the Mosaic and prophetic writings.

AMBROSE; In this place our Lord most plainly declares the Old Testament to be the ground of faith, thwarting the treachery of the Jews, and precluding the iniquity of Heretics.

GREG. But he who had despised the words of God, supposed that his followers could not hear them. Hence it is added, And he said, Nay, father Abraham, but if one went to them from the dead they would repent. For when he heard the Scriptures he despised them, and thought them fables, and therefore according to what he felt himself, he judged the like of his brethren.

GREG. NYSS.. But we are also taught something besides, that the soul of Lazarus is neither anxious about present things, nor looks back to aught that it has left behind, but the rich man, (as it were caught by birdlime,) even after death is held down by his carnal life. For a man who becomes altogether carnal in his heart, not even after he has put off his body is out of the reach of his passions.

GREG. But soon the rich man is answered in the words of truth; for it follows, And he said to him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe though one rose from the dead. For they who despise the words of the Law, will find the commands of their Redeemer who rose from the dead, as they are more sublime, so much the more difficult to fulfill.

CHRYS. But that it is true that he who hears not the Scriptures, takes no heed to the dead who rise again, the Jews have testified, who at one time indeed wished to kill Lazarus, but at another laid hands upon the Apostles, notwithstanding that some had risen from the dead at the hour of the Cross. Observe this also, that every dead man is a servant, but whatever the Scriptures say, the Lord says. Therefore let it be that dead men should rise again, and an angel descend from heaven, the Scriptures are more worthy of credit than all. For the Lord of Angels, the Lord as well of the living and the dead, is their author. But if God knew this that the dead rising again, profited the living, He would not have omitted it, seeing that He disposes all things for our advantage. Again, if the dead were often to rise again, this too would in time be disregarded. And the devil also would easily insinuate perverse doctrines, devising resurrection also by means of his own instruments, not indeed really raising up the deceased, but by certain delusions deceiving the sight of the beholders, or contriving, that is, setting up some to pretend death.

AUG. But some one may say, If the dead have no care for the living, how did the rich man ask Abraham, that he should send Lazarus to his five brethren? But because he said this, did the rich man therefore know what his brethren were doing, or what was their condition at that time? His care about the living was such that he might yet be altogether ignorant what they were doing, just as we care about the dead, although we know nothing of what they do. But again the question occurs, How did Abraham know that Moses and the prophets are here in their books? Whence also had he known that the rich man had lived in luxury, but Lazarus in affliction. Not surely when these things were going on in their lifetime, but at their death he might know through Lazarus’ telling him, that in order that might not be false which the prophet says; Abraham heard us not. The dead might also hear something from the angels who are ever present at the things which are done here. They might also know some things which it was necessary for them to have known, not only past, but also future, through the revelation of the Church of God.

AUG. But these things may be so taken in allegory, that by the rich man we understand the proud Jews ignorant of the righteousness of God, and going about to establish their own. The purple and fine linen are the grandeur of the kingdom. And the kingdom of God (he says) shall be taken away from you. The sumptuous feasting is the boasting of the Law, in which they gloried, rather abusing it to swell their pride, than using it as the necessary means of salvation. But the beggar, by name Lazarus, which is interpreted "assisted," signifies want; as, for instance, some Gentile, or Publican, who is all the more relieved, as he presumes less on the abundance of his resources.

GREG. Lazarus then full of sores, figuratively represents the Gentile people, who when turned to God, were not ashamed to confess their sins. Their wound was in the skin. For what is confession of sins but a certain bursting forth of wounds. But Lazarus, full of wounds, desired to be fed by the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table, and no one gave to him; because that proud people disdained to admit any Gentile to the knowledge of the Law, and words flowed down to him from knowledge, as the crumbs fell from the table.

AUG. But the dogs which licked the poor man’s sores are those most wicked men who loved sin, who with a large tongue cease not to praise the evil works, which another loathes, groaning in himself, and confessing.

GREG. Sometimes also in the holy Word by dogs are understood preachers; according to that, That the tongue of your dogs may be red by the very blood of your enemies; for the tongue of dogs while it licks the wound heals it; for holy teachers, when they instruct us in confession of sin, touch as it were by the tongue the soul’s wound. The rich man was buried in hell, but Lazarus was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom, that is, into that secret rest of which the truth says, Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall lie down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom shall be cast into outer darkness. But being afar off, the rich man lifted up his eyes to behold Lazarus, because the unbelievers while they suffer the sentence of their condemnation, lying in the deep, fix their eyes upon certain of the faithful, abiding before the day of the last Judgment in rest above them, whose bliss afterwards they would in no wise contemplate. But that which they behold is afar off, for thither they cannot attain by their merits. But he is described to burn chiefly in his tongue, because the unbelieving people held in their mouth the word of the Law, which in their deeds they despised to keep. In that part then a man will have most burning wherein he most of all shows he knew that which he refused to do. Now Abraham calls him his son, whom at the same time he delivers not from torments; because the fathers of this unbelieving people, observing that many have gone aside from their faith, are not moved with any compassion to rescue them from torments, whom nevertheless they recognize as sons.

AUG. By the five brothers whom he says he has in his father’s house, he means the Jews who were called five, because they were bound under the Law, which was given by Moses who wrote five books.

CHRYS. Or he had five brothers, that is, the five senses, to which he was before a slave, and therefore he could not love Lazarus because his brethren loved not poverty. Those brethren have sent you into these torments, they cannot be saved unless they die; otherwise it must needs be that the brethren dwell with their brother. But why seek you that I should send Lazarus? They have Moses and the Prophets. Moses was the poor Lazarus who counted the poverty of Christ greater than the riches of Pharaoh. Jeremiah, cast into the dungeon, was fed on the bread of affliction; and all the prophets teach those brethren. But those brethren cannot be saved unless some one rise from the dead. For those brethren, before Christ was risen, brought me to death; He is dead, but those brethren have risen again. For my eye sees Christ, my ear hears Him, my hands handle Him. From what we have said then, we determine the fit place for Marcion and Manichaeus, who destroy the Old Testament. See what Abraham says, If they hear not Moses and the prophets. As though he said, you do well by expecting Him who is to rise again; but in them Christ speaks. If you will hear them, you will hear Him also.

GREG. But the Jewish people, because they disdained to spiritually understand the words of Moses, did not come to Him of whom Moses had spoken.

AMBROSE; Or else, Lazarus is poor in this world, but rich to God; for not all poverty is holy, nor all riches vile, but as luxury disgraces riches, so holiness commends poverty. Or is there any Apostolical man, poor in speech, but rich in faith, who keeps the true faith, requiring not the appendage of words. To such a one I liken him who ofttimes beaten by the Jews offered the wounds of his body to be licked as it were by certain dogs. Blessed dogs, to whom the dropping from such wounds so falls as to fill the heart and mouth of those whose office it is to guard the house, preserve the flock, keep off the wolf ! And because the word is bread, our faith is of the word; the crumbs are as it were certain doctrines of the faith, that is to say, the mysteries of the Scriptures. But the Arians, who court the alliance of regal power that they may assail the truth of the Church, do not they seem to you to be in purple and fine linen? And these, when they defend the counterfeit instead of the truth, abound in flowing discourses. Rich heresy has composed many Gospels, and poor faith has kept this single Gospel, which it had received. Rich philosophy has made itself many gods, the poor Church has known only one. Do not those riches seem to you to be poor, and that poverty to be rich?

AUG. Again also that story may be so understood, as that we should take Lazarus to mean our Lord; lying at the gate of the rich man, because he condescended to the proud ears of the Jews in the lowliness of His incarnation; desiring to be fed from the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table, that is, seeking from them even the least works of righteousness, which through pride they would not use for their own table, (that is, their own power,) which works, although very slight and without the discipline of perseverance in a good life, sometimes at least they might do by chance, as crumbs frequently fall from the table. The wounds are the sufferings of our Lord, the dogs who licked them are the Gentiles, whom the Jews called unclean, and yet, with the sweetest odor of devotion, they lick the sufferings of our Lord in the Sacraments of His Body and Blood throughout the whole world. Abraham’s bosom is understood to be the hiding place of the Father, whither after His Passion our Lord rising again was taken up, whither He was said to be carried by the angels, as it seems to me, because that reception by which Christ reached the Father’s secret place the angels announced to the disciples. The rest may be taken according to the former explanation, because that is well understood to be the Father’s secret place, where even before the resurrection the souls of the righteous live with God.

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Bibliographical Information
Aquinas, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 16". "Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospel".