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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Luke 16

 

 

Verse 1

And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.

No indication is given of the time and occasion of these two parables-as usual in this portion of our Gospel. (See opening remarks at Luke 9:51.) But they appear to be in their natural order after the preceding, and a certain distant connection with them has been traced.

This parable has occasioned more discussion and diversity of opinion than all the rest. But judicious interpreters are now pretty much agreed as to its general import.

And he said also unto his disciples - not the Twelve exclusively, but His followers in the wider sense:

There was a certain rich man - denoting the Great Lord of all, "the most high God, Possessor of heaven and earth,"

Which had a steward , [ oikonomon (Greek #3623)] - the manager of his estate; representing all who have gifts divinely committed to their trust, and so answering pretty nearly to the "servants" in the parable of the Talents, to whom were committed their lord's "goods."

And the same was accused [ diebleethee (G1225)] unto him that he had wasted his goods , [ diaskorpizoon (Greek #1287)] - rather, 'was wasting his goods.' The word signifies to 'scatter,' and so to 'waste.' Information to this effect was lodged with his master.


Verse 2

And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.

And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? And thus does God from time to time-now by startling providences, and now in the secret whispers of conscience-charge home its abuse of gifts, and manifold guilt, very sharply upon the soul.

Give an account of thy stewardship - render up whatever has been entrusted to thee, that I may transfer it to other hands, "for thou mayest be no longer steward."


Verse 3

Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.

Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship. His guilt is tacitly admitted, and his one question now is, what is to become of him?

I cannot dig - brought up as I have been to higher work.

To beg I am ashamed - his pride could not stand that. What, then, was to be done to prevent starvation?


Verse 4

I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.

I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses - `in grateful return for the services I am going to do them.' Thus his one object was, when cast out of one home to secure another. This will be found to be the great lesson of the parable.


Verse 5

So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?

So he called everyone of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first. How much owest thou unto my lord?


Verse 6

And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.

And he said, An hundred measures of oil , [ batous (Greek #943)]. The word indicates a prodigious debt.

And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly (the business being urgent), and write fifty - `write a receipt for only half that quantity: the master, to be sure, will be defrauded, but he will never discover it, and thus half your debt is wiped out immediately!'


Verse 7

Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.

Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures [ korous (G2884)] of wheat - also a heavy debt.

And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore - or a fifth less than the actual debt. There is nothing of spiritual significance in these amounts. They represent merely the shrewdness with which the steward dealt with each debtor, with sole reference probably to the greater or less ability of each to render a grateful return to himself when cast upon the world.


Verse 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.

And the lord (that is, the steward's lord, as he is expressly called in Luke 16:3; Luke 16:5), commended the unjust steward - not the injustice of the steward; for what master would praise his servant for defrauding him? but he commended the man,

Because he had done wisely , [ fronimoos (Greek #5430)] - 'shrewdly,' 'sagaciously,' 'prudently;' with commendable promptitude, foresight, and skillful adaptation of means to end: for "men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself" (Psalms 49:18).

For - this, now, is the reflection of the glorious Speaker of the parable,

The children of this world are in their generation , [ eis (Greek #1519) teen (Greek #3588) genean (Greek #1074) teen (Greek #3588) heautoon (Greek #1438)] - rather, 'for their own generation;' that is, for the purposes of their own kind, or sort, or class; their own sphere of interest and action,

Wiser , [ fronimooteroi (Greek #5429)] - 'shrewder'

Than the children of [the] light , [ tou (Greek #3588) footos (Greek #5457)]. Let us examine this most weighty saying. It divides all men, according to the all-pervading doctrine of Scripture, into two great classes. The one is called "THE CHILDREN OF THIS WORLD" [ tou (Greek #3588) aioonos (Greek #165) toutou (Greek #5127)] - (see the note at Ephesians 2:2), meaning what we call worldlings. The Psalmist, after calling this class "men of this world," gives the following striking definition of what he means - "who have their portion in this life" (Psalms 17:14); and of the same class the apostle says, they "mind" [ fronountes (Greek #5426)] or 'are taken up with,' "earthly things" (Philippians 3:19). Their whole ambition, whether their inclinations be grovelling or refined, is bounded by the present sphere, and they have no taste for anything, beyond it. The other class are beautifully called "THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT," as being the offspring of supernatural heavenly teaching, for "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). "While ye have the Light [ to (Greek #3588) foos (Greek #5457)], believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light" (John 12:36). "Ye are all the children of the light and of the day" (1 Thessalonians 5:5).

See also Ephesians 5:8. And yet, though the latter class are to the former as superior as light is to darkness, the children of this world have in one point the advantage of the children of light-they excel them in the shrewdness with which they prosecute their proper business. It is not that they are more truly wise; but that in their own sphere they display a sagacity which the children of light may well emulate, and should strive to outdo. Their sphere is indeed a wretched enough one. But let the children of light observe what a definite and firm grasp they take of the objects at which they aim; how shrewdly they adapt their means to their ends, and with what untiring energy, determination, and perseverance they prosecute their purposes. All these are wasted, to be sure, on perishable objects and in fleeting enjoyments. Spiritual and eternal realities are a region they never penetrate-the new life is an air they never breathe, an undiscovered world, an unborn existence: they know nothing, sympathize with nothing, live for nothing but "their own generation." But why should such excel the children of light in anything? This is exactly what our Lord here says they should not; and in giving forth this parable He would stir up our jealousy to roll away that reproach-just as on another occasion He sends us for lessons of this same "wisdom to venomous "serpents" (Matthew 10:16).

Having laid down the great general principle, that 'it is not enough to have a high and holy sphere of action, but there must be such a discreet and determined prosecution of its objects as the children of this world so much excel in'-our Lord now comes to particulars; and, first, to that point of wisdom which the parable most directly illustrates.


Verse 9

And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of [ ek (G1537), rather 'out of'] the mammon of unrighteousness - that is, by the help of it. The word "mammon" [ mamoonas (Greek #3126)] - on which see the note at Matthew 6:24 - stands here just for those riches which the children of this world idolize, or live supremely for; and it is called "the mammon of unrighteousness," or "the unrighteous mammon" (Luke 16:11), apparently because of the unrighteous abuse of it which so prevails. The injunction, then, is to this effect: 'Turn to your own highest advantage those riches which the unrighteous so shamefully abuse, in the spirit of that forecasting sagacity which this unjust steward displayed.'

That when ye fail , [ hotan (Greek #3752) eklipeete (Greek #1587)] - that is, in respect of life: a remarkable expression, but suggested here, as we think, from a certain analogy which our departure from this world has to the breaking up of the steward's comfortable condition, and his being forced to quit, [Lachmann and Tregelles, retaining the same aoristic tense, adopt the singular eklipee (Greek #1587) - 'when it has failed;' while Tischendorf prefers the present tense, ekleipee (Greek #1587), also in the singular-`when it fails.' Meyer and Alford, too, decide in favour of the singular, for which the authority is perhaps greater than for the plural of the received text. But even if we should have to adopt this reading, the sense must be held the same; we must still understand our Lord to speak, on that supposition, of the failure of mammon solely by our removal from the present scene.]

They may receive you - that is, the "friends" ye make by the mammon of unrighteousness.

Into everlasting habitations - into "mansions" more durable than this steward was welcomed into when turned out of doors. But how are these friends to receive us into everlasting habitations? By rising up as witnesses of what we did in their behalf for Jesus' sake.

Thus, the only difference between this view of the saints' admission to heaven and that in our Lord's grand description of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:34-40) is, that there Christ Himself as Judge speaks for them, in the character of omniscient Spectator of their acts of beneficence to "His brethren;" while here, these brethren of Jesus are supposed to be the speakers in their behalf. There, Christ says, "I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat;" for "inasmuch as ye did it unto the least of these my brethren ye did it unto me." Here, these least of Christ's brethren themselves come forward, one after another, saying, 'I was hungry, and that dear saint gave me bread;' 'and I was naked, and that other saint clothed me;' 'and I was sick, and that saint there laid me such heavenly visits;' 'and I was in prison for Thy name's sake, but that fearless one came unto me, and was not ashamed of my chain.' 'And, they did it unto Thee, Lord!' "Come, then," will the King say unto them, "ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."

'Thus, like this steward (so teaches Jesus here), 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-not by the merit of which-men are to be judged (2 Corinthians 5:10). See the notes at Matthew 25:31-40, with the corresponding Remarks at the close of that section.


Verse 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.

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. A maxim of great pregnancy and value; advancing now from the prudence which the steward had, to the fidelity which he had not; to that "harmlessness of the dove" to which "the serpent," with all his "wisdom" or subtilty is a total stranger. But what bearing has this maxim on the subject of our parable? A very close connection. 'As for me (some would say) I have too little of "the unrighteous mammon" to be much interested in, this parable.' 'You are wrong,' is the reply: 'That is the speech of the slothful servant, who, because he was entrusted with but one talent by his master, went and hid it in the earth instead of using it. 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.'


Verse 11

If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?

If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon - or, "the mammon of unrighteousness" (Luke 16:9),

Who will commit to your trust the true riches? - that which makes one truly rich, the riches of the kingdom above.


Verse 12

And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?

And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's - the pecuniary and other earthly means which are but lent us, and must be held at best as only entrusted to us,

Who shall give you that which is your own? This verse gives 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, but use it for God's glory.

No servant can serve (or, be entirely at the command of) two masters. This is true even where there is no hostility between them: how much more where they are in deadly opposition! For either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. This shows that the two masters here intended are such as are in uncompromising hostility to each other. (See on the same saying in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:24.)


Verse 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. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 14

And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.

And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.

[ exeemukteerizon (Greek #1592)] - sneered at Him; their master, sin, being too plainly struck at. But it was easier to ridicule than to refute such teaching.


Verse 15

And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves (make a show of righteousness) before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men - who are easily carried away by plausible appearances (see 1 Samuel 16:7; and Luke 14:11),

Is abomination in the sight of God - who, Himself true, loathes all hypocrisy.


Verse 16

The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.

The Law and the Prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. 'While publicans and sinners are eagerly pressing into the kingdom of God, ye, interested adherents of the mere forms of an economy which is passing away, "discerning not the signs of this time," are allowing the tide to go past you, and will be found a stranded monument of blindness and obstinacy.


Verse 17

And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.

And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the Law to fall. See the notes at Matthew 5:17-18.


Verse 18

Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.

Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. See the notes at Matthew 19:3-9. Far from intending to weaken the force of the law, by these allusions to a new economy, our Lord only sends home, in this unexpected way, its high requirements with a pungency which the Pharisees would not fail to feel.

This parable, being precisely the converse of the former, was evidently spoken immediately after it, and designed to complete the lesson of The Right Use of Riches. As the steward made himself friends out of the mammon of unrighteousness, so this rich man made himself, out of the same mammon, an enemy-in the person of Lazarus-of a kind to make the ears of every one that heareth it to tingle. As, by acting for eternity, in the spirit of this steward for time, the friends we thus make will on our removal from this scene "receive us into everlasting habitations," so by acting, even while professing to be Christians, in the spirit of this rich man, the enemies we thus make will rise up to shut us out for ever from the mansions of the blest. Such is the striking connection between these two parables. This last one, however, is altogether of a higher order and deeper significance than the former. The thin veil-of exclusion from one earthly home only to be followed by admission into others equally earthly-is thrown off; and the awful bearing of the use we now make of the mammon of unrighteousness upon our eternal state is presented before the eye in the light of the eternal flames, insomuch that the lurid glare of the scene abides with even the most cursory reader.


Verse 19

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:

There was a certain rich man , [ Anthroopos (Greek #444) de (Greek #1161) tis (Greek #5100)]. The connecting particle should not have been omitted here-`But there was a certain rich man;' in contrast with the man of the former parable:

Which was clothed in purple and fine linen (See Esther 8:15; Revelation 18:12), and fared sumptuously every day

- wanting for nothing which appetite craved, and taste fancied, and money could procure.


Verse 20

And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,

And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus - equivalent to the Old Testament Eleazer. The naming of this precious saint adds much to the liveliness of the picture; but to conclude from this that the story was rounded on fact, is going rather far. Cases of this heartless nature are, alas, but too common everywhere.

Which was laid at his gate. So he had to be carried and laid down at it.

Full of sores - open, running sores, which, as appears from the next verse, had not been closed, nor bound up, nor mollified with ointment (Isaiah 1:6).


Verse 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.

And desiring to be fed [ epithumoon (G1937) chortastheenai (G5526)] with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. The meaning may either be (as in Luke 15:16), that 'he was fain to feed' or 'gladly fed,' as Alford, Webster and Wilkinson, etc., take it; or he 'desired to be fed,' but was not: so Grotius, Bengel, Meyer, Trench, etc., understand it. The context seems rather to favour this latter view. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores - a touching act of brute pity in the absence of human relief. Thus have we here a case of heartless indifference, amidst luxuries of every kind, to one of God's poorest and most afflicted ones, presented daily before the view.


Verse 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;

And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom - as if he had been seen reclining next to him at the heavenly feast (see the note at Luke 7:9).

The rich man also died, and was buried. The burial of the beggar was too unimportant to mention; but it is said, "the rich man died, and was buried" - his carcass borne in pomp to its earthly resting-place.


Verse 23

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

And in hell he lifted up his eyes , [ en (Greek #1722) too (Greek #3588) hadee (Greek #86)] - not the final region of the lost, for which another word is used [ geenna (Greek #1067)] (Mark ;45:47 , etc.), but what we call 'the unseen world.' Yet since 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 thing.

Being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off - quite beyond his reach, yet not beyond his view.

And Lazarus in his bosom.


Verse 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.

And he cried and said, Father Abraham - a well-rounded but unavailing claim of natural descent (see Luke 3:8; John 8:37),

Have mercy on me - `Have mercy on me who never showed any mercy to my fellow-men.' Not daring to cry to God, he applies in his desperation to one who has no power to help him.

And send Lazarus (the pining victim of his merciless neglect), that he may (do what? take him out of that place of torment? No, that he presumes not to ask; but merely), that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. What does this wretched man ask? He asks the least conceivable and the most momentary abatement of his torment-that is all. But even that is denied him, for two awfully weighty reasons. First, IT IS UNREASONABLE.


Verse 25

But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

But Abraham said, Son (a stinging acknowledgment this of the natural relationship to him which he had claimed): remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 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 (see Luke 6:24). But by the same 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. See Luke 6:21. But secondly, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE.


Verse 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.

And besides all this (independently of this consideration), 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. 'By an irrevocable decree there has been established [ esteeriktai (Greek #4741)] a vast impassable abyss between the two states and the occupants of each.'


Verse 27

Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:

Then he said - now abandoning all hope, not only of release but relief for himself, and directing his thoughts to others, "I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:"


Verse 28

For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.

For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.

There is here no waking up of good in the heart of the lost, but, as Trench acutely remarks, bitter reproach against God and the old economy, as not having warned him sufficiently. Abraham's answer rolls back the reproach with calm dignity, as unmerited: 'They are sufficiently warned.'


Verse 29

Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them. Still this does not satisfy.


Verse 30

And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.

And he said, Nay, father Abraham (giving him the lie), but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. What a reply now is given to this, shutting up the dialogue where it ought to close-when nothing more remains to be said on the one hand, and nothing can be replied on the other.


Verse 31

And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead. 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, who were thereby drawn so far toward 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 over-powering, yet won over that "crooked and perverse nation."

Remarks:

(1) The parable of the Unjust Steward has this in common with the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), that both represent all we possess as a sacred Trust committed to us; for the right use of which we are responsible; and the actual use made of which shall go to determine our eternal state. But in the Parable of the Talents the trust intended comprehends all endowments whatsoever that may be turned to the service of Christ; here it is money alone, the love of which is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10), and whose slaves and worshippers were among the audience to which it was addressed (Luke 16:13-14). There, the talents are to be used for the Master's interest; here, the immediate object is to enforce such a use of money as may promote our own interest in the highest sense of it. Thus, the same general subject has different aspects, which, though consistent, are not to be confounded.

(2) Let us ponder the Lord's weighty saying, that the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. 'These religious people (methinks I hear some supercilious observer of Christians say-so very impartial as to be "neither cold nor hot") may be all very good, but they have small common sense; their principles are fine-most unexceptionable-but they are wonderfully airy: they somehow want the substance of things earthly; they cannot be grasped; and even those who make so much of them go about them in so unbusiness-like a fashion, and with so little of the shrewdness and energy we are used to in common matters, that one may be excused for not surrendering himself to such notions, and resting contented with those general views which commend themselves to everyone, and about which there is no dispute.' This witness is true: spiritual things are all too airy for such persons; they have substance only to faith here, and of that they have none: Theirs is a world of sense; the things which are seen are their sphere; and right easily are they grasped, and all congenial to the natural man: in hunting after them they go with the stream-to which the remonstrances of conscience and of Scripture oppose but a feeble barrier.

No wonder, then, that shrewdness is stamped upon all that is done in this sphere, and no thanks for it to them and theirs. But ours is a world of faith and hope; and hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? but if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. We know Whom we have Believed; we have made our choice, and mean to abide by it, nor will it ever be taken from us. Nevertheless, we stand rebuked. 'Thou hast said too much truth of us, thou cold, supercilious critic of our poor Christianity, but our gracious Master said it before thee. We thank thee not, but we thank Him, and mean, with His help, to wipe away this reproach.' And now, will not my Christian readers try to do it? We know very well it is because, the things of this present world are "seen" that they are more vividly apprehended, and so-all "temporal," though they be-more powerfully grasped, than the things which are "not seen," even though they be "eternal." We know full well how keenly we feel the one, and how languidly the other; what sacrifices of time and strength, yea, what risks of life itself men will readily incur, to promote their temporal interests, and how little of all this even the children of God will go through with for those which are eternal. But as our Lord holds this up as a reproach, and here sends us to the worldling for wisdom-even as the sluggard is sent to the ant for activity-let us not rest in explanations of the fact, but rather strive to reverse it. What we want from the men of the world is not so much their shrewd management of affairs, as that vivid apprehension of our own sphere which shall convert our world of faith into substance and sense to us; then shall we have grasp enough and energy enough; because "this is the victory that overcometh the world, oven our faith." Yet along with this-as in temporal things-habits of steady vigilance and activity have much to do with success in spiritual things; and this parable will not have produced its proper fruit until the children of light, ashamed of being excelled in anything for eternity by the worldly wisdom of the children of this world, shall bend their efforts to rise above them in all such things, commanding its respect and compelling its admiration for this superiority. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5).

(3) This and similar portions of Scripture have been so sadly abused to support the fatal doctrine of the merit of good works, and especially of charity to the poor and needy, that not a few Christians have been scared away from such scriptures, and are little aware what a test of character at the great day will be the use they make of the pecuniary means with which they are entrusted. Should any say, That can hardly apply to those who have so little of this world's goods as I have, let them consider whether they are not acting the unprofitable servant in the parable of the Talents, who, because his lord had given him but one talent, went and hid it in the earth; and let them remember the pregnant and comprehensive maxim, "He that is faithful in the least is faithful also in much, and he that is unfaithful in the least is unfaithful also in much."

(4) How entirely is the divinest teaching thrown away upon those who, like the Pharisaic portion of our Lord's audience, are resolved not to part with the sinful courses which it exposes and condemns! But the "derision" of those "covetous" Pharisees at such teaching as that of this section was the best evidence of its power.

(5) In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, were the poverty and disease of this dear saint of God so extreme as is here represented, and, to add to all, when laid down at the rich man's gate, in hope of at length moving his compassion, is he represented as dying just as he was? Then, let no one so interpret the promises of divine compassion and provision for the godly poor as to think that they may not be left to live and die as poor and as neglected of men as this Lazarus. But neither let God's providence be maligned on this account, until we know how He deals with the spirits such. Did we know what unseen ministrations of angels He sends them, and with what seasons of nearness to Himself He favours them, in the absence of human consolation, with what light He irradiates their darkness, how out of weakness He makes them strong, and how in patience and hope He makes them to possess their souls-giving them "songs in the night," unknown to the prosperous even of His own children (Revelation 14:3) - we should perhaps change our mind, and be almost tempted to envy "Lazarus" with all his miseries.

As he looked at the sycophantish visitors who went in and out of the rich man's gate, regardless of him, methinks I hear him saying with the sweet singer of Israel, "There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us: Thou hast put gladness in my heart more than in the time when their grain and their wine increased. Deliver my soul from the wicked, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly Thou fillest with Thy hid treasure: As for me I shall behold Thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I wake, with Thy likeness" (Psalms 4:6-7; Psalms 17:13-15). And see him at last: Those angels are not ashamed of his poverty, nor repelled away by his sores. His wasted skeleton-to men a sightless carcass-is to them beautiful as the shrine of a redeemed spirit; and that spirit is more beautiful still, in its resemblance to God, its likeness to themselves, its meetness for glory. They hover over the beggarly habitation, and surround the mean pallet, and watch the last effort of the spirit to break away from its falling tenement, that at the appointed hour they may convey it in triumph to its celestial home. O that men-that even Christians-would judge less by the outward appearance, and try, like the Lord, to home. O that men-that even Christians-would judge less by the outward appearance, and try, like the Lord, to look upon the heart!

(6) And how beautiful is the view here given us of the ministrations of angels, especially at the death-bed of the saints. Often do they tell us, they see them waiting for them and smiling on them. They are ready to stretch out their arms to them, to signify their readiness at that moment to be taken up by them; and they ask us, sometimes, if we do not see them too. Of course we don't, because we live in a world of sense. But they are then leaving it; it has all but closed upon them, and they are getting within the precincts of heaven. Who, then, shall say that they see not what is hid from us; and since what they affirm they see is only what is here represented as a reality, who, with this parable before him, shall say that such sights are but the fruit of a distempered imagination, a picture of the fevered or languid brain?

(7) How frequently do the terrors of hell recur, and how terrific are the representations given of it, in the teaching of our Lord! Here, its unutterable and inconceivable horrors are depicted with a vividness altogether astonishing. And the unreasonableness and impossibility of the slightest and briefest abatement of them, which is here proclaimed as from the other world itself, only completes the representation. And mark how this unreasonableness is grounded wholly on the life and conduct of the lost in the present world-rendering any change in their condition in eternity as hopeless as their being able to undo their past life by living over again and acting otherwise. Need it be asked whether the perpetuity of hell-torments, and the character of them too-as but the natural development and fitting termination of a life of ungodliness-could be more emphatically taught?

(8) Though we are not to press the language of the parables unduly, does it not seem a legitimate inference from the whole strain of this Parable, that the lost will, as an aggravation of their torment, in some way or other, either see the bliss of the saved in heaven, or have such a vivid knowledge of what it is as will amount to a kind of sight? And are not those other words of Christ confirmatory of this? "Ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out"? (Luke 13:28).

(9) Nowhere is the sufficiency of revealed truth in general, and of the Old Testament Scriptures in particular, for all the purposes of salvation, so emphatically stated as by our Lord in the closing verses of this chapter, who puts it into the mouth of Abraham from the unseen world. Men are fain to believe that if they had this or that evidence which they have not, they would repent and be converted. And because they are not startled into faith-because their impenitence is not over-powered by resistless occurrences-they think there will be some excuse for them if at last they are found unchanged. But the Lord here shuts us absolutely up to THE REVEALED WORD, as God's ordained means of all saving effect upon the heart and life. (See 2 Peter 1:19; John 5:39; John 5:46-47; John 17:17.) And if this be true, need we add, that the right and the duty of all to "search the Scriptures," and the apostasy from a Scripture foundation of any Church that would prohibit the general searching of them-as the Church of Rome does-follow by necessary consequence?

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Luke 16:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/luke-16.html. 1871-8.

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