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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Luke 16

 

 

Verses 1-31

Luke 16:1. A certain rich man had a steward — accused that he had wasted his goods. After the parable of the prodigal son, we have a second, of a prodigal steward, who had wasted his lord’s property. The spirit of the parable is, that we should so live in equity with men and in piety towards God, as to ensure the rewards and the gift of righteousness in the life to come.

Luke 16:2. Give an account of thy stewardship. The steward, being now overtaken with poverty, had recourse to the unrighteous mammon instead of equity. What shall I do? I will lay a plan for future support, and will draw all the tenants into it, by making them co-partners in my fraud. Short- sighted mortal, he might have been sure that the tenants would get rid of such a burden as soon as they could. The time when a man suddenly loses his bread, or his property, is the time for the brightest virtues or the foulest vices to appear. In my wide intercourse with the religious world, I have known several characters ruined at a stroke by being drawn into insolvent partnerships; and by honourably giving up their all, they have acquired that excellence of character which has ensured the sympathy of the public, and the happiness of their future lives.

Luke 16:7. A hundred measures of wheat. The cors of the Hebrews was almost the load of an ass, as on Ezra 7:22.

Luke 16:8. The lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely. There is some dispute among the critics whether these words were spoken by our Saviour, as Erasmus contends, or by the steward’s lord. Tirinus takes the contrary side. What matter. If our Saviour spake them of himself, he spake them as a parable; and so moralized on the unrighteous policy of the steward, as to teach his disciples wisdom for a future world. Neither the steward nor his falsehood is here commended, but his prudence, base as it was, like the prudence of the ant, which is commended, to make us wise as the stewards of worldly riches, that when we fail on earth, we may be received into the heavenly habitation.

Luke 16:9. The mammon of unrighteousness. The word mammon designates money, riches; and the mammon of iniquity or unrighteousness is applied to the gifts by which judges are corrupted. 1 Samuel 8:3. It is the opposite of the mammon of righteousness, of mercy or alms; for alms in a multitude of places is expressed by the Hebrew word tsadikeh, and the Greek dikaiosyne, and the Syriac ezdakat. But adikia in the text is often rendered hurtful, both in the Septuagint and in the new testament; and in a few places it has an import of deceit. Dr. Lightfoot has quotations from the targumists, where the terms mammon of wickedness, mammon of violence, mammon of rapine, and mammon of falsehood frequently occur. By the mammon of unrighteousness we understand riches unlawfully acquired, for the Lord commended the unjust steward, as the model of christians, to lay up a good foundation for the life to come, enjoining them, at the same time, to be most strictly conscientious in every trust and duty; for if we are not faithful in the false, the worldly and deceitful mammon, God will not give us the true and durable riches of his grace. But what man ever realized a fortune, without an infinitude of hard bargains and advantages. Happy is the man who, like Zaccheus, makes himself friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; or like the young man just come to a great estate and fortune, who is desirous to consecrate his father’s hoard by doing some good thing for God and the poor.

Luke 16:10-11. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much. This is a proverb highly characteristic of perfect morality. The conscientious servant gets promoted, while the unjust steward is dismissed. And if we are not faithful to men, who will trust us for the future? More especially, if we are not faithful to God, as stewards of the good things with which he has entrusted us, he will not give us the true riches of grace and glory.

Luke 16:13. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. If our hearts be on earth, we are servants of corruption, the mammon that perishes; but if our affections be above, we shall follow after righteousness, and inherit all the realities of future felicity.

Luke 16:16. The law and the prophets were until John. After that time, the Messiah being come, there was no need of those holy men to foretel his advent. Matthew 11:12.

Luke 16:18. Whosoever putteth away his wife, by an unlawful divorce, or for any cause less than adultery, as stated in Malachi 2:11-14.

Luke 16:19. A certain rich man clothed in purple and fine linen. In the Hebrew book, Gemara Babilonicum, there is a story analogous to this; but in point of theological purity and beauty quite inferior to the parable in the sacred text.

Luke 16:23. In hell he lifted up his eyes. See the following scriptures. Job 26:4. Psalms 9:17; Psalms 16:10. Isaiah 30:33. Ezekiel 31:14. Matthew 5:22.

REFLECTIONS.

Perhaps the contrast of characters between the rich man and Lazarus cannot appear more conspicuously than as they would appear to a learned and impartial traveller, seeking wisdom, and enquiring after truth. Let us suppose the stranger, after hearing the rich man’s display of sadducean pride, to leave the princely mansion and enchanting pleasure-grounds, couched at the gate he sees a meagre, worn-out skeleton. Drawn by humanity, he asks his name, his case, and many things concerning his principles of support and comfort in so sad a situation; for genius in travel is inquisitive. The afflicted man, turning to the sage a countenance irradiated with heaven, and totally dissimilar from the polished regards of a courtier, tells him all his happiness; his gratitude to God, his patience and resignation, his religious comforts, and his daily prayers to be delivered from the body, and received to paradise above. The philosopher, while the beggar spake, would be seized with all the sentiments of humanity and religion. Tears would relieve the emotions of his soul, and money he would scatter with a forgetful hand. He would seek at the same time a retreat for pensive reflection, to weigh all the inscrutable difficulties which the contrast of these two characters had excited in his mind. Now, the parable demonstrates the necessity of a future state to develope the divine equity, beclouded by a diversified providence.

We may here remark, that God indulged both these men with the good things they desired. The one chose much of earth, and the other much of heaven.

Again: if the sores and hunger of the beggar hastened his exit, the luxuries of the rich man presently occasioned his death: and those who die of surfeiting are more than those who die of want.

God takes special care of his poor afflicted saints in the hour of death. Holy angels carried Lazarus into Abraham’s bosom. He who had been most afflicted on earth, was most caressed and honoured in glory.

The torments of the damned correspond, we see, with their crimes. While the infidel was buried with pomp, and while a venal herald was recounting his public spirit, his alms, his illustrious actions, and affirming, that his manes enjoyed the highest felicities of Elysian delight; in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torment: yea, and his tongue which had rioted on delicious viands, and uttered so many provocations against the scriptures, was peculiarly tormented. As the king of Babylon was satirized for his assumed divinity; so shall every one be appropriately punished for his sin. Isaiah 14:9.

There is no mitigation of punishment in hell. Dives having no promise, did not venture to ask much; but he who had denied a crumb of bread was now denied a drop of water. Justice will not trifle with its own decisions: it fixes a great gulph as the barrier of its sentence which cannot be passed.

Reflection shall greatly augment the torments of the damned. Son, remember, thou in thy lifetime hadst thy good things, and Lazarus his evil things. Now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. Men having but partial views of providence in the prosperity of vice, and the oppression of virtue, were prudent in suspending their judgment, but now the clouds are cleared up; the righteousness of God is as the sun at noon day, and all men applaud thy punishment, and the beggar’s comfort.

The damned deprecate an encrease of torment. The infidel knew that he had instilled all his bad principles into his five younger brothers; that he had allured them into all his licentious practices, and left them in full route to perdition. Consequently, that, on entering the vaults of hell, they would most furiously assault him as the cause of their ruin. Hence he earnestly prayed, that Lazarus might be deputed to certify to them the reality of the rewards and punishments of the life to come, because he believed repentance possible to all men.

If men hear not Moses and the prophets they will not be persuaded, though one rose to warn them from the dead. What could an apparition say on any one article of revelation, which had not been fully said before; and said with a cloud of miracles, and by the holiest men that ever lived. A constant course of providence, had also confirmed the promises, and fulfilled the prophecies. Could any apparition possibly convey the tenth part of the instruction afforded by the great body of internal and external evidences of revealed religion. Let us therefore learn to make a good use of the light we have before we ask for more; let poor and afflicted men seek their comfort in religion, and let the rich and the proud tremble to despise the truth and providence of God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Luke 16:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/luke-16.html. 1835.

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