Luke 16
People's New Testament
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.
16:1-7 The Rich Man and Lazarus


The Unjust Steward. His Shrewd Forethought. Making Friends with the Unrighteous Mammon. The Scoffing of the Covetous Pharisees. The Rich Man. The Beggar at His Gate. Death--One in Abraham's Bosom; the Other in Hades. The Rich Man's Petition. The Great Gulf. Hearing Moses and the Prophets.

There was a certain rich man. The three parables of the last chapter, the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son, are a rebuke of the self-righteousness of the Pharisees: the two of this chapter are directed against their covetousness.

Had a steward. An officer who had charge of his estates. Eliezer was the steward of Abraham; Joseph that of Potiphar (Ge 24:2-12 39:4). A man of business to take charge of the property is still common in the Old World on large estates. The Christian, to whom God has entrusted the earthly care of property that belongs to the Creator, is thus described (Mt 25:14-30 Lu 19:11-27).

Had wasted his goods. Dishonest; an embezzler.

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.
16:2 Give an account. All will be called to such an account, at death, or sooner. Sometimes, because we have proved faithless, God takes the property out of our charge sooner. Dismissal from God's service, whether at death or sooner, is the consequence of wasting the Lord's goods.
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.
16:3 I cannot dig. He was not accustomed to, or willing to come to, hard labor.

To beg I am ashamed. He ought to have been more ashamed to prove faithless to his trust.

I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
16:4 I am resolved. Godet says:

All at once, after long reflection, he exclaims, as if striking his forehead: I have hit it.''

Many a rich man reaches a similar resolve when about to die.

They may receive me. He will put his Lord's debtors under such obligations to him that they will give him a home.

So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
16:5 He called every one. The debtors; those that owed rent or on account.
And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.
16:6 A hundred measures of oil. Olive oil, one of the commonest products of Palestine. The measure contained about sixty pints.

Take thy bill. The contract.

Sit down quickly. In great haste, lest the dishonest transaction might be interrupted.

Write fifty. The throwing off of fifty measures would be equivalent to several hundred dollars.

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.
16:7 Hundred measures of wheat. The wheat measure was about eleven bushels; the twenty remitted would be 220 bushels.
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.
16:8 The lord commended the unjust steward. Commended not his faithfulness, but his wisdom in looking out for a home when about to lose his place. The one point taught is a prudent foresight that uses earthly resources to provide for a time when these resources will fail us.
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.
16:9 And I say unto you. The parable has ended and Christ now makes the application.

Mammon of unrighteousness. Mammon is equivalent to money, or wealth; called the mammon of unrighteousness, not because it is acquired unrighteously, but because most use it unrighteously, treating it as their own, when they are only stewards. What is the use the Lord charges us to put it to? It is: Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness (riches), that when it shall fail (when you can use it no longer), they shall receive you into eternal tabernacles (heaven). It is strange that there is any difficulty over this passage, as translated clearly in the Revised Version. The only friends who can receive us into heaven are the Father and the Son. These are, then, the friends we must secure. During life our means must be so used as to please God and to lay up eternal treasure. If we use it as a trust of the Lord we will secure such a friend. Instead of hoarding we must make heavenly friends.

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.
If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
16:11 If therefore ye have not been faithful. If one is faithless in an earthly trust, how can he expect to receive a heavenly trust?
And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?
16:12 Another man's. That which belongs to God. All who have property should understand that it is another's.

Your own. The true riches, because they become a part of our being, the inalienable possession of the redeemed.

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.
16:13 No servant can serve two masters. See PNT Mt 6:24.
And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.
16:14 The Pharisees... derided him. They understood the parable as an attack on covetousness and, like the worldly wise, thought his doctrine foolish.
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.
16:15 Is abomination. Man exalts wealth, but the love of wealth, the root of all evil (1Ti 6:10), is an abomination in the sight of God (Lu 16:15).
The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
16:16 The law and the prophets. See PNT Mt 11:13.
And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.
16:17 Than one tittle of the law to fail. See PNT Mt 5:18.
Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.
16:18 Every one that putteth away his wife. See PNT Mt 5:31.
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
16:19 The Rich Man and the Beggar (Lu 16:19-31). A parable, also, showing the consequences of a worldly spirit and the worldly use of wealth. Arnot says:

Here, as in other cognate parables, great wisdom is displayed in bringing the whole force of the rebuke to bear on one point. It is not intimated that this man made free with other people's money, or that he had gained his fortune in a dishonest way. All other charges are removed, that the weight lying all on one point may more effectively imprint the intended lesson. To have represented him as dishonest, or drunken, would have blunted the weapon's edge. Here is an affluent citizen, on whose fair fame the breath of scandal can fix no blot. He had a large portion in the world, and did not seek--did not desire--any other. He spent his wealth in pleasing himself, and did not lay it out in serving God or helping man.''

A certain rich man. Not one whom the world would call great, but eminently respectable; one whom the worldly would admire, while the poor man was one whom the covetous world despise.

Clothed in purple. The purple was anciently the royal color, the gorgeous hue of the imperial robes, and hence the very term, the purple, is still used to signify the royal dignity.

Fine linen. The finest apparel.

Fared sumptuously every day. Enjoying not only the most sumptuous fare on the table every day, but every sensual enjoyment. How the world would admire his lot in life!

And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
16:20 A certain beggar. Beggary, such as is here depicted, is much more common in the East than with us, and, in the absence of any more systematic provision, alms-giving to the poor was insisted upon by the Old Testament (Job 29:13 Ps 41:1 112:09:00 Pr 14:31).

Named Lazarus. Augustine says:

Does not Christ seem to you to have been reading in that book where the found the name of the poor man written, but found not the name of the rich? For that book is the Book of Life.''

Laid at his gate. Carried there because unable to walk. At the gate, where so many were passing, would be a favorable place for alms.

Full of sores. Cutaneous sores are most common in connection with abject poverty.

And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
16:21 The dogs came and licked his sores. How abject his lot! Helpless, a beggar, glad to get crumbs, the dogs around him licking his sores! Such a lot the world would despise.
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;
16:22 The beggar died. What became of his body is not stated. It may have been vast into the potter's field.

Was carried by the angels. Here is one who in his life had not a single friend, and now, suddenly, not one, but many angels wait upon him (Luther). His body may have had no pall-bearers, but angels carried his soul.

Into Abraham's bosom. The place of rest where Abraham welcomed his children; heavenly bliss. The Jews spoke of those who went to Abraham's heavenly abode as in Abraham's bosom.

The rich man also died, and was buried. We are to infer that he had a splendid burial; his body was placed in a costly tomb, but where was he ?

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
16:23 In hell. The abode of departed spirits, and to the wicked, a place of punishment.

Being in torments. His wealth has failed him; his good things have departed.

Seeth Abraham... and Lazarus. A proof of recognition beyond the grave.

Afar off. Widely apart in condition, character, and space.

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.
16:24 And he cried. The only instance in the New Testament of prayers to the saints.

Father Abraham. His trust was in his fleshly descent. He said, We have Abraham to our father (Mt 3:9 Lu 3:8).

Send Lazarus. He seems to think that he has some claims on him, in return for his crumbs.

Dip the tip of his finger in water. He only dares ask the smallest favor.

Tormented in this flame. Greswell says:

Flame may be regarded as a figurative term, to represent acutest suffering of which a spirit is susceptible by a material image of misery the most die.''

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.
16:25 Son. Abraham recognizes the fleshly tie. His answer is fatherly, affectionate.

Remember. Analogy gives us every reason to suppose that in the disembodied state the whole life on earth will lie before the soul in all its thoughts, words, and deeds, like the map of the past journey before a traveler (Alford).

Thy good things. He was of the number who receive their portion in this life, instead of that good part which shall never be taken from them. He had preferred the world and its rewards, and had obtained them. But he had lost the world to come. Thy is emphatic. Earthly possessions and enjoyments were his choice.

Now he is comforted. The saved leave all sorrows behind when they leave the earth; the lost leave all their joys behind.

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.
16:26 There is a great gulf fixed. It is permanent and impassable. There is no bridging over the abyss. Destiny has been decided in life.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
16:27 Send him to my father's house. This is introduced. not to show an interest in his brethren, but to call out the reply:
For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
16:29 They have Moses and the prophets. If they would refuse to hear the word of God, they would refuse to repent at the bidding of a ghost.
And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
16:31 Neither will they be persuaded, etc. This was demonstrated in the case of Jesus himself. The Jews refused to accept Christ, though Moses and the prophets testified of him. They asked for a sign, and the sign of the prophet Jonah (Mt 12:39 16:4; Lu 11:29,30), his resurrection from the dead, was given. Still they refused to repent. Unbelief is due, not to a lack of evidence, but to a rebellious heart. The seat of skepticism is in the moral nature.
The People's New Testament by B.W. Johnson [1891]

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