Luke 16

 

The Lord's teaching on the right use of earthly possessions with regard to the

prospect of another world, in the form of the two parables of the unjust

steward, and Dives and Lazarus. 

 

 

The Parable of the Unjust Steward (vs. 1-13)

 

1 And He said also unto His disciples,” -  There is no doubt that

this important teaching belongs to the last portion of our Lord’s life, and it

is probable that it is closely connected with the parable of the prodigal son

just related. It is not likely that two such weighty sermons had been

preached at the same time, but in the evening, or on the following day, or

at least on the next sabbath, the same auditory that listened to the prodigal

son we believe were startled and enthralled by the story of the unjust

steward, and then, or very shortly after, by the awful and vivid picture of

life beyond the grave in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. There

is a close link of thought between the parable of the unjust steward and that of

the prodigal. The heroes of both these narratives, in the first instance, had a

considerable share of this world’s goods entrusted to their charge, and by

both, in the early portions of the story, these goods were misused and

wasted. The Greek words used of the “wasting” of the prodigal and of the

steward were in both cases the same (ch. 15:13; v.1) - διασκορπίζων 

diaskorpizodisperse, scatter, waste.  No parable in the New Testament has

been so copiously discussed or has received so many and such varying interpretations

at the hands of expositors. We will at once put aside all the ingenious, but from our

point of view mistaken, interpretations which see in “the steward” the Pharisees, the

publicans, Judas Iscariot, or Satan. The parable has a broader, a more direct, a

more universally interesting, meaning. It contains a deep and important teaching

for every man or woman who would wish to rank among the followers, of

Jesus Christ. Now, our Lord would have all men look forward gravely and

calmly to the certain event of their death, and. in view of that event, would

have them make careful and thoughtful preparation for the life which was

to come after death. To press this most important lesson home, the Master,

as His custom was at this late period of His ministry, conveyed His

instruction in the form of a parable. The sketch of a steward about to be

dismissed from his office, and who thus would be stripped of his income,

was a fit emblem of a man about to be removed from this world by death.

The steward in the parable-story felt that, when dismissed, he would be as

it were alone, stripped of all, and destitute. The soul of such a man, when

dead, would be also stripped of everything, would be alone and destitute.

The question here might be asked — Why take for the principal figure of

the parable so immoral a character as an unjust steward? The answer is

well suggested  for the simple reason that his misbehavior is the natural

explanation of the impending dismissal. Why should a faithful steward be

removed from office? To conceive such a case were to sacrifice probability

to a moral scruple. Roughly, then, two things all-important to us are taught here:

 

 

·         that dismissal, death, will certainly come;

·         that some provision certainly ought to be made for the life that lies

beyond — the life that comes after the dismissal, or death.

 

“There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was

accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.  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.”  The story of the

parable contains little incident. There is the rich man, clearly a noble of

high rank, whose residence is at a distance from his estates, the scene of

the little story. Over these he has placed, as administrator or factor, the one

called here a steward; the revenues of the lands this official has wasted; he

appears to have been generally a careless if not a dishonest servant. The

owner of the estates, when he becomes aware of the facts of the case, at

once gives notice of dismissal to the steward, desiring him, however,

before yielding up his office, to give in his accounts. Appalled at the

sudden and utter destitution which lay before him, the steward occupies the

short time of office yet remaining to him in devising a plan by which he

would secure the good offices of certain persons who were in debt to his

master. He (the steward) had yet a little time of power remaining before he

was turned adrift; he would turn this to account, and would do a good turn

to these men, poor neighbors of his, and debtors to his lord, while he was

in office, and so win their friendship, and, on the principle that one good

turn deserves another, would be able to reckon on their gratitude when all

else had failed him. With the immorality of the act by which he won the

good will of these debtors of his master we have nothing to do; it is simply

a detail of the picture, which is composed of figures and imagery chosen

for their fitness to impress the lesson intended to be taught. Give an

account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. This

taking away the position and privileges of the man represents the act of

death, in which God takes away from us all the varied gifts, the

possessions, and the powers large or small with which we are entrusted

during our lifetime. Our day of dismissal will be the day of our passing

away from this life.

 

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.”

This day of dismissal must be prepared for; very carefully, very anxiously, the man

who has received the sentence of doom ponders over his future. The lesson of the

Master is spoken to all; it is a solemn warning to each of us to see what we can do

by way of providing for the inevitable day when we shall find ourselves

alone and naked and perhaps friendless in the great, strange world to come.

The hero of the parable seems suddenly, after a life of carelessness and thoughtlessness,

to have awakened to a sense of his awful danger. So the voice of the real Owner of

the goods, which we have so long deluded ourselves into thinking were our

own, comes to us, bidding us make ready to give them back again to him,

their Owner, and at the same time to render an account of our

administration of them. The voice comes to us in the varied forms of

conscience, sickness, misfortune, old age, sorrow, and the like; well for us

if, when we hear it, we at once determine, as did the steward of the

parable, to make a wise use of the goods in our power for the little time

they are still left to us to dispose of as we will.

 

4  “I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship,

they may receive me into their houses.” The first part of the parable teaches,

then, this great and all-important lesson to men — that they will do well to

provide against the day of dismissal from life. The second part points out

very vividly how kindness, charity, beneficence, towards those poorer,

weaker, more helpless than ourselves is one way, and that a very sure and

direct way, of. so providing against the inevitable dismission, or death.

 

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?  6   And he said, An hundred

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

and write fifty.  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.”  These verses  simply paint in the details of the

interesting picture of the parable. This singular plan of providing for himself by

becoming a benefactor of the debtor was by no means the only possible one

under the circumstances; but the Speaker of the parable made his hero make

choice of it as the aim of the imaginary narrative was to teach the value of

beneficence as a passport into the eternal habitations.  Various explanations have

been suggested to account for the difference in the gifts to the debtors. It is

probable that when our Lord spoke the parable, reasons for these varied gifts

were given, such as the circumstances of the debtors. It is scarcely now worth

while to frame ingenious guesses respecting the details, which apparently do not

affect the grand lessons which the story was intended to teach.

 

 

 

 

                                    Our Indebtedness to our Lord (v. 5)

 

“How much owest thou unto my Lord?” Taking these words quite apart

from the context to which they properly belong, we may let them suggest

to us the very profitable question, how much we, as individual men, OWE TO

HIM THAT IS LORD OF ALL!

 

·         WE OWE HIM FAR MORE THAN WE CAN ESTIMATE. Who shall

say how much we owe our God when we consider:

 

Ø      The intrinsic value of His gifts to us. How much are we indebted to Him

who gave us our being itself; who gave us our:

 

o       physical,

o       mental, and

o       spiritual capacities;

 

who has been preserving us in existence; who has been supplying all

our wants?

 

Ø      The wisdom of His gifts; their moderation, not too large and liberal for

our good; the conditions under which He grants them — in such wise that

all manner of virtues are developed in us by our necessary exertions to

obtain them.

 

Ø      The love which inspires them. The value of a gift is always greatly

enhanced by the good will which prompted its bestowal. God’s gifts to us

His children should be very much more highly valued by us because all

that He gives to us is prompted by His Fatherly interest in us; all His

kindnesses are loving-kindnesses.

 

Ø      The costliness of one supreme Gift. He spared not His own Son, but

delivered him up for us all.” (Romans 8:32)  The costliness of that

surpassing Gift is such as we have no standards to compute, no

language to express.

 

·         EACH ONE OF US HAS HIS OWN SPECIAL INDEBTEDNESS.

“How much owest thou unto my Lord?”

 

Ø      One man has been long spared in sin, and has been reclaimed at last; he

owes peculiar gratitude for long patience and merciful interposition

at the last.

 

Ø      Another has had his rebelliousness suddenly and mightily broken down;

he is under peculiar obligation for God’s redeeming and transforming

grace.

 

Ø      A third has been led almost from the first by the constraining influences

of the home and the Church; he owes very much for the earliness and the

constancy and the gentleness of the Divine visitation. Which of these

three owes most to the heavenly Father, to the Divine Saviour, to the

renewing Spirit? Who shall say? But we can say this, that:

 

·         WE ALL OWE MORE THAN WE CAN HOPE TO PAY. We are all

in the position of him who “owed ten thousand talents,” and had not the

means to pay (Matthew 18.). When we consider the unmeasured and practically

immeasurable amount of our indebtedness to God, and also consider the

feebleness of our power to respond, we conclude that there is but one way

of reconciliation, and that is a generous canceling of our great debt. We

can only cast ourselves on the abounding mercy of God in Jesus Christ our

Lord, and accept His forgiving love in Him. For His sake He will forgive us

“all that debt,” will treat us as those who are absolutely free and pure: then

will uprising and overflowing gratitude fill our hearts, and the future of our

lives will be a holy and happy sacrifice, the offering of our filial love.

 

8  “And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely:”

This, again, is a detail which has little bearing on the main teaching. It is a graphic and

sarcastic eulogy which a good-humored man of the world would pronounce upon a

brilliant and skilful, although unprincipled, action, and it completes the story as a story.

It seems evident that the intentions of the steward in regard to the debtors were carried

out, and that they were really indebted to him for the release of a part of their

indebtedness, and that the owner of the property did not dispute the

arrangement entered into by his steward when in office – “for the children

of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”

This was a melancholy and sorrowful reflection. It seems to say, “I have

been painting, indeed, from the life. See, the children of this world, men

and women whose ends and aims are bounded by the horizon of this world,

who only live for this life, how much more painstaking and skilful are they

in their working for the perishable things of this world than are the children

of light in their noble toiling after the things of the life to come. The former

appear even more in earnest in their search after what they desire than do

the latter. There is underlying the Lord’s deep and sorrowful reflection

here, a mournful regret over one feature that is, alas! characteristic of well-nigh

all religious life — the unkindness which religious professors so often

show to one another. One great division of Christianity despises, almost

hates, the other; sect detests sect; a very slight difference in religious

opinion bars the way to all friendship, often to even kindly feeling.  The children

 of this world seem use every means for their own interest to strengthen the bonds

which unite them to their contemporaries of the same stamp, but, on the other hand,

the children of light neglect this natural measure of prudence; they forget to use

God’s goods to form bonds of love to the contemporaries who might one day

give them a full recompense, when they themselves shall want everything,

and these shall have abundance.

 

9  “And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of

Unrighteousness;” -  Then, with His usual solemn formula, “I say unto you,” the

Lord gave out His moral interpretation of the parable. His words were addressed to

possessors of various degrees of wealth. “You will soon have to give up all your

worldly goods; be prudent in time, make some real friends out of the mammon of

unrighteousness; by means of that money entrusted to your care, do good to others

who are in need.” The mammon of unrighteousness. This word “mammon” does

not denote, as some have supposed, the name of a deity, the god of wealth or money,

but it signifies “money” itself. It is a Syriac or Aramaic term. The words, “of

unrighteousness,” are added because in so many eases the getting of money

is tainted with unrighteousness in some form or other; and, when

possessed, it so often hardens the heart, as the Lord Himself said in another

place (ch.18:25; see I Timothy 6:9-10), that it was easier for a camel to pass

through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

“What the steward of my story,” said the Master, “did to men of his world, see

That you with your money do toward those who belong to your world.” – “that,

when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”  So that

when you shall be dismissed from being stewards of God’s possessions,

that is, when ye shall die, “when ye suffer the last eclipse and bankruptcy of

life,” that then others, your friends, may receive you (welcome you) into

everlasting dwellings. The majority of the older authorities here, instead

of” when ye fail,” read, “when it (money) shall fail you” (by the event of

your death). The sense of the passage, however, remains the same,

whichever reading be adopted. But now a deeply interesting question arises

— When the Lord speaks of friends receiving us after death into eternal

homes, to what friends is he alluding?  Some expositors tell us that he means

the angels. But the plain sense of the parable points, not to angels, but to

poor, weak, suffering persons whom we have helped here; these, then, must be

the friends who will receive us, or welcome us, in the world to come. A further

query suggests itself — How will these be able to receive us? To such a question

no definite reply can be given. We know too little of the awful mysteries of that

 world to be able even to hazard a surmise as to the help or the comfort which

grateful, blessed spirits will be able to show to their brethren the newly arrived,

when they receive them. His word here must suffice us; well will it be for

us, if one day we practically discover the holy secret for ourselves. One beautiful

and exquisitely comforting thought is shrined in this playful and yet intensely solemn

utterance of Jesus. The eternal tents, the “many mansion,” (John 14:2), will have

among their occupants, it is certain, many a one whose life on earth was

hard and sorrowful. These are now enjoying bliss indescribable, these poor

Lazaruses, to whom this world was so sad, so dreary a habitation. And

perhaps a portion of their blessedness consists in this power, to which the

Lord makes allusion here, of assisting others — the helped here becoming

the helpers there. Although the teaching of Christ and His chosen servants

here and elsewhere shows us distinctly that no merit can attach to

almsgiving, seeing that our alms are only given out of property entrusted to

us for a short time by God for this and other similar purposes, yet the same

authoritative teaching informs us that God has regard to alms-deeds done in

the true spirit of love, in determining our eternal destiny. Thus a message

direct from heaven informs the Roman legionary Cornelius that his prayers

and alms were come up for a memorial before God. Paul writes to Timothy

to charge the Ephesus Christians “that they do good, that they be rich in

good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store

for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may

lay hold on eternal life” (I Timothy 6:18-19).  In the parable of Lazarus and Dives

(vs. 19-31) we shall find this principle yet more clearly illustrated. These are only

a few out of the many passages where this generosity and almsgiving is commended

to the believer with peculiar earnestness.

 

 

 

 

 

                                    Cleverness and Sagacity (vs. 1-9)

 

There is a wide difference between worldly cleverness and spiritual

sagacity; of these two acquisitions, the former is to be questioned if not

avoided, the latter to be desired and attained. Christ’s teaching here will be

entirely misunderstood if we fail to discriminate between them.

 

·         THE EMPLOYER’S COMMENDATION OF HIS STEWARD’S

CLEVERNESS. His lord” (not our Lord) commended the unjust steward

because he had acted “shrewdly” (not “wisely”) (v. 8). What does this

commendation amount to? It cannot be a justification of his action upon

the whole, — that idea cannot be entertained, for this action on the

steward’s part was wholly adverse to the employer’s interests. It was

simply a compliment paid to his keenness; it was equivalent to saying,

“You are a very clever fellow, a very sharp man of the world; you know

how to look after your own temporal affairs;” only that, and nothing more

than that, is meant.  “While we look not at things which are seen, but at

things which are not seen:  for the things which are seen are temporal;

but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  (I Corinthians 4:18)

 

·         OUR LORD’S COMMENDATION OF SPIRITUAL SAGACITY.

 

Ø      Jesus Christ could not possibly praise cleverness when devoid of

honesty. He could not do that for two reasons.

 

o        Because mere cleverness without honesty is a criminal and a shameful

thing; no amount of imaginable “success” would compensate for the

lack of principle; he who pays truthfulness for promotion,

conscientiousness for comfort, purity for gratification, self-respect for

honor or applause, PAYS MUCH TOO HIGH A PRICE,  does

himself an irreparable wrong, sins against his own soul.

 

o        Because mere cleverness does not succeed in the end. It did not here.

The steward of the text would have been better off if he had shown less

sharpness and more fidelity; if he had been faithful he would not have

been reduced to a dishonorable shift to secure a roof above his head.

It does not anywhere. No one is more likely to outwit himself than a

very clever man of the world. Unprincipled dexterity usually finds

its way to desertion and disgrace. Success begets confidence,

confidence runs into rashness, and rashness ends in ruin. No wise

 man would bind up even his earthly fortunes with those of his

clever, unscrupulous neighbor.

 

Ø      Jesus does praise sagacity in connection with integrity. He would like

the “children of light” to show as much forethought, ingenuity, capacity, in

their sphere as the “children of this world” show in theirs. He counsels

them, for instance, to put out their money to good purpose, so as to secure

much better results than it is often made to yield. Make friends with it, He

suggests. What better thing can we buy than friendship? Not, indeed, that

the very best fellowship is to be bought like goods over the counter or like

shares in the market; but by interesting ourselves in our fellow-men, by

knowing their necessities and by generously ministering to them, we can

win the gratitude, the blessing, the benediction, the prayers of those we

have served and succored. And how good is this! What will personal

comforts, bodily gratifications, luxuries in dress and furniture, any visible

grandeurs, weigh against this? Nay, more, our Lord suggests, we may

make even money go further than this; it may yield results that will pass the

border. It, itself, and all the worldly advantages it secures, we know that

we must leave behind: but if by its means we make friends with those who

are “of the household of faith,” we relieve them in their distress, help them

in their emergencies, strengthen them as they pass along the rough road of

life, — then even poor perishable gold and silver will be the means of

helping us to a fuller, sweeter, gladder welcome when our feet touch the

other shore of the river that runs between earth and heaven. This is true

sagacity as compared with a shallow shrewdness. It is to make such of our

possessions, and of all our resources of every kind, that they will yield us

not only a passing gratification of the lower kind, but rather a real

satisfaction of the nobler order, and even lay up in store for us a “treasure

in the heavens” (Matthew 6:20). enlarging the blessedness which is beyond

the grave.

 

o        Is our wisdom limited to a superficial cleverness? If so, let us

      “become fools that we may be wise” indeed.

 

o        Are we making the best use of the various faculties and facilities God

has committed to our trust? There are those who turn them to a very

small account indeed, to whom they are virtually worth nothing; and

there are those who are compelling them to yield a rich harvest of

good which the longest human life will be too short to gather in.

 

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.”  This and the next three verses

are closely connected with the parable of the unjust steward. Our Lord no doubt

continued speaking, and these four verses contain a general resume of what may be

called his reflections on the important piece of teaching He had just delivered.

We have here the broad rule, upon which God will decide the soul’s future, laid

down. If the man has been faithful in his administration of the comparatively

unimportant goods of earth, it is clear that he can be entrusted with the far

more important things which belong to the world to come. There is, too, in

these words a kind of limitation and explanation of the foregoing parable of

the unjust steward. The conduct of that steward, regarded in one point of view, was

held to be wise, and we, though in a very different way, were advised to imitate it;

yet here we are distinctly told that it is fidelity, not unfaithfulness, which will be

eventually rewarded — the just, not the unjust steward.

 

 

                                    The Wisdom of Fidelity (v. 10)

 

Between the text and the verse that precedes it there is some interval of

thought. There may have occurred a remark made by one of our Lord’s

apostles: or we may supply the words, — “ as to the supreme importance

and obligatoriness of fidelity, there is the strongest reason for being faithful

at all times and in everything;” for “he that is faithful in that which is least,

is faithful also in much.”  This utterance of our Lord is seen to be profoundly true,

if we consider:

 

·         THE LAW OF INWARD GROWTH. The Lord of our nature knew that

it was “in man” to do any act more readily and easily the second time than

the first, the third than the second, and so on continually; that every

disposition, faculty, principle, grows by exercise. This is true in the

physical, the mental, and also in the spiritual sphere. It applies to acts of

submission, of obedience, of courage, of service. One who is faithful today

will find it a simpler and easier thing to be faithful tomorrow. The boy

who faithfully studies at school, scorning to cheat either his teacher or his

fellows, will be the apprentice who faithfully masters his business or his

profession; and he will be the merchant on whom every one may rely in

large transactions in the market; and he will be the minister of state who

will be trusted with the conduct of imperial affairs. Fidelity of habit will

grow into strong spiritual principle, and will form a large and valuable part

of a holy and Christ-like character. “He that is faithful in that which is least

will,” in the natural order of spiritual things, “be faithful also in much.” Of

course, the converse of this is equally true.

 

·         THE PRINCIPLE OF DIVINE REWARD. God blesses uprightness in

the very act, for He makes the upright man something the better and the

stronger for his act of faithfulness. That is much, but that is not all. He

holds out to faithfulness the promise of a reward in the future. This

promise is twofold:

 

Ø      It is one of heavenly wealth, or wealth of the highest order. The

proprietor of the estate (v. 1) would remove the unfaithful steward

altogether; but he would treat faithfulness very differently — he would be

prepared to give him something so much better that it might even be called

“true riches” (v. 11); nay, he might even go so far as to give him lands,

vineyards, which he should not farm for another, but for himself, which he

should call “his own” (v. 12). The Divine Husbandman will reward

fidelity in His service by granting to His diligent servants “the true riches;”

not that about which there is so much of the fictitious, the disappointing,

the burdensome, as there is about all earthly good, but that which really

gladdens the heart, brightens the path, ennobles the life — that noble

heritage which awaits the “faithful unto death” (Revelation 2:10)

in the heavenly country.

 

Ø      It is inalienable wealth, that will not pass. Here a man points to his

estate and says complacently, “This is mine.” But it is only his in a

secondary sense. He has the legal use of it, to the exclusion of every other

while he lives. But it is alienable. Disaster may come and compel him to

part with it; death will come and undo the bond which binds it to him. It is

only his in a certain limited sense. Of nothing visible and material can we

say strictly that it is “our own.” But if we are faithful to the end, God will

one day endow us with wealth with which we shall not be called to part; of

which no revolution will rob us, of which death will not deprive us — the

inalienable estate of heavenly honor and blessedness; that will be “our

own” FOR EVER!

 

·         THE GROUND FOR PRAISE AND PATIENCE.

 

Ø      Bless God that He is now righteously endowing and enlarging His

      faithful ones.

 

Ø      Live in the well-assured hope that the future will disclose a much

      larger sphere for spiritual integrity.

 

11 “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon,” -

As above in the parable, “mammon” signifies money. The epithet “unrighteous”

is used in the same sense as in v. 9, where we read of the “mammon of

unrighteousness” -  “who will commit to your trust the true riches?”

(This verse is very graphic to me personally, in that it plainly states that if

we cannot handle this world’s goods, HOW CAN WE BE ENTRUSTED

WITH HEAVENLY WARES? – Moses’ attitude about the riches of Egypt

is a good example of this – “By faith Moses, when he was come to years,

refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to

suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin

for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the

treasures in Egypt:  for he had respect unto the recompense of the

reward.”  - Hebrews 11:24-26 – CY – 2012)

 

 

 

                                    The True Riches (v. 11)

 

We must gain our idea of the sense in which the word “true” is to be taken

by our knowledge of Christ’s use of it. And we know that He used it as

distinguishing, not the correct from the incorrect, or the existing from the

imaginary, but;

 

o       the valuable from the comparatively unimportant,

o       the substantial from the shadowy,

o       the essential from the accidental,

o       the abiding from the transitory.

 

It is in this sense that He says of Himself, “I am the true Light;” i.e. “I am not

that which renders the smaller service of revealing outward objects and the

outward path, but that which renders the supreme service of making clear

Divine and heavenly truth, and the way that leads home to God Himself.”

Thus He speaks also of Himself as “the true Bread;” i.e. not the food which

sustains for a few hours, but that inward and spiritual nourishment which

satisfies the soul and makes it strong for ever.  Similarly He declares that He is

“the true Vine;” i.e. the Divine Author of the soul’s refreshment, strength, and joy.

We shall, therefore, find in “the true riches” those treasures which are truly

valuable, which permanently endow their possessor, in opposition to those

other treasures which are of inferior worth. We glance at:

 

·         THE INFERIOR CHARACTER OF EARTHLY TREASURE. No

doubt these riches, which are not entitled to be called the “true riches,”

have a worth of their own which is far from contemptible. Indeed, they

render us services which we cannot help calling valuable; they provide us

with shelter, with food, with raiment, with instruction, and even (in the

sense of v. 9) with friendship. But they neither supply to us nor secure

for us lasting satisfaction.

 

Ø      They do not supply it in themselves. The possession of wealth may give,

at first, considerable pleasure to the owner of it; but it may be doubted

whether there is not more pleasure found in the pursuit than in the

possession of it. And it cannot be doubted that the mere fact of ownership

soon ceases to give more than a languid satisfaction, often balanced,

often indeed quite outweighed, by the burdensome anxiety of disposing

of it.

 

Ø      They do not ensure it. They can command a large number of pleasant

things; but these are not happiness, much less are they well-being.

That life must have been short or that experience narrow which has

not supplied many instances in which the riches of this world have

been held by those whose homes have been wretched, and whose

hearts have been aching with unrest or even bleeding with sorrow.

 

·         THE SUPREME VALUE OF SPIRITUAL GOOD.

 

Ø      There are true riches in reverence. To be living in the fear of God; to be

worshipping the Holy One; to be walking daily, hourly, continually, with

the Divine Father; to have the whole of our life hallowed by sacred

intercourse with heaven; — this is to be enriched and ennobled indeed.

 

Ø      There is real wealth in love. Our best possession at home is not to be

found in any furniture; it is in the love we receive, and in the love we

have in our own hearts: “The kind heart is more than all our store.”

And to be receiving the constant loving favor of a Divine Friend,

and to be returning His affection; to be also loving with a true and

lasting love those for whom he died;this is to be really rich.

 

Ø      There are true riches in the peace, the joy, the hope, of the gospel of

Christ. The peace that passes understanding; the joy that does not pall,

and which no man taketh from us — joy in God and in His sacred

service; the hope that maketh not ashamed, that is full of immortality;

these are thetrue riches. To be without them is to be destitute indeed;

to hold them is to be rich in the sight of God, in the estimate of

                        heavenly wisdom.

 

12 “And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s,”

 Here we have our earthly possessions plainly spoken of as the goods of another,

that is, of God, and of these goods we are but the temporary stewards –

“who shall give you that which is your own?”  We have here a very

magnificent promise. Although on earth man can possess nothing of his own —

here he is but a steward for a time of property belonging to another — yet

a prospect is held out to him that, if he be found faithful in the trust while on

earth, in the world to come something will be given to him REALLY

AND TRULY HIS OWN!   There will be no dismissal or death there.

 

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.”  Very vividly is this experience

brought out in the great parable which immediately follows There the rich man

was evidently one who observed the sacred ritual of the Law of Moses: this we

learn without doubt from his conversation after death with Abraham. Thus he

tried, after his light, to serve God, but he also served mammon: this we learn, too,

clearly from the description given to us of his life, from the mention of the gorgeous

apparel and the sumptuous feeding. The service of the two was incompatible, and

we know from the somber sequel of the story to which master the rich man really held,

and whom — alas for him! — in his heart he despised.

 

 

 

                        Money as a Means of Grace (vs. 1-13)

 

The previous chapter was spoken against the pride of the Pharisaic party,

who were too exclusive to welcome publicans and sinners to the same feast

of privilege as themselves. The parable now before us was spoken against

their covetousness. It will be found that, as the graces are to be found and

grow together, so do the vices of mankind. The idolatry of wealth goes

hand-in-hand with pride. In warning His disciples, however, against the

vice, our Lord introduces positive truth, and brings out in His parables the

important fact that money may either be a means of grace to men, or a

temptation and a snare. The first parable, about the unjust steward, shows

us one who was wise in time in the use of money; the second parable,

about the rich man and Lazarus, shows us one who became wise when it

was too late and his doom was sealed. The story need be no moral

difficulty to us. The all-important point is the deprivation of his

stewardship. It was taken from him on the ground of injustice of some

kind. In view of his exodus from the stewardship, he prudently makes his

lord’s debtors his debtors too, by largely reducing their liabilities. Having

thus made friends with them all, he awaits his dismissal with confidence,

and expects befriendment when out of his situation. It is his prudence, not

his motives, that our Lord commends. Now, to our Lord’s spiritual eye,

this was a beautiful representation of what a soul may do in prospect of

dismissal from his earthly stewardship at death. He may take the money he

happens to possess, and, feeling that it is not his own absolutely, but

God’s, and that he is only a steward of it, he can use it liberally, making the

troubles of his brethren lighter, so that, having laid them under obligations

to him, he can calculate with certainty upon their cordial sympathy in the

world beyond the grave. A prudent outlay may make hosts of friends

among the immortals beyond; in a word, money may be utilized as a very

important means of grace.

 

·         MAMMON IS A BAD MASTER (v.13) - We start with this thought

as a kind of background to the more comforting teaching which our Lord

here emphasizes. We start with this thought as a kind of background to the

more comforting teaching which our Lord here emphasizes. The soul that is

enslaved by mammon becomes miserable. Is not this implied in the term “miser,”

which designates the slave of money? The poor slave is kept grinding away,

amassing more and more, and yet never getting any benefit from all the lust of

gold. Nothing seems more foolish and insane than the race for riches; nothing

more ruinous than the snares into which the runners fall. When life’s end

comes and the accumulated hoard has to be left behind, the condition of the

soul is pitiful indeed.

 

·         ON THE OTHER HAND, MONEY MAY BE MADE A VERY

USEFUL SERVANT. (vs. 1-9.) For nothing is gained by denying that

money is a great power. How much it can accomplish! Every department

of enterprise regards money as the “one thing needful.” So powerful is it,

that people by the use of it may become thoroughly hated, as many selfish

speculators and covetous people are every day. On the other hand, it may

be so wisely laid out as to increase our friends to troops. A judicious use of

money can gather friends around us by the thousand. It may serve us by

increasing our list of friends.

 

·         MONEY CAN BE USED BY US TO SERVE GOD. (vs. 10-12.)

This is the gist of Christ’s teaching in the parable before us; and we never

use money aright until we have got this idea driven home of serving God

by it. And to emphasize this, let us notice:

 

o       Money is Gods, and we are never more than stewards of it. This truth

underlies the whole parable. The very rich man who has the steward is

God. We are all His stewards, faithful or unfaithful, as the case may be,

in our use of His money. It is never ours apart from God; it is ours only

as His stewards.  Other things are held far more surely — for example,

education, thoughts, culture. They enter our being and become ours, we

have reason to believe, for evermore. But money is only ours for a time

— a loan from God to be put out to a proper use.

 

o       We are faithful in our stewardship when we give ungrudingly to those

who are in real need. God gives us “enough and to spare for the

purpose of laying the needy under obligation. In this way we transmute

our money into gratitude. The gratitude of the assisted is better than the

money, for it abides and can be enjoyed when money cannot.

 

o       God guarantees the gratitude and the reward. Some of the recipients

may turn out to be ungrateful, but “he that giveth unto the poor lendeth

unto the Lord” (Proverbs 19:17), and “Inasmuch as ye have done it

unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

(Matthew 25:40)  We are, therefore, sure of the highest recognition when

for the Lord’s sake we help our fellows.

 

o       THE TRULY GENEROUS AND LIBERAL SOUL HAS A

WELCOME AWAITING HIM IN THE ETERNAL

TABERNACLES.  (v. 9.) The expression, “eternal tabernacles,” to

adopt the Revised Version, seems to indicate everlasting progress to

be realized in the next life. We shall be moving onwards even there

to higher and higher attainment. Those we have befriended here will

receive us into their eternal tents. There will be recognition and

fellowship and its accompanying progress. What a judicious outlay to

have all this awaiting us in the world to come! What a means of grace

money may thus become!  What a help to glory! Let the so-called unjust

steward, then, admonish us to make the most of our capital on earth, that

we may have the best heavenly return from it when we have left the

money behind us for ever.

 

 

 

Notes on the Unjust Steward (vs. 1-13)

 

Whereas the three preceding parables were spoken to the Pharisees, this is

spoken to the disciples. It is not quite certain whether all the parables were

uttered at or about the same time; but the use of the word “also” (v. 1)

suggests that they were. Anyhow, the saying before us has reference to a

different kind of wasting from that of the younger son — a wasting against

which the followers of Jesus are solemnly warned. We are called to listen

to the Master as He indicates temptations and enforces duties within the

special circle of discipleship. This parable is a saying hard to be

understood. Many explanations have been given. A very learned

commentator, appalled by the difficulties connected with the interpretation,

abandoned the attempt, declaring that the solution of the problem is

impossible. And truly, if we canvassed all the schemes of exposition which

have been proposed, all the inferences which have been founded on

clauses, and all the speculations which have been raised, we should find

“no end in wandering mazes lost.” Let our aim be less ambitious; let us try

to get hold of some plain, practical instruction which shall help us to be

better disciples of Jesus Christ. The outline of the story is simple. A wealthy

landowner has a steward who, in the management of his estates, possesses a large

discretionary power. He is informed that this steward has, not stolen or wrongfully

applied, but by neglect or want of skill has squandered, the estate entrusted

to him. He is called to account and is dismissed peremptorily. Now comes

into view the adroitness of the man. He wishes to have some friends who

can do him a good turn when he is out of a situation; and so, before news

of his dismissal reaches any, while it is supposed that he has full power, he

calls together those who are in arrears of rent or are otherwise indebted to

his lord. We can imagine the trembling with which they obey the summons.

How bland and smiling is the factor! What kind inquiries as to wife and

children and belongings! And then, “By the way, what is the amount of

your obligation?” Two specimens are given. One person owes a hundred

measures of oil. “Take your pen,” says the factor, “score out the hundred,

and make it fifty.” Another owes a hundred measures of wheat. “Take your

pen, write down eighty.” All retire charmed, loud in the steward’s praise.

Had he not secured a warm place in their regard? When told of his

downfall, would not they all cry, “Shame!” and speak of him as the tenants’

friend, and welcome him to their houses? The point of the lesson w hich

Christ would teach is this — separate the energy from the dishonesty, the

foresight from the fraud, and as he, for his own wrong ends, was wise and

calculating, so, for your right ends, practice a wisdom like his, though

nobler than his: “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of

unrighteousness, that when ye fail, they may receive you into

everlasting habitations.” Now, without puzzling ourselves over the details

of the parable, consider the following lessons:

 

  • CHRISTIAN RESPONSIBILITY. In the relation of the steward to the

rich man we have a foreshadowing of the relation in which we stand to

God. “Steward” is the word which indicates this relation. To every one of

us is given a charge of goods whose Owner is God. Our own constitution

— physical, mental, moral — is a trust; all our endowments — talents,

powers of whatsoever kind — are a property of which we are farmers; and

he who thinks that he can do as he likes with these, that he can dissipate his

substance by intemperance, or alienate his strength from higher ends, is

false to his Maker and false to himself. So with regard to all our influence

— direct and indirect — it is a power delegated to us by the Almighty, and

to be realized under the sense of the account to be rendered to Him.

Money, relationships, social positions, — all are items of the estate over

which we are set. Do we all realize this as we should? Do we not sadly

forget this fact of stewardship? Christ speaks of “the mammon of

unrighteousness.” Here is an explanation which has been given. “The ears

of Jesus must have been repeatedly shocked by the kind of rashness by

which men speak, without hesitation, of my fortune,’ ‘my land,’ ‘my

house.’ He who felt keenly the dependence of man on God perceived that

there was in this feeling of property a sort of USURPATION, a

forgetfulness of the real owner; in hearing such language he seemed to see

the tenant changing into the master.” (Basically, this is what secular humanism

seems to me to be attempting to do today – CY – 2012)  Ah! does he not

hear such language every day?  Is it not in the air? Is it not in our own feeling?

Are we not, in many ways, changing the tenant into the master, the steward into

the owner? taking the goods, and using them without giving praise to Him

whose they are? Would that the answer given to the first question in an old

Catechism were written into the texture of every life — “Man’s chief end

is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.”

 

  • Connected with Christian stewardship is THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN

ADMINISTRATION. And may it not be said that this is a truth far too

little studied and practiced? When we hear of depressions of

trade, of hard, dull times, we may well reflect on the saying of the Prophet

Haggai (Haggai 1:5-6), “Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and

 bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not

filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that

 earneth wages, earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.” In regard

to Christian objects, is there not much to learn from such tact and prudence

as the steward’s in the parable? Do we not need them much in the conduct

of benevolent enterprises? Competition may be healthy; but a competition

which, in a limited area, or on mere windmills, spends a force which should

be far more diffusive, is not only not healthy, it is a loss and a scandal. Is

not this the kind of competition which is too prevalent in ecclesiastical and

in charitable spheres? Otherwise must we not confess that, through our

want of inventiveness or wisdom in management, our want of skill to turn

opportunities to the best advantage, of the sagacity which is exercised in

worldly matters, we lay ourselves open to the reproach, “The children of

this age are wiser in their generation than the children of light” (v.8)?

Realize that, whether there is much or little, faithfulness is demanded of the

steward — such a disposal or investment of all wealth as that the Lord’s

interests are furthered. To each of us is given the charge, “So allocate the

mammon of unrighteousness, the uncertain, unstable wealth which you

possess, that it shall not hinder, but help you to the everlasting

habitations.” How many does that mammon hinder! How few of us so

use our money as to advance not only Christ’s cause but our own holiness!

But should it not be rendered a means of spiritual gain? It is concerning this

fidelity to God in the laying out of the perishable riches that Christ hints

that they in whom it abounds will not want the friendly welcome when the

tent of this tabernacle is dissolved, and the spirit passes into the

everlasting habitations.

 

  • A word as to CHRISTIAN SERVICE. This mammon, which was

meant to be an instrument for the accomplishment of our stewardship, is

apt to assume the bearing of a master. At first it is the slave, the most

obedient, until, by constant trafficking with it and by taking it into the

region of our affections, it becomes our love; and when it is the love of a

man, the consideration which to him is first, the supreme point of his

interest, then it ascends from the kitchen into the parlor, and claims

the self as its own. This mammon-rule, mammon-worship, is one of the

most distinct features of the day, and few of us know how deep is its mark

in our souls. Here is the choice — this mammon, or Christ with the thorn-

crowned brow; this mammon, or God Himself. One or other we may serve;

Christ insists we cannot serve both (v.13). “That usurping lord has a will

so different from God’s will, gives commands so opposite to His, that

occasion must speedily arise when one or other will have to be slighted,

despised, and disobeyed, if the other be regarded, honored, and served.

God, for instance, will command a scattering, when mammon will urge to a

further keeping and gathering; God will require spending on others, when

mammon or the world will urge a spending on one’s own lusts. Therefore,

the two Lords having characters so different and giving commands so

opposite, it will be impossible to reconcile their services: one must be

despised if the other is held to; the only faithfulness to the one is to break

with the other; ‘ye cannot serve God and mammon.’ “Choose ye this

day whom ye will serve.” (Joshua 24:15)   There is to be no playing at

religion. A saintly voice (Augustine) has thus interpreted the election: may

 the “amen’ to his words arise from our souls! O God, thou sweetness

ineffable, make bitter for me all carnal comfort which draws me away

from the love of eternal things, and in evil manner allures me to itself

by the view of some present delightsome good. Let me not be overcome,

O Lord, by  flesh and blood.  Let not the world and the brief glory thereof

 deceive me.  Let not the devil and his subtle fraud supplant me. Give me

 strength to resist, patience to endure, and constancy to persevere. Give

 me, instead of all the comforts of the world, the most sweet unction of

 thy Holy Spirit and the love of thy blessed Name.”

 

 

 

                                    The Dividing Line (v. 13)

 

Ingenuity is an excellent thing in its way; it counts for much in the conduct

of life; it renders valuable aid in our “taking possession of the earth and

subduing it”  (Genesis 1:28), it has its place and function in the spiritual

sphere, A holy love will press it into its service and make it further its benign

and noble aims. But there is a dividing-line, which is such that no ingenuity

will enable us to stand on both sides of it. We must elect whether we will take

our place on this side or on the other of it. That line is found in the service

of Jesus Christ. To be His servant is to have withdrawn from the service of

the world; to remain in the latter is to decline “to serve the Lord.” We may

be loyal enough to this present world, may be animated by its spirit,

governed by its principles, numbered amongst its friends, and:

 

·         YET MAKE A LOUD PROFESSION OF PIETY; or

 

·         YET ENJOY A GOOD REPUTATION FOR RELIGION, — witness

the Pharisees of our Lord’s time and the false prophets of an earlier age; or:

 

·         STILL COUNT OURSELVES AMONG THE PEOPLE OF GOD;

for many of those whom God knoweth afar off” are persuaded of

themselves that they are quite near and very dear to Him. In nothing do

men make greater mistakes than in the estimation that they form of their

own moral and spiritual worth. But no man can live under the dominion of

any one sin or with his heart yielded to the objects and interests of time,

and:

 

·         YET BE A TRUE SERVANT OF CHRIST. For to be the servant and

follower of Christ is:

 

Ø      To have surrendered self to Him, and exhibit the spirit of selfishness

      is the essential spirit of worldliness.

 

Ø      To have sworn undying enmity to all the false doctrines and pernicious

habits which abound in “the world,” and which both characterize and

constitute it.

 

Ø      Not to be living for time, but to be building for eternity.

 

14 “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these

things: and they derided Him.”  This shows that many of the dominant sect

had been present and had listened to the parable of the unjust steward.

Although scrupulous, and in a way religious men, these Pharisees were

notorious for their respect and regard for riches, and all that riches

purchase, and they felt, no doubt deeply, the Lord’s bitter reproach of

covetousness. They, the rulers and leaders of Israel, the religious guides,

were evidently attacked in such teaching as they had been lately listening

to, not the common people whom they so despised. The scornful words

alluded to in the expression, “they derided him,” were no doubt directed

against the outward poverty of the popular Galilaean Teacher. “It is all

very well,” they would say, “for one springing from the ranks of the

people, landless, moneyless, to rail at wealth and the possessors of wealth;

we can understand such teaching from one such as you.

 

 

 

                        The Explanation of False Judgment (v. 14)

 

“Herein is a marvelous thing,” that the men who were reputed to be the

best and wisest among the people of God went so far astray in their

judgment and their behavior that they treated with positive contempt the

Good and the Wise One when He lived before their eyes and spoke in their

hearing. It demands explanation.

 

·         AN APPARENTLY UNACCOUNTABLE FACT. Here we have:

 

Ø      Heavenly wisdom derided by those who were divinely instructed. The

Pharisees had the Law of God in their hands. Moreover, they had it in their

minds and memories; they were perfectly familiar with it; they knew it well

to the last letter. They had the great advantage of the devotional Scriptures

following the legal, and the didactic and the illuminating prophetic

Scriptures added to both. Then, to crown all, came the enlightening truths

of the great Teacher Himself; yet they failed to appreciate and even to

understand Him. Nor did they simply turn from Him without response; they

took up the position of acute and active opposition — “they derided Him;”

they sought to bring His doctrine into popular contempt.

 

Ø      Divine goodness derided by those who were exceptionally devout. No

man could impeach the devoutness of the Pharisees, that is to say, so far as

manner and habit were concerned. Their outward behavior was reverent

in the extreme; their habit of life was regulated by rules that brought them

into frequent formal connection with God and with His Word. Yet with all

their exterior piety they saw the Holy One of God living His transcendently

beautiful, His positively perfect life before them, and, instead of worshipping

Him as the Son of God, instead of honoring Him as one of the worthiest of

the sons of men, they actually judged Him to be unholy and unworthy, and

they endeavoured to bring Him under the contempt of all good men! Such

was their moral perversity, their spiritual contradictoriness.

 

·         THE TRUE EXPLANATION OF IT. That which accounts for this

radical and criminal mistake of theirs was spiritual unsoundness. They

were all wrong at heart; they loved the wrong thing, and a false affection

led them, as it will lead all men, VERY FAR ASTRAY!   Everything is

explained in the parenthetical clause, “who were covetous.” For covetousness

is an unholy selfishness. It is a mean and a degrading carefulness about a man’s

own circumstances, a small and a withering desire for an enrichment at

other men’s expense; it is an affection which lowers and which enslaves the

soul, ever dragging downwards and deathwards. And it is also a guilty

worldliness. It is not that ambition to make the most and best of the

present, which may be a very honorable aspiration; for “all things are ours

[as Christian men], things present” as well as things to come (I Corinthians

3:22); it is rather the moral weakness which allows itself to be

lost and buried in the pursuits and pleasures of earth and time; it is the

narrowing of the range of human attachment and endeavor to that which

is sensuous and temporal, excluding the nobler longings after the spiritual

and THE ETERNAL!   This worldliness is not only a guilty thing, condemned

of God; but it is a disastrous thing, working most serious evils to mankind.

 

Ø      It distorts the judgment.

 

Ø      It leads men into wrong and mischievous courses of action; it led the

Pharisees to take such an attitude and to initiate such proceedings

against Christ that  culminated in His murder.

 

Ø      It ends in condemnation — such severe judgment as the Lord passed on

these blind guides (see Matthew 23). If we would be right at heart and in

the sight of God, it is clear that “our righteousness must exceed the

righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.”

 

o       Multiplied ceremonialism will not suffice.

o       Perfected proprieties will not avail.

o       Only a humble, trustful, loving heart will make us right.

A true affection, the love of Christ, will lead us into truth and

                                    wisdom, will commend us to God, will land us IN HEAVEN!

 

15 “And He said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before

men; but God knoweth your hearts:” -  The part the Pharisees played in public

imposed upon the people. The great influence which they exercised was in great

measure due to the respect generally felt for their strict and religious lives. The

hypocrisy of this famous sect — it was probably in many cases unconscious

hypocrisy — and the false coloring which it gave religion, contributed not a little

to the state of things which led to the final disruption of the Jewish nation as a nation

some forty years after these words were spoken. It is only a student of the

Talmud who can form any notion of the Pharisee mind; a superficial study

even of parts of this strange, mighty collection will show why our Lord

was so seemingly hard in his rebukes of these often earnest and religious

men; it will show, too, why the same Divine Master at times seemed to

change His words of bitter wrath into accents of the tenderest sympathy

and love – “for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination

in the sight of God.”   Especially alluding to that haughty pride of men in

wealth and money, which, after all, IS NOT THEIRS!

 

 

 

                                    Divine and Human Judgment (v.15)

 

This declaration of Christ was a judgment in a double sense. It was drawn

down upon themselves by the Pharisees, who had been doing their worst to

bring into derision the doctrine and the character of our Lord. This reply

was not indeed a retort, but it was of the nature of a judgment. It declared

the mind of Christ, and it declared it in strong disapproval of evil-doing and

strong condemnation of an evil spirit. It brings before us three subjects of

thought.

 

·         OUR DESIRE TO STAND WELL WITH OUR BRETHREN. “Ye…

justify yourselves before men.” The desire to be justified of man is almost

universal.

 

Ø      It may be a right and worthy sentiment. When the approval of man is

regarded in the light of a confirmation of God’s acceptance of us or of the

commendation of our own conscience, then is it right and honorable.

 

Ø      But it may be of very little value indeed; it is so when it is sought merely

as a matter of gratification, irrespective of the consideration of its true

moral worth. For the approval of man is often a very hollow and always a

transient thing; change the company, and you change the verdict; wait until

a later day, and you have a contrary decision. The hero of the past

generation is the criminal of the present time. And it may be that the man

or the action the multitude are praising is the one that God is most

seriously condemning. Of what value, then, is “the honour that cometh

from man”?

 

o       Care nothing for the opinion of the selfish and the vicious.

o       Care little for the judgment of those whose character you do

            not know.

o       Be desirous of living in the esteem of the good and wise.

 

·         GOD’S SEARCHING GLANCE. “God knoweth your hearts.” Men do

not see us as we are; we do not know ourselves with any thoroughness of

knowledge; the power we have and use to impose on others reaches its

climax when we impose on ourselves, and persuade ourselves that those

things are true of us which are essentially false. Only God “knows us

altogether;” for it is He alone that looketh upon the heart,” that is “a

Discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)  His

glance penetrates to the innermost chambers of our soul. He sees:

 

Ø      The motives by which we are actuated in our deeds; seeing often that

apparently good deeds are inspired by low or even bad motives, and that

deeds which society condemns are relieved by unselfish promptings.

 

Ø      The feeling that accompanies our expression; whether it is slight or

whether it is deep; often perceiving that it is more or that it is less than we

imagine it to be.

 

Ø      The purpose of our heart toward God; determining whether, in the

presence of much profession, there is genuine devotedness; whether, in the

absence of profession and even of assurance, there is not true godliness in

the soul.

 

·         THE DIVINE REVERSAL. “That which is highly esteemed among

      men is abomination in the sight of God.”  Of those things concerning

which these strong words are true, there are:

 

Ø      Assumed and also unpractical piety. The hypocrite is hateful in the sight

of Absolute Purity; we know what Christ thought of him. Less guilty and

yet guilty is the mere ceremonialist — he who has no more piety than is

found in a multitude of sacred ceremonies, who has not learned to regulate

his life or to regard the claims of others. To frequent the sanctuary on one

day, and the next to take a mean advantage of some weak brother, is

odious in the sight of the common Father.

 

Ø      Self-seeking philanthropy the show of doing good to others which is

nothing more than a profitable pretence, a course of conduct which has a

benevolent aspect but which is secretly aiming at its own enrichment.

 

Ø      Irreverent activity. Men often yield great admiration to those whose

lives are full of successful labor, who build up large fortunes or rise to

great eminence and power by much energy and unremitting toil. But if

those men are living godless lives, are excluding from the sphere of their

thought and effort that Divine One, “with whom they have [everything] to

do” (Hebrews 4:13) and whose creative, preserving, and providing love

has everything to do with their capacity, must we not say that the lives of

these men are so seriously defective as to be even “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 presseth into it.”  Some

expositors discern so little connection between the sayings contained in

these verses which intervene between the two great parables of the unjust

steward and the rich man and Lazarus, that they consider them as a number

of sayings of the Master collected by Luke and inserted here. A clear

thread, however, runs through the whole piece between the two parables.

Probably, however, here, as in many parts of the Gospel, we only have just

a bare sketch of what the Lord said; hence its fragmentary character. Here

the Master went on speaking to the Pharisees who derided him (v. 14).

“Up to the period of John the Baptist,” said the Master, “the old state of things

 may be said to have continued in force. With him began a new era; no longer

were the old privileges to be confined to Israel exclusively; gradually the kingdom

of God was to be enlarged, the old wall of separation was to be taken down.

See, every man is pressing into it; the new state of things has already

begun; you see it in the crowds of publicans, sinners, Samaritans, and

others pressing round me when I speak of the kingdom of God.”

 

17 “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one

tittle of the Law to fail.”  “Yet think not,” went on the Master, “that,

though things are changing, THE DIVINE LAW WILL EVER FAIL!”

The mere temporary and transitory regulations will, of course, give place to a

New order, but not the smallest part of one letter of the Divine moral

Law will fail.” “One tittle.” This is the rendering of a Greek word the

diminutive of “horn,” which denoted the horn or extremity of a Hebrew letter,

by the omission or addition of which — to give an instance — the letter d

becomes the letter r; thus with the horn it is d, daleth, d; without the horn

r, resh, r. The heresiarch Marcion (second century) here, in his recension

of St. Luke, changes the text thus: “It is easier for heaven and earth to

pass, than for one tittle of my sayings to fail.” Marcion, who refused fallow

the Divine origin of any part of the Old Testament, was afraid of the

testimony which this assertion of our Lord would give to the Divine

authority of the Pentateuch. (BEWARE MODERN CRITICS – remember

the warning “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add

unto him the plagues that are written in this book:  And if any man

shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God

shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy

city, and from the things which are written in this book.”  Revelation

22:18-19 – CY – 2012)  In illustration of His saying that the moral Law

given to the Jews was changeless, and while earth endured would never

fail, the Master instances one grave chapter of the Law with which there

had been much tampering-that of DIVORCE.   (May this be not lost

on we dwellers in the 21st CENTURY!  - CY – 2012) “See,” He said,

“the new state of things which I am now teaching, instead of loosening the

cords with which the old Law regulated human society, will rather tighten

them. Instead of a laxer code being substituted, I am preaching a yet

severer one. My law of divorce is a severer one than that written down by

Moses.”

 

18 “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another,

committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away

from her husband, committeth adultery.”  The teaching of the rabbis in

the time of our Lord on the question of the MARRIAGE TIE  was

EXCEEDING LAX and TENDED TO GRAVE IMMORALITY IN

THE FAMILY LIFE!  In the late unlawful marriage of Herod Antipas with

Herodias, in which so many sacred and family ties were rudely torn asunder,

no rabbi or doctor in Israel but one had raised his voice in indignant protest,

and that one was the friend and connection of Jesus of Nazareth, the prophet

John the Baptist (for which protest he was beheaded – Matthew 14:4-12).

Divorce for the most trivial causes was sanctioned by the rabbis, and even

such men as Hillel, the grandfather of that Gamaliel whom tradition speaks

of as the rabbi whose lectures were listened to by the Boy Jesus, taught

that a man might divorce his wife if in the cooking she burnt his dinner or

even over salted his soup (see Talmud, treatise ‘Gittin,’ 9:10).

 

 

Luke and Paul, different to the great masters of profane history, like

Thucydides, or Livy, or Xenophon, were evidently at no pains to round off

their narratives. They give us the account of the Lord’s words and works

very much as they had them from the first listeners and eye-witnesses.

When the notes and memories were very scant and fragmentary, as appear

to have been the case in the Lord’s discourse which Luke interposes

between the parable of the steward and that of Dives and Lazarus, the

fragmentary notes are reproduced without any attempt to round off the

condensed, and at first sight apparently disconnected, utterances. So here,

directly after the fragmentary report of certain sayings of Jesus, the great

parable of Lazarus and Dives is introduced with somewhat startling

abruptness; nothing of Luke’s is added — simply the original report as

Luke or Paul received it is reproduced.

 

The following is probably the connection in which the famous parable was

spoken.

 

When the Lord spoke the parable-story of the unjust steward, He pressed

home to the listeners, as its great lesson, the necessity of providing against

the day of death, and He showed how, by the practice of kindness here

towards the poor, the weak, and the suffering, they would make to

themselves friends who would in their turn be of use to them — who

would, in their hour of sore need, when death swept them out of this life,

receive them into everlasting habitations.

 

We believe that the Master, as He spoke these things, purposed — either

on that very occasion, or very shortly after, when His listeners were again

gathered together — supplementing this important teaching by another

parable, in which the good of having friends in the world to come should

be clearly shown. The parable of Lazarus as Dives, then, may be regarded

as a piece of teaching following on to and closely connected with the

parable of the unjust steward.

 

Nine verses, however, as we have seen are inserted between the two

parables. Of these, vs. 10-13 are simply some reflections of the Master

on the parable of the steward just spoken. Then comes v. 14 — a

scornful interruption on the part of the Pharisee listeners. Our Lord replies

to this (vs. 15-18), and then goes on, either then or very soon after, to

the same auditory, with the parable of Lazarus and Dives, which is, in fact,

a direct sequel to the parable of the unjust steward, and which Luke

proceeds to relate without any further preamble.

 

19 “There was a certain rich man,” -  He is thus introduced by the

Lord without any details respecting his age or place of residence —

nameless, too! Seems He not to have been reading from that book where He

found the name of the poor man written, but found not the name of the

rich; for that book is the book of life?” (Sermon 178. 3 of St. Augustine).

Tradition says his name was Nimeusis, but it is simply a baseless tradition.

“which was clothed in purple and fine linen,” -  The words which describe the

life of Dives were chosen with rare skill; they are few, but enough to show

us that the worldly hero of the story lived a life of royal magnificence and

boundless luxury. His ordinary apparel seems to have been purple and fine

linen. This purple, the true sea purple, was a most precious and rare dye,

and the purple garment so dyed was a royal gift, and was scarcely used

save by princes and nobles of very high degree. In it the idol-images were

sometimes arrayed. The fine linen (byssus) was worth twice its weight in

gold. It was in hue dazzlingly white – “and fared sumptuously every day.”

With this princely rich man banquets were a matter of daily occurrence.

Thus with all the accompaniments of grandeur this nameless mighty one lived, his

halls ever filled with noble guests, his antechambers with servants.  Everything with

him that could make life splendid and joyous was in profusion. Some have suspected

that our Lord took, as the model for His picture here, the life of the tetrarch

Herod Antipas. The court of that magnificent and luxurious prince would certainly

have well served as the original of the picture; but Herod was still living, and it is

more likely that Jesus was describing the earth-life of one who had already been

“dismissed” from his earthly stewardship, and who, when He spoke the parable,

ALREADY IN THE WORLD TO COME!

 

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:”  In striking contrast to the life of the rich man, the

Master, with a few touches, paints the life of the beggar Lazarus. This giving a name

to a personage in the parable occurs nowhere else in the evangelists’ reports of our

Lord’s parabolic teaching. It probably was done in this case just to give us a hint, for

it is nothing more, of the personal character of the poor sufferer who in the end was

so blessed. The object of the parable, as we shall see, did not include any

detailed account of the beggar-man’s inner life; just this name is given him

to show us why, when he died, HE FOUND HIMSELF AT ONCE IN

BLISS.   Among the Jews the name very often describes the character of him who

bears it. The Greek name Lazarus is derived from two Hebrew words, El-ezer

(“God-help”), shortened by the rabbis into Leazar, whence Lazarus. He

was, then, one of those happy ones whose confidence, in all his grief and

misery, was in God alone. Well was his trust, as we shall see, justified. The

gate at which he was daily laid was a stately portal (πυλώνpulongate;

portal ). Lazarus is represented as utterly unable to win his bread. He was a

constant sufferer, covered with sores, wasting under the dominion of a loathsome,

incurable disease. This representative of human suffering has taken a strange hold

on the imagination of men. In many of the languages of Europe the name of

the beggar of the parable appears in the terms “lazar,” “lazar-house,” and

“lazaretto,” “lazzaroni.” Unable himself to walk, some pitying friend or

friends among the poor — the poor are never backward in helping others

poorer than themselves, thus setting a noble example to the rich — brought

him and laid him daily close by the splendid gates of the palace of Dives.

The crumbs signify the broken fragments which the servants of the rich

man would contemptuously, perhaps pityingly, toss to the poor helpless

beggar-man as he lay by the gate -  “moreover the dogs came and licked

his sores.”  These were the wild, homeless pariah dogs so common in all

Eastern cities, who act as the street-scavengers, and are regarded as

unclean. This mention of the dogs clustering round him does not suggest

any contrast between the pitying animals and pitiless men, but simply adds

additional color to the picture of the utter helplessness of the diseased

sufferer; there he lay, and as he lay, the rough homeless dogs would lick his

unbandaged wounds as they passed on the forage.

 

 

 

                        Poverty at the Gate of Wealth (vs. 19-20)

                                      

Here is a picture which we recognize in England in this nineteenth century

quite as readily as it would be recognized in Judaea in the days of our

Lord (same here in the USA in the twenty-first century - CY - 2021);

it is that of poverty and wealth in very close association. It is not

only a picture to look upon but a problem to solve, and one of much

urgency as well as great difficulty.

 

  • POVERTY AND WEALTH IN CLOSE JUXTAPOSITION. As the

rich man of the parable could not enter his house without seeing Lazarus

lying in rags and sores at his gate, so are we unable to pass our days

without being impressed with the fact that “the poor [even the very poor]

we have with us,” and indeed all around us. Lazarus lies at our gate. Not

only have we the professional beggar, who has adopted “begging” as his

means of livelihood, but we have the whole army of the unfortunate, who

have been incapacitated by some means, and who cannot “work that they

may eat;” and we have also another large and equally pitiable multitude of

the ill-paid, who cannot earn enough by the honest industry in which they

are employed to sustain themselves and their families. And so it comes to

pass that in England today, side by side with competence, with wealth,

with inestimable affluence, is poverty walking in rags, lying in loneliness,

shivering with cold and hunger, working without reward that is worthy of

the name. It is a sad sight in a Christian land; and it is not sad alone, it is

alarming; for such extremes are full of evil and of peril.  (In modern days

in America it is too easy to fall into pushing drugs and the sex trade, in

order to compensate.  CY - 2021)

 

  • THE PAINFUL ASPECT OF THIS FEATURE OF OUR MODERN

LIFE. For who can doubt:

 

Ø      The dangers attending great wealth? It leads to luxury, and luxury

favors:

 

o        sloth,

o        indulgence,

o        a false standard of the worth and purpose of life,

o        a proud heart, and a haughty bearing.

 

In circumstances where there is no necessity for energetic and patient labor,

and where there is every opportunity of enjoyment, many evil weeds grow

fast (Does this not describe the Welfare State in America of the last half

century?  CY - 2021), and there the best flowers that grow in the garden

of the Lord too  often languish. Or who can doubt:

 

Ø      The perils of extreme poverty? These lead down by a straight and steep

path to servility, to craftiness and cunning, to falsehood, to dishonesty, to

envy and hatred. And who can fail to see:

 

Ø      The evil influence on the State of these two extremes? Here there can be

no true brotherhood, no proper association and co-operation; here is

separation from one another, a division as great as that which is interposed

by the high mountain range or the broad sea; nay, greater than that! Many

English people see more and know more of the inhabitants of Switzerland

than they see and know of the denizens of the streets of another part of

their own parish. It is the uninteresting and objectionable poor at their gate

who are the “strangers.”

 

  • ONE MITIGATING FEATURE. This juxtaposition of poverty and

wealth provides an opportunity for the exercise of sincere benevolence and

of the highest Christian wisdom. To the Christian heart there is a plaintive

plea which cannot be unheard or disregarded, even though Lazarus be kept

out of sight and hearing by judicious arrangements. And to the honest

patriot there is an inviting and urgent problem to which, far more than to

the questions of fortifications and armaments, he will give earnest heed,

viz. how to bring about an approachment, an intermingling, of all classes

and conditions of men, a better distribution of the great resources of the

land.

 

  • THE TRUE HOPE OF ADJUSTMENT. Whither shall we look for a

better distribution of the riches of the land?

 

Ø      Almsgiving can only touch the fringe of the difficulty.

 

Ø      Economic changes may have a valuable part to play in the matter; but

we are not yet agreed as to the best course to take.

 

Ø      Beneficent legislation will certainly bring its large contribution; it can do

two things: it can:

 

o       educate the whole nation, and so provide every citizen with

      necessary weapons for the battle of life; and it can

o       do much to remove temptation from the path of the weak.

      But it is:

 

Ø      Spiritual renewal which must prove the main source of social

reconstruction. Change the character, and you will change the

condition of men. And the one force which will effect this is

THE REDEEMING AND REGENERATING TRUTH OF GOD,

made known by the holy lives and in the loving words of the

                        disciples of Jesus Christ.

 

22 “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried

by the angels into Abraham’s bosom:” -  At last kind death came, and

relieved Lazarus of his sufferings. His dismissal, as might have been

expected, preceded that of the rich man; for he was enfeebled by a deadly

disease. We must not, of course, press too much the details we find in

parables; still, from our Lord’s way of speaking of the great change in the

cases of both Lazarus and Dives, it would seem as though there was

absolutely no pause between the two lives of this world and the world to

come. The rich man evidently is pictured as closing his eyes upon his

gorgeous surroundings here, and opening them directly again upon his

cheerless surroundings there. Lazarus is described as being borne at once

into Abraham’s bosom. Indeed, some interpret the words as signifying that

the body as well as the soul was carried by angels into Paradise. It is,

however, better, to understand the expression as alluding only to Lazarus’s

soul; of the body of the pauper nothing was said, as men probably contemptuously,

if not carelessly, buried it with the burial rites which such homeless, friendless

ones too often receive. The place whither the blest Lazarus went is termed

“Abraham’s bosom.” This term was used by the Jews indifferently, with

“the garden of Eden,” or “under the throne of glory,” for the home

of happy but waiting souls. -  “the rich man also died, and was buried.”

There is a terrible irony here in this mention of burial. This human pageantry

of woe was for the rich man what the carrying by the angels into Abraham’s

bosom was for Lazarus — it was his equivalent; but while these empty

honors were being paid to his senseless, deserted body, the rich man was

already gazing on the surroundings of his new and cheerless home. After the

moment’s sleep of death, WHAT AN AWAKENING!”

 

23 “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments,” -  more

accurately, in Hades (the unseen world of the dead) he lift up his eyes. The

idea of suffering does not lie in these first words, but in the participle

“being in torments,” which immediately follows. It is noticeable that, in this

Divine picture of unhappy life in the other world there is no coarse, vulgar

word-painting such as we meet with so often in mediaeval human works.

The very fact of the man’s being unhappy is gently represented. The graver

aspect of the torments we learn from the hapless one’s own words  (v.24).

Still, it is all very awful, though the facts are so gently told us. “Being in

torments:” How could it be otherwise for such a one as Dives? The home

of the loving, where Abraham was, would be no home for that selfish man

who had never really loved or cared for any one save himself. What were

the torments? men with hushed voices ask. A little further on the doomed

one speaks of a flame and of his tongue apparently burning, owing to the

scorching heat; but it would be a mistake to think of a material flame being

intended here. There is nothing in the description of the situation to

suggest this; it is rather the burning never to be satisfied, longing for

something utterly beyond his reach, that the unhappy man describes as an

inextinguishable flame. Were it desirable to dwell on these torments, we

should remind men how lustful desires change rapidly into torture for the

soul WHEN THE MEANS OF GRATIFYING THEM EXIST NOT!

 In the case of Dives, his delight on earth seems to have been society, pleasant

jovial company, the being surrounded by a crowd of admiring friends, the daily

banquet, the gorgeous apparel, the stately house, — these details more than hint

at the pleasure he found in the society of courtier-friends; but in the other world

HE SEEM TO BE QUITE ALONE!  Whereas among the blessed there

appears to be a SWEET COMPANIONSHIP!   Lazarus is in the company of

Abraham, who, of course, only represents a great and goodly gathering.

“Abraham’s bosom” is simply the well-known expression for that feast or

banquet of the happy souls judged worthy of an entrance into Paradise. But

in that place where the rich man lifted up his eyes there seems A STRANGE

AND AWFUL SOLILITARINESS!   A total absence of everything, even

of external causes of trouble, is very noticeable. HE WAS ALONE;

ALONE WITH  HIS THOUGHTS! – “and seeth 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.”  His intense

longing seems to be for companionship. “Oh for a friend,” he seems to say,

“who could speak to me, comfort me, give me the smallest alleviation of

the pain I suffer!” What picture of a hell was ever painted by man

comparable to THIS VISION OF ETERNAL SOLITUDE  peopled alone

by remorseful memories, described by Jesus? As the Divine Speaker advanced

in His thrilling, melancholy description of the rich man’s condition in the world to

come, how vividly must the listeners have recalled the Master’s earnest

advice to them, in His former parable of the steward, to make to themselves

while here friends who would receive them into everlasting habitations!

They saw the meaning of that detail of the parable then. Were they, in their

luxurious abundance, were they making friends here who would help them

there in the eternal tents? Were they not, perhaps, making the same mistake

as the rich man of the story? The question might be asked — Why is

Abraham, the father of the chosen race, the center of this blessed life in

Hades? In reply, firstly, it must be remembered that the whole coloring of

this parable is peculiarly rabbinic, and in the schools of the rabbis the life of

the blessed in Paradise is represented as a banquet, over which, until

Messiah come, Abraham is represented as presiding. And, secondly, when

the parable was spoken, the Saviour was actually on earth; His great

redemption work had still to be accomplished. There was truth as well as

error mingled in that strange rabbinical teaching. Messiah, as Messiah,

when the parable was being probably acted, had not entered that realm

where Abraham and many another holy and humble man of heart were in

the enjoyment of exquisite bliss.

 

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.”  Abraham here simply bids the tortured man to call to

his memory the circumstances of the life he had lived on earth, telling him that in these

circumstances he would find the reason for his present woeful state. It was no

startling record of vice and crime, or even of folly, that the father of the faithful calls

attention to. He quietly recalls to the rich man’s memory that on earth he had lived a

life of princely splendor and luxury, and that Lazarus, sick and utterly destitute,

lay at his palace gate, and was allowed to lie there UNPITIED and

UNHELPED!  And because of the studied moderation of its language, and the

Everyday character of its hero Dives — for he, the rich man, not Lazarus, is the

Real hero, the central character of the great parable-lesson — the lesson of the

parable goes home necessarily to many more hearts than it would have

done had the hero been a monster of wickedness, a cold calculating or else

a plausible villain, a man who shrank not from sacrificing the lives and

happiness of his fellow-men if their lives or happiness stood in his way.

Dives was merely a commonplace wealthy man of the world, with self-centered

alms, and the sin for which he was condemned to outer darkness

was only that everyday sin of neglecting out of the mammon of

unrighteousness — in other words, out of his money — to make for

himself friends who should receive him into the eternal tents.

 

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.”  Although the

whole thought which runs through this parable is new, and peculiar to

Christ, yet the coloring of the picture is nearly all borrowed from the

great rabbinic schools; one of the few exceptions to this rule being this

chasm or gulf which separates the two regions of Hades. The rabbis

represented the division as consisting only of a wall. “What is the distance

between Paradise and Gehenna? According to R. Johanan, a wall;

according to other teachers, a palm-breadth, or only a finger-breadth”

(‘Midrash on Koheleth’). What, asks the awestruck reader, is this dreadful

chasm? why is it impassable? will it be for ever there? will no ages of

sorrow, no tears, no bitter heartfelt repentance succeed in throwing a

bridge across it? Many have written here, and kindly souls have tried to

answer the stern question with the gentle, loving reply which their souls so

longed to hear. What is impossible to the limitless love of God? Nothing,

wistfully says the heart. But, when interrogated closely, the parable and,

indeed, all the Master’s teaching on this point preserves a silence complete,

impenetrable.

 

 

 

            The Sin and Doom of Selfish Worldliness (vs. 19-26)

 

This parable, taken (as I think it should be), not in connection with the

immediately preceding verses (16-18), but with those that come before

these (with vers. 1-15), is a very striking confirmation of the doctrine

delivered by Christ concerning selfishness and worldliness. He brings its

sinfulness and its doom into bold relief.

 

·         WHERE THE RICH MAN WAS WRONG.

 

Ø      Not in being rich. He is not brought forward as the type of those whose

very possession of wealth — because ill-gotten — is itself a crime and a

sin. He may be supposed to have entered on his large estate quite

honourably.

 

Ø      Not in being vicious. There is no trace of drunkenness or debauchery

here.

 

Ø      Not in being scandalously cruel. It is not a monster that is here depicted;

not one that took a savage and shameful pleasure in witnessing the

sufferings of others. He was so far from this that he consented to the

beggar being placed at his gate, and (it may be taken) that he allowed his

servants to give the suppliant broken pieces from his table; he was not at all

unwilling that the poor wretch outside should have for his dire necessity

what he himself would never miss. This is where he was wrong.

 

Ø      He was living an essentially selfish and worldly life. God gave him his

powers and his possessions in order that with them he might glorify his

Maker and serve his brethren. But he was expending them wholly upon

himself, or rather upon his present personal enjoyment. If he parted with

a few crumbs which he could not feel the loss of, that was an exception so

pitifully small as to serve no other purpose than that of “proving the rule.”

It went for nothing at all. His spirit was radically and utterly selfish; his

principles were essentially worldly. It was nothing to him that outside his

gates was a world of poverty, of which poor Lazarus was only one painful

illustration; that sad fact did not disturb his appetite or make his wines lose

anything of their relish. It was nothing to him that there were treasures of a

better kind than those of house and lands, of gold and silver; that there was

an inheritance to be gained in the unseen world; enough for him that his

palace was his own, that his income was secure, that his pleasures there

was no one to interrupt. Selfishness and worldliness characterized his

spirit; they darkened and degraded his life, and they sealed his doom.

 

·         THE SEVERITY OF HIS DOOM. “In hell he lift up his eyes, being in

torments;” “There is a great gulf fixed.” Jesus Christ was not now

unveiling the future world for curious eyes; He was simply using current

language and familiar imagery to intimate to us that the man who has lived

a selfish and worldly life will meet with severe condemnation and grievous

penalty in the next world; a penalty in regard to which he has no right to

expect either mitigation or release.

 

Ø      Are our lives governed by the spirit of active benevolence? To throw

the crumbs to Lazarus is far from “fulfilling the law of Christ”

(Galatians 6:2). We must go a very long way beyond that infinitesimal

kindness. We must have a heart to pity the poor and needy; a soul to

sympathize with them and share their burdens (Matthew 8:17); a

generous hand to help them (ch.10:33-37). The sorrow and the sin

of the world must be upon our heart as a serious and heavy weight, and

we must be ready to make an earnest effort to soothe the one and to

subdue the other.

 

Ø      Have we regard to the day of trial and the future of retribution (see

Matthew 25:41-46)

 

27 “Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send

him to my father’s house:  28  For I have five brethren; that he may testify

unto them; lest they also come into this place of torment.”  The condemned

acquiesces in this dread fact; convinced of the utter impossibility of any interchange

of sympathy between him and the dwellers in the realms of bliss, he ceases to pray

for any alleviation of his own sad and wretched state. But another wail of woe

quickly rises from the awful solitude. What means this second prayer of the doomed

man? Are we to read in it the first signs of a new and noble purpose in the lost

soul, the first dawning of loving thoughts and tender care for others? It

seems, perhaps, unkind not to recognize this; but the Divine Speaker

evidently had another purpose here when He put these words into the

mouth of the lost rich man — He would teach the great lesson to the living

that A SELFISH LIFE IS INEXCUSABLE!  On first thoughts, the rich

man’s request to Abraham appears prompted alone by his anxiety for the future

of his brothers who were still alive; but on examination it would seem that he

wished rather to justify his own sad past by some such. reflection as this:

“Had only some one come from the dead with the calm, clear light of

 eternity shining in his eyes, to inform me that this life beyond is no table,

that Paradise is a place or state of unspeakable bliss, and Gehenna a place

 or state of unspeakable woe, (Think of the ridicule by secular America

concerning Hell.  It is a byword!  Secularist seem to think that they can explain

it away?????  - CY – 2012)  I should have renounced my voluptuous, selfish

 ways, and entered on the path of piety and charity. If one had come to me

 from the dead, I had surely repented, and so should not have come to this

 place of torment.”

 

29 “Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them

hear them.”  The reply of Abraham was especially addressed to those Jews who

were standing round him and even asking for a sign. They had all read and heard

again and again the Books of Moses and the records of the prophets; if these guides

had failed to show them the right way, a special messenger sent to them would

 be QUITE USELESS!

 

30 “And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the

dead, they will repent. 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.”

The Master not only wished to drive home this momentous truth to the hearts of the

group of varied ranks and orders listening to Him then; His words were for a far

larger auditory, so He prolongs the dialogue between Dives and Abraham. “If

Lazarus from the dead would only go to them,” pleaded the lost soul. “Even if I

send,” replied Abraham, “and Lazarus goes, they will not be persuaded.’’ They

would see him, listen to him, perhaps, and then, when the first feelings of

amazement and fear were dying away, would find some plausible reasons

for disregarding the messenger and his message. Criticism would discuss

the appearance; it would be disposed of by attributing it to an hallucination,

or others would suggest that the visitant from the other world had never

been really dead, and these pleas would be readily taken up by OTHERS

WHO CARED NOT TO TO EXAMINE THE QUESTION FOR

THEMSELVES,  and so life, careless, selfish, thoughtless, would go on as

it had done aforetime. (I recommend Isaiah 1 – Spurgeon Sermon – To the

Thoughtless – this web site – CY – 2012).  A striking example of what the Lord

asserted through the medium of the shade of Abraham took place within a few

days from that time. Another Lazarus did come back again from the dead into

the midst of that great company of friends and mourners and jealous watchers

of Jesus gathered round the sepulchral cave of Bethany (John 11:32-46), and

though some true,  faithful hearts welcomed the mighty sign with awful joy, still it

served not to  touch the cold and calculating spirit of Pharisee, scribe, and

 Sadducee, thirsting  for the blood of the Master, whom they feared and

hated, and whose word had summoned back the dead into their midst.

The mighty wonder wrought no change there. One went unto them from the dead,

and yet their hard hearts only took counsel together how they might put Lazarus

again to death.

 

And so the parable and this particular course of teaching came to a close. Perhaps it

is the deepest, the most soul-stirring of all the utterances of the Master. Expositors

for twenty centuries have drawn out of its clear, fathomless depths new and ever

new truths. It is by no means yet exhausted. This voice from the other side of the

veil charms and yet appalls, it terrifies and yet enthralls all ages, every class,

each rank of men and women. There are many other important items of special

teaching which have been scarcely touched on in the notes above. Among the

more interesting of these is the brief notice of the life which the blessed lead in

Paradise. The happy dead are represented as a wide family circle. Abraham is

pictured with Lazarus in his bosom. The image is taken from the way guests used

to sit at a banquet. John at the Last Supper occupied a similar position with regard

to the Master (John 13:23, 25) to that occupied by Lazarus with regard to Abraham

here. The two extremes of the social scale are thus represented as meeting in that

blessed company on terms of the tenderest friendship. With these were Isaac and

Jacob and all the prophets (Luke 13:28). "All the just," as Marcion gives it in

his recension of St. Luke. And while the Paradise-life for the blessed dead is

described as a holy communion of saints, there is evidently no corresponding

communion in the case of the unhappy dead. The selfish rich man finds himself

in AN AWFUL SOLITUDE!  The suffering is rather represented by THE

IMAGE OF THE VOID, there are no external causes of pain apparently; hence

his longing to speak a word with Lazarus, to feel the touch of a friendly sympathizing

hand, if only for a moment, to distract his burning remorseful thoughts. There was

nothing to live for there, nothing to hope for, but he felt he must go on living - 

hopeless. As no special crime, no glaring sin of lust or wanton excess or selfish

ambition, is laid to the rich man's charge, and yet when dead he is represented as

lifting up his eyes, being in torments, many, especially men belonging to those

schools which are generally unfriendly to the religion of Jesus Christ, have

endeavored to show that the condemned was condemned on account of his riches,

while the saved was saved because of his deep poverty. Nor is this error alone

common to the Tubingen school, and to brilliant free-lances in religious literature

like M. Renan. Some such mistaken notion doubtless materially aided the rise

and the popularity of the mendicant orders,*

 

* Mendicant orders are, primarily, certain Christian religious orders that have adopted a lifestyle of poverty,

traveling, and living in urban areas for purposes of preaching, evangelization, and ministry, especially to

the poor. At their foundation these orders rejected the previously established monastic model. This model

prescribed living in one stable, isolated community where members worked at a trade and owned property

in common, including land, buildings and other wealth. By contrast, the mendicants avoided owning property

at all, did not work at a trade, and embraced a poor, often itinerant lifestyle. They depended for their survival

on the goodwill of the people to whom they preached. The term "mendicant" is also used with reference to

some non-Christian religions to denote holy persons committed to an ascetic lifestyle, which may include

members of religious orders and individual holy persons.  (Wikipedia)

 

who played so important a part in  the Christianity of the Middle Ages in so

many lands. But the burden of our thrilling parable emphatically is not

"Woe to the richblessed are the poor!" The crime of the life to which

so awful a punishment was meted out as the guerdon, was selfish inhumanity,

which Christ teaches us is the damning sin. (See His words in His great picture

of the final judgment, Matthew 25:41-46.) Lazarus was no solitary individual;

he was one of the many suffering poor who abound in this world, and to find whom

the rich need not go far from their own gates. Lazarus represents here the opportunity 

for the exercise of Dives's humanity. Of this, and doubtless many like opportunities,

Dives cared not to avail himself. He was apparently no ill-natured, cruel man, he was

simply self-centered, delighting in soft living, generous wines, costly fare, sumptuous

clothing, good society. He loved to be surrounded with applauding, pleasant guests;

but the Lazaruses of the world, for him, might pine away and die in their nameless

awful misery. Professor Bruce, with great force, puts the following words into

the beggar Lazarus's mouth; these words tell us with startling clearness what

was the sin of Dives: "I was laid at this man's gate; he knew me; he could not pass

from his house into the street without seeing my condition, as a leprous beggar,

yet as a beggar I died." Dives here was endowed richly with all the materials of

human happiness, but he kept all his happiness to himself, he took no trouble

whatever to diffuse his joy and gladness, his bright and many-colored life among

that great army of weak, poor, woe-begone brothers and sisters who go far to make

up the population of every great city. That riches are not in themselves a ground for

exclusion from the blessed life is plainly shown by the position occupied by

Abraham in that happy family circle of the blessed. For Abraham, we know, was

a sheik possessed of vast wealth. Then, too, in the latter part of the parable, when

the imminent danger which the five brothers of the lost Dives ran of being similarly

lost, was discussed, the danger is represented as springing from their careless

disregard of the Law and the prophets, and not from the fact of their being rich men.

When Ezekiel sought for examples of the most righteous men that had ever lived,

he chose, it must be remembered, as exemplars of mortals living the fair, noble

life loved of God, three men distinguished for their rank and riches - Noah,

Daniel, and Job (Ezekiel 14:14, 20).

 

 

 

 

                        The Misuse of Money (vs. 14-31)

 

The possibility of making “friends of the mammon of unrighteousness” has

been clearly set before us by our Lord in the preceding parable. The

“eternal tents” may afford us warmest welcome if we have conscientiously

used our money. But the Pharisees who needed the warning against

covetousness only derided Him for His pains. It is supposed that it was His

poverty which they thought took away His right to speak as He did of

riches. He is consequently compelled to turn upon them a severer rebuke,

and He does so in the sentences preceding, as well as in the substance of,

the next parable. The intermediate sentences need not long detain us.

Christ charges the Pharisees with self-justification. Now, this can only take

place “before men.” It is an appeal to a mere human tribunal — to those

who can only judge by the appearance, but cannot search the heart. God,

He tells them plainly, will not endorse this justification. He will reverse the

sentence of self-complacency. He follows up this by stating the

permanence of the Law. (Matthew 24:35)  The reputation of the Pharisees may

wither and decay, but not one tittle of the Law shall fail. And in present

circumstances He declares that the Divine kingdom is being stormed by anxious

men who have learned to humble themselves in penitence and pass into exaltation

through pardon. They ought to see to it that they are not induced by lust to

play fast and loose with the unchanging Law, and to imagine that they can

divorce their wives on the usual pretexts, and be guiltless. But now we

must proceed to the striking parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Upon the

details of the story we do not tarry. It is an exquisitely powerful picture.

The artist is here at his best. The rich man in his “purple and fine linen,

faring sumptuously every day;” the poor man “laid at his gate, full of

sores,” and thankful for the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table and

for the attention of the dogs; then two deaths, when lo! the positions are

reversed, and the poor man finds himself in the bosom of Abraham and

with his good things all about him, while the rich man finds himself in utter

poverty, in need of everything and sure of nothing. The picture closes, too,

and all hope for such a selfish soul as the rich man proved himself to be. The

following lessons are here taught us.

 

·         EVERY ONE WITH MEANS HAS AMPLE OPPORTUNITY IN

THIS LIFE OF BEING GENEROUS. (Ver. 20.) The friends of the poor

man laid him, or, as the word (ἐβέβλητο - ebeblaeto - had been cast) may

mean, “threw him down” at the rich man’s gate.  There could be no doubt

about the rich man’s opportunity; it was pressed upon his notice. And amid all

the artificial separations which civilization makes between rich and poor, there

is always some friendly hand to force opportunity upon us. “The poor we have

with us always.” (Matthew 26:11)  They appear, do what we may, at the feast

of life, and we cannot exclude them from our considerations. It requires an

effort to be utterly ungenerous. Now, we ought to bless God that He has not

left us with any excuse for hard-heartedness. He brings the world’s needs to

our very gates. He emphasizes opportunity. He gives us outflow for our

generosities, He will not leave us in our hard-heartedness, but calls us

evermore to nobler things.

 

·         SELF-INDULGENCE MAKES PEOPLE ABSOLUTELY PITILESS.

(v. 21.) Mosheim, in a suggestive discourse from this parable, reminds

us at the outset of the words of Peter about fleshly lusts warring against

the soul.”  (I Peter 2:11)  It is wonderful how hardhearted luxurious living can

make people. The rich man in the parable can find in his heart to pass out and

in and never once to relieve his poor brother. The latter may have got crumbs

from the rich man’s table, but if he did, it was more likely by the servants’

charity than by the master’s orders. From the self-indulgent worldling he

got no consideration. He is ignored, for the selfish soul has become pitiless.

When self is supreme, it can shut out all consideration of others from one’s

thoughts. When they obtrude themselves or are obtruded upon our

attention, we say, alas! that they have no claim upon us, forgetting that

they are our brothers. Against such hardheartedness we should all be upon

our guard.

 

·         DEATH, IN DEPRIVING THE SELFISH SOUL OF HIS GOOD

THINGS, LEAVES HIM NECESSARILY IN TORMENT. (vs. 22-23.)

Good living is a most dangerous habit when it constitutes any man’s

all. A soul, to be confined to this tariff, is in danger of dying into utter

want. The round of sensual indulgence goes on day after day, the appetites

are gorged, and man sinks down into the animal pure and simple. Now, if

the world beyond makes no provision for such gross indulgences; if it has

no venison and champagne; if the appetites are left without a larder and the

famine of the senses has come; — what kind of life must the poor soul

have? It needs no furnace of actual fire to secure his torment. The burning

desire, within which nothing can quench, leaves him of necessity in

torment. If God has made no provision for the intemperate, for the

gourmand, for the dissolute, in their environment beyond the grave, must

not their lusts, denied satisfaction, be perpetual torment? The torment of

unsatisfied desire, the hunger of a self-centered spirit, must be terrible!

 

·         UNBELIEF IS INEXCUSABLE, AND MAY BE INVINCIBLE.

(vs. 27-31.) The selfish worldling had evidently been living without

regard to a future life. In his torment he realizes that his five brethren are

living the same heedless life. Lest, therefore, they should come and

increase his torment, he asks that Lazarus be sent on a special mission to

warn them about their doom. Now, it is plain that, with Moses and the

prophets in their hands, they were without excuse. What, then, did Moses

and the prophets teach? They do not teach with great distinctness the

doctrine of a future life. They undoubtedly imply that doctrine. But the

question is — Did the rich man or his brethren need that doctrine to guard

them against inhumanity of life? Must I tremble before prospective torment

ere I am convinced that I ought to be generous and considerate?  Nay, do I

not know by the law of conscience that such conduct as is inhuman must

incur the curse of God? Even the pagans are inexcusable when they live

inhuman lives. Besides, we must not, with the rich man, imagine that a

prescribed miracle may overbear all unbelief. Unbelief may be invincible.

No miracle may be strong enough to defeat SELF-WILL!   May we all be

kept from such a hardened state!

 

·         ABRAHAM, AS HE CHERISHES LAZARUS IN THE OTHER

LIFE, SHOWS US HOW A RICH MAN MAY PERPETUATE HIS

KINDLY OFFICES AND INFLUENCE. (vs. 23-25.) It has been very

properly observed that in Abraham we have a rich man in blessedness, as a

set-off to the other rich man in torment. Abraham was very probably the

richer of the two while in life, but he had used his wealth for the good of

his fellows. He had cherished the poor and needy. And so it is to goodhearted,

faithful Abraham that the consolation of Lazarus is committed.

Here the habits of helpfulness which the patriarch had cultivated upon earth

find exercise in the better world. What a prospect is thus opened up to the

large-hearted! Heaven will be full of opportunity for ministration. Those

whose lot has been a hard one in this world will be taken to the bosom of

the patriarchs of God — those who have become “seniors” in his house of

many mansions — and receive from them the compensation which God has

in store for all who have learned to love Him.

 

]

 

Notes on the Rich Man and Lazarus (vs. 19-31)

 

This parable is so striking and solemn that, as has been said, “they must be fast

asleep who are not startled by it.” It is in several respects unique. Figure is

so blended with reality, so rapidly passes into reality, that we are doubtful

where and how far to separate between the form of truth and the truth

itself. Indeed, it has been questioned whether the discourse is to be

regarded as a parable at all; whether it is not to be regarded as the record

of facts and experiences. Alone, too, of all the pictorial sayings of Jesus, it

carries thought into the region behind the veil; it gives us a glimpse into the

hidden economy. He who has access to the invisible takes us whither the

eye of man has never pierced. And yet it is most difficult to settle on what

principle we shall interpret the mysterious conversations reported, and

what signification we are to attach to the words concerning the world of

the dead. Let us not strain the sentences beyond the meanings which they

are fairly entitled to bear; let us aim at a calm, truthful, practical application

of Christ’s teaching to heart and conscience.

 

  • CONSIDER THE RELATION OF THE PARABLE TO THE WORDS

WHICH PRECEDE, AND TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH

SURROUND, IT. The Pharisees, we are told in v.16, had derided the

teaching as to “the mammon of unrighteousness,” their opposition having

been intensified by the declaration, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

The reply of Christ contains an indictment with two counts, in respect of

which their mammon-worship was made apparent.

 

Ø      Their self-justifying spirit before men. Their piety was so

disposed as to attract the observation and win the applause of men.

It was the covering of covetousness, because it indicated a

dependence on men, a wish to make gain of godliness. The parable

which follows illustrates the same state of mind and heart under another

phase of the same world-worship. Certainly the portrait of the rich man

resembles the Sadducee rather than the more severe and abstemious

Pharisee. But extremes often meet. Pharisee and Sadducee have this in

common — man and the present are more than God and the

 future: to look well, to stand well with society, is really the horizon

of the aim and the prize of the ambition.

 

Ø      Their merely outward and legal righteousness. In their casuistry

(as, e.g., about marriage, glanced at in v.19) they tampered with the

eternally right and good; and their essential unbelief was proved by the

failure to see that Moses and the prophets prepared men for that

kingdom of God to which John had pointed, and into which he had

called every one to press (ch. 16:16).   They were so imbedded in

their respectabilities that they felt no need of this kingdom, and did

not receive it. The parable presents a man who, having Moses and

the prophets, had never awakened out of a false, carnal security,

had never seen his real poverty and wretchedness. And all, in the

latter part of the tale, which brings out his awakenment when too late —

the torments of his conscience, his appeal, his cry, his pleading for his

brethren — is intended to vivify the worthlessness and worse than

worthlessness of the trust on which the Pharisee was built up, and to

declare that, before the judgment-seat of the Eternal, Moses and the

prophets would witness against him for his rejection of the Light that

had come into the world.

 

  • Now, having seen its root in moral conditions which Christ intended to

lay bare, REGARD THE SALIENT FEATURES OF THE SKETCH

BEFORE US.

 

Ø      There is a rich man. No particulars as to his estate are given; no

judgment is passed on his character. It is not said that he had amassed

his wealth by unfair means, or that he was unjust, or that he was harsh;

he is simply presented as rich, fond of show and glitter and good living.

Now and again a monarch might assume his robe of costly purple, but

Purple and fine linen are the ordinary dress of this Dives, and the

appointments of his table are always splendid. A jovial, magnificent

personage, to whom menials in gorgeous array do homage, and whom

all the flunkeydom of his city silently reverences. There is only one

drawback. At the entrance to his palace, a beggar — a miserable

creature, full of sores — is laid; one so reduced that he is glad of the

crumbs which fall from the table. Such crumbs are dainties to him.

Clearly, no effort is made to relieve this beggar; none is employed to

heal his diseases; his only guardians and doctors are the curs which

prowl about Eastern cities. The “inhumanity of man” is condemned

by the action of these curs.

 

Ø      The rich man has no name, the beggar has Lazarus, or Eleazar,

“God’s help.” Beautifully Augustine asks, “Seems not Christ to you to

have been reading from that book where he found the name of the poor

man written, but found not the name of the rich; for that book is the book

of life?” Thus day by day, the millionaire, reclining on his couch, his table

groaning with delicacies, elegantly sipping at this, and taking that, and

withal complaining of indigestion, occasionally sallying forth and dazzling

all by his splendor, is yet offended by the loathsome thing at the gate,

from which the eye is withdrawn. Day by day the gaunt form of haggard

poverty obtrudes on the rights of wealth; squalor, in all its hideousness,

stares into the face of wealth. Is it not the contrast which, instead of

lessening, becomes more intense as the curious complexity which we call

civilization develops? — civilization, with its heights separated only by

hand-breadths from its depths. Day by day it is so, until:

 

Ø      Died.” Ah! a word which it is impossible to expunge, which gathers up

the fears and tears, which crowns or crushes the hopes of men. First the

beggar. To him death is a message of relief, bidding away from sores

which dogs have licked to joys in which angels share, from the flagged

pavement, hard and cold, of the palace of the rich man harder and colder

still, to the embrace and warmth and fulness of Abraham’s bosom. “It is

well,” says Dives, when he misses the bundle of rags and disease; “it is

the best thing which could happen to that Lazarus!” But the clock moves

on; the “purple and fine linen” begin to hang about the limbs; the viands

come and go untasted; there is the sickness, the sick-bed, the muffled

knocker, the bated breath of physicians and attendants. Oh, horror of

horrors! it is death! All must be left. The hands which used to be so

full are now still, starched, and empty! The poor to die, — that is good;

but the rich man also to die! What is the difference between the two?

Of the one the burial is noted; no doubt a grand affair, for which, possibly,

he had himself arranged. I have heard of a Dives, who, afraid that he

might not have a sufficiently splendid coffin, procured a sarcophagus from

Egypt, and lay down in it to be sure that it would fit. The burial; yes, but

something more! Beggar and millionaire are in Hades — the shell of the

Old Testament — the unknown place, the unseen region which contains

the departed until the coming of the Lord. What of the beggar? While

he was on earth man in pity carried him to the palace gate, and laid him

there to starve and rot unless the crumb was thrown to him. When he

dies angels carry him to the place of bliss, though not yet heaven, which

was signified sometimes by the word “paradise,” sometimes by the phrase

“under the throne,” sometimes by “Abrahams bosom.” For the millionaire

there is only Hades; no purple robe and fine linen, no sumptuous feast; the

robe and the linen are now only a garment of fire, the sumptuous feast

only a reminiscence continued in torments. To him Hades is only the

reservation to the judgment of the great day.

 

Ø      And there is the awakening.  The Lord describes it in sentences

which it is better only to summarize. The eyes of Dives are lifted up,

and lo! near, yet far off, is Abraham, and — can it be? — with him

Lazarus; no rags now, no sores now; his now the “purple and fine

linen” and the sumptuous living, for he is in the bosom of Abraham.

And through these distances there rings a cry — no cry to the Father

in heaven, no cry for repentance; only to “Father Abraham,” and

only a respite from the pain, even a moment’s respite; a cry which is

still charged with the old hauteur, “Send that beggar to serve me.

To this he has come; there is no thought of banquet or wines; only

the tip of the erstwhile beggar’s finger dipped in water and cooling

the tongue. Alas! the reply sounds the knell of all hope; mild, yet

awful, it is, “Son, remember!” What? The good things are

exhausted. He had got all that he had lived for; he had, in the bygone

existence, a choice of things, and he had made his choice. His reward

was drained. Lazarus had no portion in the world which was gone

from sight. His election had been outside of it. He has come to his

choice; he has entered on his reward. He is comforted, but thou

art tormented.” For the rest, even supposing the will to grant the

request, it cannot be. “There is a great gulf fixed” (v. 26), and

no passage may be between the upper and lower sides of the

Hades of the dead. “Without God, and without hope”

(Ephesians 2:12).  Is it a touch of still surviving humanity, or is it

lest the misery be aggravated, that the petition of Dives proceeds,

“Then send him where there is no gulf fixed; send him to my father’s

house, to my five brethren” (vs. 27-28). “They have Moses and

the prophets” (v.29). “Nay, but if one went to them from the

 dead, they will repent” (v.30). “If they hear not Moses

and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though

 one rose from the dead” (v.31).

 

 

·         CONCLUSION. What a variety of “instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy

      3:16) is suggested by this parable! It invites thought in the direction of the most

awful questions which connect themselves with human destiny.

 

Ø      As to the Hades — the condition, or place, of the dead. Dean Alford

proposes a good. rule of interpretation: “Though it is unnatural to suppose

that our Lord would, in such a parable, formally reveal any new truth

respecting the fate of the dead, yet, in conforming Himself to the ordinary

language current on these subjects, it is impossible to suppose that He

whose essence is truth could have assumed as existing anything which

does not exist. It would destroy the truth of our Lord’s sayings if we

could conceive Him to have used popular language which does not point at

truth.” What is that, then, in the figures, in the symbols employed, as to

which we can say, “Here is matter to be pondered and believed in”?

Christ seems to put the stamp of His approval on these things.

 

Ø      That there is a conscious personal life after death. If this is not true, He

would have started from a falsehood.

 

Ø      That in this future life the identity of the self is preserved. All references

imply this. The rich man lifts up his eyes. He sees Lazarus. He cries,

“Father Abraham!” He recalls his father’s house and his five brethren.

THE I WHO WAS IS THE ESSENTIAL I FOR EVER!

 

Ø      That in the other world, the intermediate Hades, there is a separation

between the evil and the good. We should not unduly strain the meaning of

“the great gulf fixed.” It is in Abraham’s reply to a soul in which there is no

sign of a turning to God; which is as far from the faith of the patriarch as

hell is from heaven. Between a soul thus godless, and the holy dead who

are at rest in the Lord, there is a great gulf fixed. But to press this into an

argument for a hell of endless torment is to overstep the limits of parabolic

interpretation. Yet, undoubtedly, a most solemn warning is conveyed —

the warning that, in the world to come, the distinctions of character are

sharp, clear, and fixed; that then the real tendencies of mind are manifested,

and find their natural affinities. As to the torment of this Dives in Hades,

Luther hit on the right explanation when, in one of his sermons, he

exclaims, “It is not corporeal. All is transacted in the conscience as he

perceives that he has acted against the gospel. Nothing was actually spoken

by him, but only internally felt.” It is in view of this that we apprehend the

scope of’ the recorded conversation. That is the outward form in which the

emotion, the terror, of the conscience is portrayed. For, the retribution,

whose fire is not quenched, is pointed to in the saying, “Son, remember!”

“It is not necessary to imagine anything beyond the stroke, stroke, stroke,

ever repeating, of a scorpion-conscience,” recalling, revivifying all the past,

the real character of actions being made evident, as with the force of a fire

from whose heat nothing can be hidden. To perceive the awful vengeance-

taking on every soul of man that doeth evil, it is not necessary to suppose

more than the quickening of conscience into full energy, than the continual

accusation of the soul which forgets nothing, or finds all preserved,

eternized for it, “when the roaring cataract of earthly things is still.”

 

Ø      To return to the most pressing instruction of the parable; life or death is

the choice before every one of us. Death; if to any one comforts are more

than duties, if the plane of the existence is a merely worldly one — good

things of one kind or another, and the kingdom of God left out of the

reckoning. The rich man is not condemned because of his riches; the poor

man is not carried into Abraham’s bosom because of his poverty. The

riches were the temptation, and the soul had been mastered; but one may

be rich and yet simple in heart as a child, not trusting in the riches, willing

to distribute, and recognizing the stewardship to God for all. One may be

poor, yet greedy, showing covetousness by the fierceness with which the

sense of want is expressed, by the bitter envying of the more fortunate, by

the utter absence of poverty of spirit. But, “Son, remember!” if thou livest

for good things, thou mayest have them; but then, the greater the

prosperity, the greater the curse, the more fatal will the possession be to

the true life — the life in God. By-and-by, for even the hardest and dullest

there is an AWAKENING — to shame and everlasting contempt. Here,

messages of love, the very pleading of the one risen from the dead may fail

to reach the heart; there, where the ever-shifting scenes of this world

disappear for ever, shall be heard the voice of conscience, speaking only

for doom.

 

 

 

                                    A Dangerous Delusion (vs. 27-31)

 

The rich man found himself undergoing the penalty of a selfish and worldly

life, and, bethinking himself of his five brethren, he desired for them the

advantage which he himself had not possessed; he prayed that a visitant

from the unseen world might appear to them and warn them of the danger

in which they stood. He thought this extraordinary privilege would

accomplish for them what the ordinary influences around them had not

wrought. He was assured that in this notion he was mistaken; if they were

not hearing “Moses and the prophets, neither would they be persuaded

though one rose from the dead.”

 

·         THE ONE HOPE FOR ERRING AND SINFUL MENthat they may

be persuaded. They are living in sin; for selfishness and worldliness are

such in the sight of God that they may be said to be sin itself; they are the

soul turning from the living God to find its center, its sphere, its

satisfaction, in its own poor self, in the material and transitory good of this

present world. And living in sin, men are living under God’s high

displeasure, under his solemn and awful condemnation, in peril of final

banishment and penalty in the future. The one hope for them is that they

will be persuaded:

 

Ø      To consider. To consider:

 

o       whence they came,

o       whose they are,

o       unto whom they owe their powers and their possessions,

o       what is the true end and aim of human life,

o       their accountableness to the God whom they have neglected

      and displeased,

o       the nearness of death, and

o       the greatness of eternity.

 

Ø      To repent. That is, not to be convulsed with a strong and passing agony

of soul, nor to use the current and approved language of contrition, but to

change their minds, their views, their feelings; to have in their hearts a

deep sense of shame and of regret that they should have so sadly misspent

their powers and. lost their opportunities.

 

Ø      To resolve. To come to a deliberate and fixed resolution to live

henceforth unto God their Saviour.

 

·         THE REFUGE OF THE DISOBEDIENT, There are many who, when

they thus recognize their duty, are “not disobedient to the heavenly vision”

(Acts 26:19); they say, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (ibid. ch. 9:6)

and proceed  without delay to do His holy will. But there are others who

weakly and wrongly postpone the hour of decision and of return. They think

that the time will come for them to enter the kingdom of God, but it has not

yet arrived. There has not happened to them any great visitation. God has

not appeared in any striking and overwhelming form. There will come an

hour when it will be made manifest to them that they must no longer delay;

when they will be mightily constrained to yield themselves to the service

of the Supreme; then they will freely and gladly respond; meantime they

will pursue the old path of SELFISHNESS and WORLDLY PLEASURE!

 

·         THE VANITY AND THE FOLLY OF THIS RESORT,

 

Ø      The vanity of it. Jesus Christ taught that men, if they were unmoved by

the sacred truths they learned in Deuteronomy and Isaiah, would not be

stirred to newness of life even by an apparition from the unseen world; that

it was not by the extraordinary and the startling, but by THE DIVINELY

TRUE,  that souls were to be saved. And this doctrine is in conformity with

the known facts of our human experience. Men that know their Lord’s will

but delay to do it will find some excuse for disobedience when the unusual

or even when the supernatural is before them. The disobedient heart goes on

in sinful procrastination, with a vague and feeble hope that this hour will

come; BUT IT DOES NOT ARRIVE!   He has a vision of sudden death, but

he rises from the sick-bed to pursue the old path; he loses some companion

and is powerfully admonished of his own mortality, but he returns from his

friend’s grave the same man that he was before; he goes to hear the

wonderful preacher and listens with admiration not unmixed with fear or

even trembling, but he awakes on the morrow with a closed mind, with an

unbroken heart. Some great trouble overtakes and overthrows him, but HIS

SOUL IS HARDENED and the “sorrow of the world worketh death”

(II Corinthians 7:10), and not life in his case. HIS HOPE IS A VAIN ONE!

 

Ø      The folly of it. Why should he wait for the extraordinary, the

supernatural? Has he not at hand everything he needs to convince him and

to induce him to take the step of spiritual decision? Why want some one

from heaven to bring down the word of truth or the Saviour himself

(Romans 10:6)? All that we want we have.

 

o        Our conscience is urging us to a life of holy service.

o        Our reason tells us that our present and eternal welfare is bound up

with the forgiveness and the favor of the living God, in whose power

we stand and who holds all our future in His sovereign hand.

o        Our Divine Father is summoning us to His side, to His hearth, to His

table, and is waiting to welcome us.

o        Our gracious Saviour is inviting us to an immediate and to an absolute

trust in Himself.

o        The Holy Spirit of God is pleading and striving with us.

 

There is no reason, there is no excuse, for a single day’s delay. Every one

to whom it is right to listen, everything to which it is wise to yield attention,

says, “Come.” (It is the last invitation in the Bible - Revelation 22:17 - CY -

2021)  It is only the evil voices around us and from below that say,

“Wait.” Delay means the doom of Dives; immediate obedience leads along

the paths of heavenly wisdom and holy service TO THE HOME OF THE

            BLESSED!

 

 

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