16:1 And he said also unto the disciples1, There was a certain rich man, who had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he was wasting his goods2. SECOND GREAT GROUP OF PARABLES. (Probably in Perea.) E. PARABLE OF THE UNRIGHTEOUS STEWARD. Luke 16:1-18
And he said also unto the disciples. If we remember that many
publicans were now taking their stand among Jesus' disciples, we will more
readily understand why Jesus addressed to them a parable about an unjust
man, They would be more readily affected by such a story.
There was a certain rich man, who had a steward; and the same was
accused unto him that he was wasting his goods. "Wasted" is
the same verb as found at Luke
15:13. The attitude of the two brethren to their father's estate, as set
forth in the previous parable, introduced thoughts as to the proper relation
which a man bears to his possessions, and these relations Jesus discusses in
this parable. While no parable has been so diversely explained, yet the
trend of interpretation has been in the main satisfactory. The Lord himself
gives the key to the parable in Luke
16:8, which is that the children of light, in the conduct of their
affairs, should emulate the wisdom and prudence of the children of the world
in the conduct of their affairs. The difficulty of the parable is more
apparent than real. The whole parabolic machinery is borrowed from worldly
and irreligious life, where dishonest cunning and rascality are freely
tolerated. The child of light is equally shrewd and wise in the management
of his affairs; "using, however, only those means and methods which are
permissible in his sphere of action". God's word, of course, nowhere
teaches that sinful methods are permitted to him whom it calls to lead a
sinless life. While the steward's conduct teaches valuable lessons, the
steward himself is condemned as an "unrighteous" man in Luke
16:2 And he called him, and said unto him, What
is this that I hear of thee1? render
the account of thy stewardship; for thou canst be no longer steward2.
What is this that I hear of thee? An indignant expression of
surprise arising from abused confidence.
Render the account of thy stewardship; for thou canst be no longer
steward. Ordinarily the stewards were slaves; but this was evidently a
free man, for he was neither punished nor sold, but discharged.
16:3 And the steward said within himself,
What shall I do, seeing that my lord taketh away the stewardship from me? I
have not strength to dig1; to beg
I am ashamed2.
I have not strength to dig. Being too weak in body because of my
luxurious living. Digging refers generally to agricultural labor.
To beg I am ashamed. Being too strong in pride because of my
exalted manner of life.
16:4 I am resolved
what to do1, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they2
may receive me into their houses.
I am resolved what to do. A way of escape comes to him in a sudden
flash of discovery.
They. The lord's debtors.
16:6 And he said, A
hundred measures of oil1. And he said unto him, Take
thy bond2, and sit down quickly
and write fifty3.
A hundred measures of oil. The measure mentioned here is the Hebrew
"bath", which corresponded roughly to a firkin, or nine gallons.
Take thy bond. Literally, writings.
And sit down quickly and write fifty. The amount remitted here--
450 gallons of olive oil--represented a large sum of money. Such a reduction
would put the debtor under great obligation to the steward.
16:7 Then said he to another, And how much
owest thou? And he said, A hundred measures of wheat. He saith unto him, Take
thy bond, and write fourscore2.
An hundred measures of wheat. The measure here is the Hebrew "cor",
which contains ten baths, or ephahs, or, more exactly, 86.7 gallons.
Take thy bond, and write fourscore. The amount remitted was about
two hundred sixty-seven bushels, and the debtor himself altered the
writings, that he might be in no uncertainty about it. Scholars disagree as
to whether these debtors were tenants or traders; that is, purchasers of
produce who had given their bonds or notes for the same. Meyer, Trench,
Godet, and others favor this latter view, but the language used and the
customs of the land rather indicate that the former is correct. In the East
rents are in proportion to the crop, and hence they vary as it varies. It
was natural, therefore, that the steward should ask the amount of the rent;
and also natural, since rents were thus payable in kind, that the tenant
should answer as to the very thing owed. A traders would have been held, not
for the "purchase", but for the "price", and would
rather have specified the money due than the quantity or thing bought. Since
the price of produce varies, it has been the immemorial custom everywhere to
fix the amount to be paid for it at the very time it is purchased, and the
amount becomes the debt.
16:8 And his lord
commended the unrighteous steward because he had done wisely1:
for the sons of this world are for their own generation2
wiser than the sons of the light.
And his lord commended the unrighteous steward because he had done
For the sons of this world are for their own generation. Their own
clan or class.
Wiser than the sons of light. That is to say, the steward, a
worldly-minded rascal, knew better how to deal with a worldly-minded master
above him and dishonest tenants beneath him, than a son of light knows how
to deal with the God over him and his needy brethren about him. The verse
contrasts the sons of two households: the children of the worldly household
exercise more forethought and prudence in gaining among their brethren
friends for the day of need, and in expending money to that end, than do the
children of the light. The "devil's martyrs" in their skillful
prudence, often shame the saints. If the latter showed a wisdom in their
affairs analogous to that which the unjust employed in his affairs, God
would commend them as the lord commended the steward.
16:9 And I say unto you, Make to yourselves
friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness1;
that, when it shall fail, they may receive you into the
The mammon of unrighteousness. See Matthew
That, when it shall fail, they may receive you into the eternal
tabernacles. Worldly possession are the Christian's stewardship. If he
has been wasting them in self-indulgence, he must take warning from the
parable and so employ them in deeds of usefulness and mercy that, when the
stewardship is taken from him, he may have obtained for himself a refuge for
the future. But how can those whom the Christian had befriended receive him
into heaven? The key to the difficulty is found at Matthew
25:35-40, where our Lord altogether identifies himself with his poor and
unfortunate disciples, and returns on their behalf a heavenly recompense for
any kindness which has been shown them on the earth. Only in this secondary
and subordinate sense can those whom the Christian has benefited receive him
into heaven. Nor does the passage teach that their is any "merit"
in almsgiving, since the thing given is already the property of another. See
16:12. Almsgiving is only a phase of the fidelity required of a steward,
and the reward of a steward is not of merit but of grace. See Luke
16:10 He that is
faithful in a very little is faithful also in much1: and
he that is unrighteous in a very little is unrighteous also in much2.
He that is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. In
the administration of small properties entrusted to us on the earth, we
reveal our disposition and temper as stewards quite as well as if we owned
half the universe.
And he that is unrighteous in a very little is unrighteous also in much.
God does not judge by the magnitude of an act, but by the spiritual
principles and motives which lie back of the act. A small action may
discover and lay bare these principles quite as well as a large one.
therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon1,
who will commit to your trust the true [riches]2?
If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon.
The word "unrighteous" is here used to mean "deceitful",
as opposed to "true".
Who will commit to your trust the true [riches]? Worldly riches
deceive us by being temporal and transitory, while the true riches are
eternal. See 2 Corinthians
16:12 And if ye
have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which
is your own1?
And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will
give you that which is your own? We are all God's stewards, and the
perishing possessions of earth are not our own, but that which is given us
"forever" is "our own". See 1 Corinthians
16:13 No servant
can serve two masters1: for either he will hate the one,
and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye
cannot serve God and mammon.
No servant can serve two masters. See Matthew
6:24. See also Galatians
16:14 And the
Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things1;
and they scoffed at him.
And the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things;
and they scoffed at him. The Pharisees derided him with open
23:35). This was a new phase of their opposition, and showed that they
no longer feared Jesus as formerly, being assured that he aimed at no
earthly dominion. Because of his poverty they may have regarded him as
prejudiced against wealth. At any rate, they regarded themselves as living
contradictions of this to them ridiculous statement that a man could not be
rich and yet religious.
16:15 And he said unto them, Ye are they
that justify yourselves in the sight of men; but God knoweth your hearts: for
that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God1.
For that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of
God. The Pharisees lived in such outward contrast to the publicans and
made such pretensions and claims that men esteemed them righteous, but they
were nonetheless abominable in God's sight. God approves righteousness when
"inward", but despises the mere outward show of it.
16:16 The law and the prophets [were]
until John: from that time the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached, and
every man entereth violently into it1.
And every man entereth violently into it. On "the violent take
it by force", see Matthew
16:17 But it is
easier for heaven and earth to pass away1, than for one
tittle of the law to fall.
It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away. See Matthew
Than one tittle of the law to fail. See Matthew
5:18. The law and the prophets had been used of God to set up the old
dispensation, and it had been so perverted and abused that in it the
Pharisees could pass for righteous men, though abominable according to its
true standard. Since the days of John the old dispensation has been merging
into the new, and this also has been subjected to violence. But despite all
the changes made, approved, and justified by men, the God-given law had
never changed. Its smallest letter could no more be eliminated than the
universe could be obliterated. But, of course, the Lawgiver could with
notice modify his law.
16:18 Every one
that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another1,
committeth adultery: and he that marrieth one that is put away from a husband
Every one that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another,
committeth adultery, etc. This precept is inserted here as an
illustration of a flagrant violation of the law of God, both countenanced
and practiced by these Pharisees. See Matthew
there was a certain rich man2, and
he was clothed in purple3 and
fine linen4, faring sumptuously
SECOND GREAT GROUP OF PARABLES. (Probably in Perea.) F. PARABLE OF THE RICH
MAN AND LAZARUS. Luke
Now. The parable we are about to study is a direct advance upon the
thoughts in the previous section. We may say generally that if the parable
of the unjust steward teaches how riches are to be used, this parable sets
forth the terrible consequences of a failure to so use them. Each point of
the previous discourse is covered in detail, as will be shown by the
references in the discussion of the parable.
There was a certain rich man. For convenience's sake, this rich man
has been commonly called Dives, which is simply Latin for "rich
man", and is therefore not truly a name, for it is not fitting to name
him whom the Lord left nameless.
And he was clothed in purple. Along the coast of Tyre there was
found a rare shell-fish (Murex purpurarius) from which a costly purple dye
was obtained, each little animal yielding about one drop of it. Woolen
garments dyed with it were worn by kings and nobles, and idol images were
sometimes arrayed in them. This purple robe formed the outer, and the linen
the inner garment.
And fine linen. The "byssus", or fine linen of Egypt, was
produced from flax, which grew on the banks of the Nile. It was dazzlingly
white, and worth twice its weight in gold (Genesis
28:5 1 Chronicles
Faring sumptuously every day. The mention of these garments and a
continual banqueting indicates a life of extreme luxury.
16:20 and a
certain beggar1 named Lazarus2
was laid at his gate3, full of
And a certain beggar. Literally, one who crouches. The Greek word
"ptochos" is used thirty-four times in the New Testament, and is
everywhere translated "poor", save here and Luke
4:9. In the last stages of life Lazarus had become an object of charity,
but there is nothing to indicate that he had been an habitual beggar.
Named Lazarus. This is the only name which occurs in our Lord's
parables. It is derived from Eleazar, which means "God a help".
The name is symbolic of destitution, and many words indicative of beggary
are derived from it.
Was laid at his gate. In the East, the gates of the rich are still
the resorts of the poor.
desiring to be fed with the [crumbs] that fell from the rich man's table1;
yea, even the dogs come and licked his sores2.
And desiring to be fed with the [crumbs] that fell from the rich man's
table. The contrast here is sharp. Lazarus is naked and clothed with
sores instead of rich apparel, and desires crumbs instead of a banquet. That
he limited his desire to crumbs suggests a freedom from both worldly lust
and envy. Whether he got the crumbs is not stated. His sufferings may have
been as unmitigated on earth as those of the rich man were in Hades (Luke
16:24), and it is certain that even if he received the crumbs they did
not count as a gift, being mere refuse, utterly worthless in the sight of
the rich man. The very point of the parable is that the rich man
"gave" him nothing.
Yea, even the dogs come and licked his sores. The dogs also suggest
a contrast. The rich man is surrounded by the loyal brethren and attentive
servants, while Lazarus is the companion of dogs, the scavengers of the
streets, who treat him with rude compassion as one of their number, soothing
his sores with their saliva.
16:22 And it came
to pass, that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels into
Abraham's bosom1: and the rich
man also died, and was buried2.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and that he was carried away
by the angels into Abraham's bosom. It is the office of angels to
minister to the heirs of salvation (Matthew
And the rich man also died, and was buried. In death as well as in
life, the two men stand in contrast. The rich man passes from view with the
pomp and pagentry of a burial (2 Chronicles
16:13,14), an earthly honor suited to a worldly life. But Lazarus passes
hence with the angels, a spiritual triumph suited to one accepted of God.
16:23 And in
Hades1 he lifted up his eyes,
being in torments2, and seeth
Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom3.
And in Hades. Hades (Greek) or Sheol (Hebrew) was the name given to
the abode of the dead between death and the resurrection.
He lifted up his eyes, being in torments. In it the souls of the
wicked are in torment (Revelation
14:10), and those of the righteous enjoy a paradise (Luke
And seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. The joys of
Paradise were conceived of as those of a feast, and the expression
"Abraham's bosom" is taken from the custom of reclining on couches
at feasts. As a guest leaned upon his left arm, his neighbor on his left
might easily lean upon his bosom. Such a position of respect to the master
of the house was one of special honor, and indicated great intimacy (John
13:23). What higher honor or joy could the Jew conceive of than such a
condition of intimacy and fellowship with Abraham, the great founder of
their race (Matthew
16:24 And he
cried and said1, Father Abraham2,
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 in anguish in this flame.
And he cried and said. In earnest entreaty.
Father Abraham. The claim of kindred is not denied, but it is
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 in anguish in this flame.
The smallness of the favor asked indicates the greatness of the distress, as
it does in Luke
16:21, where crumbs are desired. There is a reciprocity also between the
desired "crumbs" and the prayed-for "drop", which
contains a covert reference to Luke
16:4,5. Had the rich man given more, he might now have asked for more.
The friendship of Lazarus might have been easily won, and now the rich man
needed that friendship, but he had neglected the principle set forth in Luke
16:9, and had abused his stewardship by wasting his substance upon
himself. Again, the former condition of each party is sharply reversed.
Lazarus feasts at a better banquet, and the rich man begs because of a more
dire and insatiable craving. Thus the life despised of men was honored by
God, and the man who was exalted among men is found to have been abominable
unto God (Luke
16:25 But Abraham
said, Son1, remember that thou in
thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things2:
but now3 here
he is comforted and thou art in anguish4.
But Abraham said, Son. A tender word (Joshua
Remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and
Lazarus in like manner evil things. See Proverbs
But now. When a different order pertains from that of the earth.
Here he is comforted and thou art in anguish. The woes received by
Lazarus are not spoken of as "his". He neither earned nor deserved
7:13-17). His was the stewardship of suffering (1 Corinthians
4:9 2 Corinthians
4:7), and in its small details he had shown great faithfulness. The rich
man had the stewardship of wealth, with its accompanying obligation of
generosity. The obligation he had esteemed as too contemptibly small to
deserve his notice; but in neglecting it, he had inadvertently been
unfaithful in much. See Luke
16:10. This has been the sin of omission on the part of the rich man,
and his sin of commission answered as a complement to it, for he had been
guilty of that money-loving self-indulgence which was condemned by Jesus and
justified by the Pharisees (Luke
16:14,15). No other crime is charged against the rich man, yet he is
found in torment. But the rich man during his lifetime had been so deceived
by his wealth that he had failed to detect his sin. Moreover, as he
indicates in (Luke
16:28), a like deception was now being practiced upon his brethren. Thus
the parable justifies the term "unrighteous" which Jesus had given
to mammon at Luke
116:26 And besides all this,
between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that they that would pass from
hence to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from thence to us.
Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that they that would
pass from hence to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from
thence to us. We have here a clear statement of the separation which
parts the good from the evil in the future state. But it has been urged that
the coloring and phraseology of this parable is derived from rabbinical
teaching, that our Lord made use of a current but erroneous Jewish notion to
teach a valuable lesson, and that therefore it is not safe to draw any
inferences from the narrative relative to the future state. But it should be
noted that the parables of Jesus never introduce fictitious conditions, nor
do they anywhere violate the order and course of nature. It is hardly
possible that he could have made this an exception to his rule, especially
since it is in a field where all the wisdom of the world is insufficient to
make the slightest correction. Moreover, it is certainly impossible that he
could exaggerate the differences between the states of the lost and saved in
the hereafter. Nor can the teaching of the parable be set aside on the
ground that it represents merely the intermediate and not the final
condition of things. If the intermediate condition of things is fixed and
established, the final condition must, a fortiori, be more so. Moreover, the
teaching here differs from that of the old rabbis, for, according to
Lightfoot, a wall and not a gulf separated between the just and the unjust,
and they were not "afar off" from each other, the distance being
but a handbreadth. The passage therefore confirms the doctrine that the
righteous are neither homeless nor unconscious during the period between
death and the resurrection (Philippians
1:23), and refutes the doctrine of universalism, for the gulf is (1)
fixed, and (2) cannot be passed or bridged. The gulf of pride and caste
between the rich man and Lazarus while on earth was easy to cross.
16:27 And he said, I
pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house1;
I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my
father's house. The double attempt of the rich man to use Lazarus as his
servant shows how hard it was for him to adjust himself to his new
16:28 for I have
five brethren1; that he may
testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment2.
For I have five brethren. There is no typical significance in the
That he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of
torment. Deceived by his wealth, the rich man looked upon his earthly
possessions as real and substantial, and, like rich sinners of today, had
simply disregarded the affairs of the future life. Aroused by the sudden
experience of the awful realities of the future state, he desires to make it
as real to his brethren as it had now become to him. In endeavoring to carry
out his desire, he proceeds on the theory that the testimony of the dead in
reference to the realities of the future state are more trustworthy and
influential than the revelations of God himself, given through his inspired
spokesmen. This dishonoring of God and his law was to be expected from one
who had made mammon his real master, even though professing (as the context
suggests) to serve God. The singleness of his service is shown in that he,
though practically discharged by one master (mammon), cannot even now speak
respectfully of God. Some commentators make much of the so-called repentance
of the rich man, manifested in this concern for his brethren; but the Lord
did not count kindness shown to kindred as evidence of goodness, much less
of repentance (Luke
6:32-35). Besides the natural feeling for his brothers, he knew that
their presence in torment would add to his own. His concern for his brethren
is not told to indicate repentance. It is mentioned to bring out the point
that the revealed will of God of itself and without more makes it
inexcusable for a man to lead a selfish life.
16:29 But Abraham saith, They
have Moses and the prophets1; let
them hear them2.
They have Moses and the prophets. That is, the entire Old
Let them hear them. See Luke
5:39-46. The Scriptures are a sufficient guide to godliness (2 Timothy
3:16,17), and a failure to live rightly when possession them is due to
lack of will, and not to lack of knowledge.
16:30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but
if one go to them from the dead, they will repent1.
But if one go to them from the dead, they will repent. With the
spirit of a true Pharisee, he sought a sign for his brothers. See Matthew
12:38. But the guidance of Scripture is better than any sign.
16:31 And he said unto him, If
they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, if one
rise from the dead1.
If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be
persuaded, if one rise from the dead. These words might sound like an
overstatement of the obduracy of unbelief were they not amply verified by
the literal facts. Jesus had already raised at least two from the dead as
witnesses to his divine power, and he was about to raise a third, who, with
startling suggestiveness, would bear this very name of Lazarus. But despite
all these witnesses the majority of the Jews disbelieved and continued to
disbelieve in him; nay, they even went so far as to seek the death of
Lazarus that they might be rid of his testimony (John
12:10). This is also a reference to Jesus' own resurrection. It is true
that he did not appear in person to those who disbelieved in him, but they
had clear knowledge of his resurrection (Matthew
28:11-15), and it was considered as proved to all men (Acts