Luke Chapter Sixteen

 

v.1 “AND HE SAID ALSO UNTO HIS DISCIPLES, THERE WAS A CERTAIN RICH MAN, WHICH HAD A STEWARD; AND THE SAME WAS ACCUSED UNTO HIM THAT HE HAD WASTED HIS GOODS.”

 

            A certain rich man, a specific man, had a steward, one whom he had placed in a position of responsibility over his household.  A steward vs a servant, indicates that he was the manager or overseer of the house or estate, kept the valuables of the house and its substance under his control and probably kept the signet or seal of the master of the house that was used as a signature.  This is the same kind of ring or stamp that is mentioned in Luke 15:22.

            This steward was accused wasting his master’s goods, a very serious charge indeed.

 

v.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 master of the house has now called his steward in to fire him.  We can almost hear the anger in his voice as he confronts the one that he has trusted with all his substance and literally his signature and good name.  He warns his steward to give an accounting and tells him that he may no longer be allowed to continue in his responsibilities.

 

v.3-4 “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.  I AM RESOLVED WHAT TO DO, THAT, WHEN I AM PUT OUT OF THE STEWARDSHIP, THEY MAY RECEIVE ME INTO THEIR HOUSES.”

 

            The steward is in a quandary.  He hasn’t been fired yet but he knows its coming.  He would either have to go to work or beg and he didn’t want to do either one.  Working was too hard and begging wasn’t proper for a man of responsibility and position such as he has enjoyed.

            So he devises another plan.  He will work to obligate all those with whom his master does business, has loaned money or advanced seed grain; anyone that owes his master anything.  This will make them indebted to him and then he can live off these people that he has given these special favors.

 

v.5-7 “SO HE CALLED EVERY ONE OF HIS LORD’S DEBTORS unto him, AND SAID UNTO THE FIRST, HOW MUCH OWEST THOU UNTO MY LORD?  AND HE SAID, AN HUNDRED MEASURES OF OIL.  AND HE SAID UNTO HIM, TAKE THY BILL, AND SIT DOWN QUICKLY, AND WRITE FIFTY.  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.”

 

            The unrighteous steward proceeds with his plan.  He calls in those that are debtors to his lord and begins to reduce their obligations, setting up the situations were they would be in his debt later when he is removed.  The measure in this parable is one that was called a “bath”.  Some commentators give it as being equal to seven gallons, others eight or nine but my analytical Bible gives us a reference where it is used to describe a vessel made for the temple:

 

I Kings 7:26 “AND IT WAS AN HAND BREADTH THICK, AND THE BRIM THEREOF WAS WROUGHT LIKE THE BRIM OF A CUP, WITH FLOWERS OF LILIES: IT CONTAINED TWO THOUSAND BATHS.”

 

            Using the dimensions of this temple vessel they calculate a bath as about 5 gallons and a pint.  Ten baths would be about the same as a 55 gallon drum, so 100 measures of oil would be about 550 gallons.

            The steward cuts the first debtor’s bill in half, the second by one fifth.

 

v.8 “AND THE LORD COMMENDED THE UNJUST STEWARD, BECAUSE HE HAD DONE WISELY: FOR THE CHILDREN OF THIS WORLD ARE IN THEIR GENERATION WISER THAN THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT.”

 

            Jesus says that the lord admires and commends the shrewdness of his steward.  He has been dishonest, unjust but he’s been very practical from a worldly view hasn’t he?  But the end result is the same; he’s removed from his responsibilities.  Who are the children of this world?  Those are the ones whose main purpose in life is to gain the possessions and pleasures of this world.  Who are the children of light?

 

I Thessalonians 5:5 “YE ARE ALL THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT, AND THE CHILDREN OF THE DAY: WE ARE NOT OF THE NIGHT, NOR OF DARKNESS.”

 

The children of light are those whose purpose is directed toward a higher calling and H. Leo Boles comments that men of the world “act with better judgment oftentimes with respect to worldly affairs than to the disciples of Jesus with respect to spiritual affairs.”

 

v.9 “AND I SAY UNTO YOU, MAKE TO YOURSELVES FRIENDS OF THE MAMMON OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS; THAT, WHEN YE FAIL, THEY MAY RECEIVE YOU INTO EVERLASTING HABITATIONS.”

 

            This verse can be somewhat difficult to understand but I think that with some help from Christian scholars we can manage.  The lord has commended the unjust steward’s ingenuity and foresight.  Christians should show the same level of ingenuity and foresight regarding their spiritual future and eternal destiny.  We are not to act unjustly or unrighteously as this steward did but we are to prepare for our ultimate future as he did.  The ASV reads that we should “MAKE YOURSELVES FRIENDS BY MEANS OF THE MAMMON OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS;” There are right ways to use our riches and wrong ways to use our riches and Jesus is teaching the right use.  We should make such use of our possessions as to secure heavenly treasures and gain friends, who, having gone on before will be waiting to great us to our everlasting habitation.

This harmonizes with the teaching of Paul:

 

I Timothy 6:17-19 “CHARGE THEM THAT ARE RICH IN THIS WORLD, THAT THEY BE NOT HIGHMINDED, NOR TRUST IN UNCERTAIN RICHES, BUT IN THE LIVING GOD, WHO GIVETH US RICHLY ALL THINGS TO ENJOY; THAT THEY DO GOOD, THAT THEY BE RICH IN GOOD WORKS, READY TO DISTRIBUTE, WILLING TO COMMUNICATE; LAYING UP IN STORE FO THEMSELVES A GOOD FOUNDATION AGAINST THE TIME TO COME, THAT THEY MAY LAY HOLD ON ETERNAL LIFE.”

 

v.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 just makes good common sense doesn’t it?  Any of us that have been given greater responsibilities by our employers first had to earn that opportunity by being faithful and responsible over little things, just individual duties or tasks.  On the other hand, if we know someone who is unjust in the little things, someone that will lie, we can pretty well expect that he will cheat and steal as well if he thinks he can do that and not get caught.

 

v.11 “IF THEREFORE YE HAVE NOT BEEN FAITHFUL IN THE UNRIGHTOUS MAMMON, WHO WILL COMMIT TO YOUR TRUST THE TRUE riches?”

 

            Now here is something that we don’t think of very often.  If we are unfaithful in material things, the working world that we live in every day, why would God entrust us with true riches?  In addition to that observation Jesus contrasts the riches of the world that are deceitful, temporary and uncertain with those that are true riches; those things related to the world to come that are real, substantial, spiritual and eternal.  We must first prove ourselves faithful in our stewardship of God’s material blessings before we can be trusted with the God’s eternal, spiritual blessings.  This is another reason for elders to be tried and true both within and outside of the God’s kingdom.

 

v.12-13 “AND IF YE HAVE NOT BEEN FAITHFUL IN THAT WHICH IS ANOTHER MAN’S, WHO SHALL GIVE YOU THAT WHICH IS YOUR OWN?  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.”

 

            Jesus expands, extends and reinforces his instruction with an example that any person of nominal intelligence would have to have help to misunderstand.  No servant can serve two masters.  No man can work for two bosses without holding one in greater favor than the other; I know, as that is my situation in my current work assignment.

            The two masters here, God and Mammon or Satan’s world, have different purposes, different agendas, different and contrasting demands.  It’s like trying to go two directions at once.

 

v.14 “AND THE PHARISEES ALSO, WHO WERE COVETOUS, HEARD ALL THESE THINGS: AND THEY DERIDED HIM.”

 

            The ASV says that the Pharisees, who were “lovers of money” “scoffed” or made fun of him.  The word “covetous” in the KJV or “lovers of money” in the ASV here is from a word found only twice in the New Testament, the second being:

 

II Timothy 3:2 “FOR MEN SHALL BE LOVERS OF THEIR OWN SELVES, COVETOUS, BOASTERS, PROUD, BLASPHEMERS, DISOBEDIENT TO PARENTS, UNTHANKFUL, UNHOLY,”

 

This would indicate a very high level of greed, a kind of greed that would cause the person affected to go to almost any means to gain this world’s riches.  The word translated scoff is also found only one other place and carries in its meaning the strongest form of ridicule.

 

v.15 “AND HE SAID UNTO THEM, YE ARE THEY WHICH JUSTIFY YOURSELVES BEFORE MEN; BUT GOD KNOWETH YOUR HEARTS: FOR THAT WHICH IS HIGHLY ESTEEMED AMONG MEN IS ABOMINATION IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.”

 

            The Pharisees were literally masters at justifying themselves and their interpretations of the Mosaic Law.  Jesus says God doesn’t look at man’s outward show or appearance but looks at the inward man.  We have the classic example of this in:

 

I Samuel 16:7 “BUT THE LORD SAID UNTO SAMUEL, LOOK NOT ON HIS COUNTENANCE, OR ON THE HEIGHT OF HIS STATURE; BECAUSE I HAVE REFUSED HIM: FOR the Lord seeth NOT AS MAN SEETH; FOR MAN LOOKETH ON THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE, BUT THE LORD LOOKETH ON THE HEART.”

 

Samuel had been sent by God to anoint a new king for his people, Israel.  God looked inside and didn’t see what he wanted in David’s brother; but he did see what he wanted in David.  But then many of the things that men hold highest in their opinion, God finds to be an abomination.

 

v.16 “THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS were UNTIL JOHN: SINCE THAT TIME THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS PREACHED, AND EVERY MAN PRESSETH INTO IT.”

 

            Jesus here points us to the new dispensation, the new age, in the history of mankind that is about to begin.  From Mount Sinai until the moment that John began to preach that the Kingdom of God is at hand, the Mosaic Law and the writings of the prophets were the source of religious truth.  Now, since the coming of the kingdom has been preached everyone wants to participate in that kingdom.  Luke records earlier, “all the people”

 

Luke 7:29  “AND ALL THE PEOPLE THAT HEARD HIM AND THE PUBLICANS, JUSTIFIED GOD, BEING BAPTIZED WITH THE BAPTISM OF JOHN.”

 

v.17  “BUT IT IS EASIER FOR HEAVEN AND EARTH TO PASS, THAN ONE TITTLE OR JOT OF THE LAW TO FAIL.”

 

            God is unchanging.  God’s attitude toward what is and is not sin has not changed.  He has given mankind different laws and different covenants in the different dispensations of time but is God different?  Are there things that God sees as sin today that he didn’t before?  Oh, the way he wishes to be worshipped has changed, the means of accessing his grace for salvation have changed but not the foundation of his law, not his attitude toward sin or even what constitutes sin.

 

Isaiah 40:8 “THE GRASS WITHERETH, THE FLOWER FADETH: BUT THE WORD OF OUR GOD SHALL STAND FOR EVER.”

 

I Peter 1:25 “BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURETH FOREVER.  AND THIS IS THE WORD WHICH BY THE GOSPEL IS PREACHED UNTO YOU.”

 

            But how can that be?  Didn’t Jesus remove the Law of Moses?  Yes, of course but he didn’t destroy it; he fulfilled, he completed it.  But it wasn’t destroyed, just removed as God’s covenant with mankind; it still exists, it’s just not in force as God’s law governing mankind.  Paul said that Jesus:

 

Colossians 2:14 “BLOTTING OUT THE HANDWRITING OF ORDINANCES THAT WAS AGAINST US, WHICH WAS CONTRARY TO US, AND TOOK IT OUT OF THE WAY, NAILING IT TO HIS CROSS;”

 

            Now we see Jesus give an example of God’s unchanging nature, an example that most people ignore today, even among those who claim to be of the Lord’s church:

 

v.18 “WHOSOEVER PUTTETH AWAY HIS WIFE, AND MARRIETH ANOTHER, COMMITTETH ADULTERY: AND WHOSOEVER MARRIETH HER THAT IS PUT AWAY FROM her HUSBAND COMMITTETH ADULTERY.”

 

            Jesus tells us of God’s intent in this matter very clearly in Matthew 19:4-9, repeating and emphasizing God’s purpose in verse nine.  Matthew’s record in chapter 19 is simply Jesus re-emphasizing something that he had taught earlier in his ministry:

 

Matthew 5:32 “BUT I SAY UNTO YOU, THAT WHOSOEVER SHALL PUT AWAY HIS WIFE, SAVING FOR THE CAUSE OF FORNICATION, CAUSETH HER TO COMMIT ADULTERY: AND WHOSOEVER SHALL MARRY HER THAT IS DIVORCED COMMITTETH ADULTERY.”

 

v.19 “THERE WAS A CERTAIN RICH MAN, WHICH WAS CLOTHED IN PURPLE AND FINE LINEN, AND FARED SUMPTOUSLY EVERY DAY;”

 

            Now Jesus gives us a picture of “life’s other side”.  Some call this a parable; some insist that it is a true picture of the abode of the soul between death and the judgment.  Luke is the only one who records his teaching on this subject.  The more I study God’s word, the more I think that Jesus is giving us a literal description and can fully understand his giving this lesson in the face of the ridicule of the wealthy, covetous Pharisees.  He gives this lesson because there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun.

            There was a certain rich man, one who dressed in fine linen and literally ate of the absolute best available every day.  Purple was the color known as an emblem of royalty and many people still love the rich burgundies and other shades of the mixture of red and blue pigments.  The fine linen was the same quality used in the tabernacle and temple that we find mentioned in Exodus 25:4, 28:5 and 35:6.

 

v.20-21 “AND THERE WAS A CERTAIN BEGGAR NAMED LAZARUS, WHICH WAS LAID AT HIS GATE FULL OF SORES, AND DESIRING TO BE FED WITH THE CRUMBS WHICH FELL FROM THE RICH MAN’S TABLE: MOREOVER THE DOGS CAME AND LICKED HIS SORES.”

 

            Jesus here even gives the beggar a proper name.  This man is completely destitute of any material substance.  The language used here in the original would indicate that he is literally dumped at the rich man’s gate every day by those who are responsible for him, that he was not physically able to get there himself and that he was unable to do anything about his condition.  He was full of sores and the only ministering that he received was from the tongues of the mongrel dogs that roamed the streets.  Not a very pretty picture is it. 

This rich man obviously knew about this beggar and just as obviously refused to provide him even the crumbs swept up off the floor of his dining room.  How do we know this?  Because that was what he desired, but he did not receive anything from this rich man.

 

v.22 “AND IT CAME TO PASS, THAT THE BEGGAR DIED, AND WAS CARRIED BY THE ANGELS INTO ABRAHAM’S BOSOM: THE RICH MAN ALSO DIED, AND WAS BURIED.”

 

            Death had to be a relief for this poor beggar.  We don’t know how long this situation lasted but sufficient to say until both the beggar and the rich man died.  Angels carried the beggar to Abraham’s bosom, why is this significant?  Two reasons, when we were little children and we needed comfort where was the most comforting place we could find (?) the arms or bosom of a father or mother.  Secondly, Father Abraham, the father of the Israelite nation, the chosen people of God is the one who is doing the comforting.

            Conversely the epitaph given by Jesus for the rich man is very brief; he died and was buried.

 

v.23 “AND IN HELL (hades) HE LIFTED UP HIS EYES, BEING IN TORMENTS, AND SEETH ABRAHAM AFAR OFF, AND LAZARUS IN HIS BOSOM.”

 

            First of all the KJV translation here is incorrect.  We’re not taking about hell, the eternal abode of the damned but rather hades, the resting place of the dead; after death but before the judgment.  The beggar is in the same place that Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be that day (Luke 23:43).

            The rich man is in torments.  This is a place contrasted against the comfort, blessing and joy of being in the bosom of Abraham, a place where the rich man is in misery.  He can see Abraham, he can see Lazarus, he knows who they are and part of his misery is that he knows that even though he can claim to be a child of Abraham by physical birth, just as those in Jesus’ audience did, he is not with Abraham in death.

 

v.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.”

 

            He cries out to Father Abraham.  He needs comfort, he needs help; he is in torment.  All he wants is for Lazarus to wet his finger and touch his tongue that he might receive some relief.  Jesus has given us a very graphic picture of the punishment of the unfaithful, the rich man is physically and spiritually miserable.  He would settle for such a small measure of comfort that we have trouble comprehending in our mortal minds just how a damp finger would be of any benefit in his situation.

 

v.25 “BUT ABRAHAM SAID, SON, REMEMBER THAT THOU IN THY LIFETIME RECEIVEST THY GOOD THINGS, AND LIKEWISE LAZARUS EVIL THINGS; BUT NOW HE IS COMFORTED, AND THOU ART TORMENTED.

 

            Abraham addresses the rich man as his son, the Greek literally translated means child.  The rich man is a child or descendant of Abraham by physical birth.  And Abraham is kind, but straightforward, explaining that he cannot change what the rich man has brought upon himself by the way he lived on this earth.

            What did Jesus teach us earlier in Luke’s record?

 

Luke 6:24  “BUT WOE UNTO YOU THAT ARE RICH! FOR YE HAVE RECEIVED YOUR CONSOLATION.”

 

You have received your reward.  You have received all those good things in your physical life, whereas Lazarus received evil things, he suffered, he was abused, he was neglected, literally laying where the rich man could see him every day as he came into and went out of his house. The rich man gave Lazarus nothing, paid no attention to him; may have even stepped over him without an ounce of compassion for his situation.  Consequently, now he is tormented and poor Lazarus is comforted.

 

v.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.”

 

            In addition to the fact that the rich man and Lazarus are receiving the just reward for their actions in this life it is impossible for Lazarus to cross over to the rich man.  The hadean realm is divided into two places called paradise and the place of torment.  Between these two divisions is a great gulf.  This is translated from a word that means “yawn’, or “chasm” or a “gaping opening”.  This “great gulf” was too deep to be filled, to wide to build a bridge, to great for any way to be devised that anyone could use to get from one side to the other.  The closest thing I can think of to compare with it is the Grand Canyon.  In many places as you stand on the rim and looked at the other side, its obvious that there is no way that a man can physically go directly from one side to the other.

            The purpose of this great gulf is to prevent anyone from getting into paradise that has been consigned to the other side.

 

v.27 “THEN HE SAID, I PRAY THEE THEREFORE, FATHER, THAT THOU WOULDEST SEND HIM TO MY FATHER’S HOUSE.”

 

            The rich man finally shows come concern, some compassion for someone else.  His situation is desperate, unchangeable, his destination is sealed.  The Catholic doctrine of purgatory not withstanding, there is absolutely no way for repentance and salvation to reach anyone in this intermediate state between physical death and the judgment.  So for the first time in this record the rich man turns his thoughts to others, those in his father’s house.

 

v.28 “FOR I HAVE FIVE BRETHREN: THAT HE MAY TESTIFY UNTO THEM, LEST THEY ALSO COME INTO THIS PLACE OF TORMENT.”

 

            Back home this rich man has five brothers following in his footsteps.  He has no doubt were they are headed; they will be joining him in due time.  He does not want them to suffer that outcome; so he wants Abraham to send Lazarus to warn them.  Lazarus has laid at the gate of this man’s house, his brothers know him and perhaps if he goes and warns them they will change their lives and not come to this place of torment.

 

v.29 “ABRAHAM SAITH UNTO HIM, THEY HAVE MOSES AND THE PROPHETS; LET THEM HEAR THEM.”

 

            Abraham has an answer for the rich man.  They are to go to the writings of Moses and the prophets, there is ample information there that if accepted, believed and obeyed will prevent his brothers from being on his side of the great gulf.  Jesus had already told the Pharisees this in an earlier setting:

 

John 5:39 “SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES FOR IN THEM YE THINK YE HAVE ETERNAL LIFE: AND THEY ARE WHICH TESTIFY OF ME.”

 

            Search the scriptures; for there is where you can find God’s roadmap to eternal life.  This is instruction that we would do well to heed today as well.

 

v.30. “AND HE SAID, NAY, FATHER ABRAHAM: BUT IF ONE WENT UNTO THEM FROM THE DEAD, THEY WILL REPENT.”

 

            The rich man says that the scriptures just won’t be able to get the attention of his brothers.  They will not hear; sound familiar?  They will not look into the source of life that they have been provided by God.  Do we have a parallel today?  Of course; the vast majority of the people of this world will neither hear nor heed God’s word today, even when God in his patience and longsuffering allows them time to learn of him and turn to him.

 

v.31  “AND HE SAID UNTO HIM, IF THEY HEAR NOT MOSES AND THE PROPHETS; NEITHER WILL THEY BE PERSUADED THOUGH ONE RISE FROM THE DEAD.”

 

            Abraham says that if the rich man’s brothers won’t hear Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen to anyone that is returned from the dead either.  That was proven wasn’t it?  Do we remember who and how?  The Pharisees, the chief priests, hated Jesus, they refused to hear him, they refused to follow him, they plotted his death, and they even plotted to destroy one that did come back from the dead, who was resurrected by Jesus himself:

 

John 12:10-11 “BUT THE CHIEF PRIESTS CONSULTED THAT THEY MIGHT PUT LAZARUS ALSO TO DEATH; BECAUSE THAT BY REASON OF HIM MANY OF THE JEWS WENT AWAY, AND BELIEVED ON JESUS.”

 

            These men were so hardhearted, they were so set against Jesus that when Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, was raised from the dead that they would destroy him, kill him, in order to prevent the Jewish people from being converted to following Christ and becoming one of his disciples.  The rich man’s brothers wouldn’t treat this Lazarus any better.