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“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. 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. 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. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. 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. 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. 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. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 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. And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided Him. 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 law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery”—Luke 16:1-18.
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It is with the first part of this passage that I desire to deal particularly at this time. The parable of the unjust steward is one which has been misunderstood frequently. In these occidental countries we have a different conception of a steward than in oriental lands. Then too, we read that the lord commended the unjust steward. Many people are perplexed about this, because they have failed to notice that “lord” begins with a small letter instead of a capital. It was not our Lord who commended him but the master of the unjust steward. In an eastern home a steward is overseer of the affairs of the whole household, and the master turns over to him a certain amount of money with which to buy the necessities for the comfort of the family. If the steward is able to purchase these things at a price lower than the ordinary market value, then that is money in his pocket. A wise steward is a very valuable personage in an oriental home, and nobody begrudges him the perquisites he earns. If this be kept in mind we shall understand better what our Lord meant here. “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.” Just as it was possible throught thrift, carefulness, and economy to save money for his master and also gain a substantial profit for himself, so it was possible for an unfaithful steward to waste what was entrusted to him by reckless buying, or keeping dishonest accounts. Such was evidently the case in this instance.
“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. 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.” We can imagine him saying, “I am going to lose my job, and I cannot work hard.” After thinking the matter over, he says, “I know what I’ll do; I’ll call in my master’s debtors and see what I can do with them.” So he summoned the first one and asked, “How much do you owe my lord?” He replied, “One hundred measures of oil.” “Well,” said the steward, “just cut that in half. Change the bill to fifty.” By remitting this part of the indebtedness, actually the steward cut out that which would come to himself. Then he said to another, “How much do you owe?” He said, “One hundred measures of wheat.” He told this one to deduct twenty measures. When this came to the ears of the master of the steward, “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.” You see the master of the house could readily understand the wisdom of this procedure, and he said, “After all, he has acted very wisely. He has made good friends for himself by cutting off his own profits.” These friends would be ready to welcome and assist him in his hour of need. The Lord Jesus makes the application that the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. How many of God’s children are very much more concerned about present gains than they are about future blessings. The Lord makes this definite application: “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. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” He speaks of making friends by the right use of wealth. The word “mammon” really means “riches.” Actually it was originally the name of a Canaanite god of wealth, and the word had been carried over into the language of the Israelites as a synonym for riches or treasure. So the Lord Jesus says, as it were, “If God entrusts riches to you, you can make friends therewith,” even though He calls them “the riches of unrighteousness.” If man had not fallen he would have lived a pure, innocent life here on earth, receiving everything at God’s good hand instead of having to toil and labor for the means of sustenance. There would have been no occasion for money as a medium of exchange. The fact that one happens to have a few dollars in his pocket is, in itself, a witness that sin is in the world; so mammon, riches, is the mammon of unrighteousness. Someone might ask, If it is true that money came into the world only because of sin, why should we not endeavor to get along without it? Under present conditions that is impossible. We cannot get along without it in a world like this. But if God has given us wealth we should use it to His glory in spreading His gospel, and in relieving distressed and suffering humanity. In this way we make friends by the mammon of unrighteousness; and when we come down to death and leave this world behind, those friends we have made through the right use of the mammon of unrighteousness will receive us joyfully into the everlasting habitations. To illustrate: Suppose the Lord Jesus has entrusted an amount of money to you, and you say, “God has given me this money. I am going to give a certain portion of it to help send the gospel to heathen lands.” And you contribute regularly to some missionary, and because of your support that missionary is enabled to go forth and present the gospel to lost souls. Here on earth you may never see those who have been won through that missionary’s efforts; but by-and-by, when you leave this scene and go home to heaven; you will find there those who will greet you with gladness as they say, “It was your money that enabled the teacher to come to me and to lead me out of the darkness of heathenism into the light of the gospel of Christ. We have been waiting here to welcome you into these everlasting habitations and to tell you how grateful we are to you for the interest which you took in us!” You can apply the principle in a thousand ways. You may use some of your money to help a poor, needy brother or sister, or to assist some underprivileged children. Your kindness and goodness to them may never be fully appreciated or recognized here on earth, but the day will come, if they are in Christ, when they will meet you in yonder land and express their gratitude to you for the way in which you used the mammon of unrighteousness.
Our Lord here is impressing upon us the stewardship of money. He says, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.” Money in God’s sight is a very little thing; in the sight oi man it is most important. In the book of Ecclesiastes we read, “Money answereth all things.” Someone has said, “Money is a universal provider for everything but happiness.” We have heard of the father who said to his son, “My son, make money. Make it honestly if you can, but make money.” Some people have the idea that there is nothing more important. But our blessed Lord speaks of it as a very little thing; and He says, “He that is faithful in his use of money will be faithful also in greater things.” Have you noticed that a man’s use of his money is often the acid test of his character? A man who loves money will be unkind and evil in many other ways. The love of money is not exactly the root of all evil, but it is a root of all evil. The definite article in the Authorized Version is somewhat misleading here. Covetousness is like a hardy root on which all kinds of evil plants may be grafted. If a man loves money inordinately he exposes himself to every other kind of iniquity.
“If ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?” One may ask, In what way shall I know whether or not I am faithful in regard to unrighteous mammon? When we turn to the First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 16:2) we read, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him.” That is a rule which every Christian should observe. If we fail to do so we lose in many ways. Then one may ask, How much should be used for myself, and how much should be set aside for God and for others? If you had been a Jew under the law you would have been required to give ten per cent. As a Christian under grace you surely do not want to give less than a Jew gave under the law. One ought to give more if he can, and in so doing he is faithful in that which is least, and will also be faithful in that which is much.
“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.” You cannot be a lover of God and a lover of money at the same time. If you are afraid that perhaps the love of money is getting a grip upon you just try giving away some of it, and if you feel more cheerful and happy than before, then love of money has not gotten hold of you. But if you find that it hurts to give, then you may well be fearful lest covetousness is getting a grip on your soul. The world admires the man who does well for himself; the world admires him who becomes wealthy and can live in a beautiful mansion. But God estimates true greatness in an altogether different way. God’s heart goes out in loving appreciation to the man who lives for the benefit of others and uses that which is entrusted to him in the light of eternity.
“The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.” The ministry of John the Baptist ushered in a new era. The old dispensation was drawing to a close, soon to be ended at the cross. Meantime the kingdom of God was proclaimed, and men were invited to enter through the door of repentance and faith. Many tried to press in who were not, in reality, children of the kingdom. Only by new birth, as our Lord explained to Nicodemus (John 3:3), can one actually enter that kingdom. No word which God has spoken can fail in fulfilment, however man might react to the kingdom proclamation. All the demands of the law must be met either by those who come under its condemnation, or by Him who came in grace to bear its curse for others. God’s Word was to be carried out even to the crucifying of His own blessed Son when He took the sinner’s place.
The last verse of this section is of tremendous importance in these days when people look so leniently upon the violation of their marriage vows. “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery.” If those words could be blazoned across the sky they might bring conviction to thousands who are living in that sin which is here condemned. It is true that on one occasion Jesus made an exception, which leaves the innocent party, where one has been divorced because of immorality, free to marry another. But the Word of God denounces any who treat lightly this sacred relationship. Marriage is for life, not to last only as long as people seem to take pleasure in each other. The tie once formed can be dissolved only by death or by grave sin.