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Barnes' Notes on Luke 16:9-18

Barnes' Notes on the New Testament

Luke Chapter 16

Verse 9. I say unto you. I, Jesus, say to you, my disciples.

Make to yourselves friends. Some have understood the word friends, here, as referring to the poor; others, to holy angels; and others, to God. Perhaps, however, the word should not be considered as referring to any particular persons, but is used in accordance with the preceding parable; for in the application our Saviour uses the language appropriated to the conduct of the steward to express the general truth that we are to make a proper use of riches. The steward had so managed his pecuniary affairs as to secure future comfort for himself, or so as to find friends that would take care of him beyond the time when he was put out of the office. That is, he would not be destitute, or cast off, or without comfort, when he was removed from his office. So, says our Saviour to the publicans and those who had property, so use your property as to secure happiness and comfort beyond the time when you shall be removed from the present life. Have reference, in the use of your money, to the future. Do not use it so that it shall not avail you anything hereafter; but so employ it that, as the steward found friends, comfort, and a home by his wisdom in the use of it, so you may, after you are removed to another world, find friends, comfort, and a home--that is, may be happy in heaven. Jesus, here, does not say that we should do it in the same way that the steward did, for that was unjust; but only that we should secure the result. This may be done by using our riches as we should do; that is, by not suffering them to entangle us in cares and perplexities dangerous to the soul, engrossing the time, and stealing away the affections; by employing them in works of mercy and benevolence, aiding the poor, contributing to the advance of the gospel, bestowing them where they will do good, and in such a manner that God will approve the deed, and will bless us for it. Commonly riches are a hindrance to piety. To many they are snares; and, instead of positively benefitting the possessor, they are an injury, as they engross the time and the affections, and do not contribute at all to the eternal welfare of the soul. Everything may, by a proper use, be made to contribute to our welfare in heaven. Health, wealth, talents, and influence may be so employed; and this is what our Saviour doubtless means here.

Of the mammon. By means of the mammon.

Mammon. A Syriac word meaning riches. It is used, also, as an idol--the god of riches.

Of unrighteousness. These words are an Hebrew expression for unrighteous mammon, the noun being used for an adjective, as is common in the New Testament. The word unrighteous, here, stands opposed to "the true riches" in Luke 16:11, and means deceitful, false, not to be trusted. It has this meaning often. See 1 Timothy 6:17; Luke 12:33; Matthew 6:19; 19:21. It does not signify, therefore, that they had acquired the property unjustly, but that property was deceitful and not to be trusted. The wealth of the steward was deceitful; he could not rely on its continuance; it was liable to be taken away at any moment. So the wealth of the world is deceitful. We cannot calculate on its continuance. It may give us support or comfort now, but it may be soon removed, or we taken from it, and we should therefore so use it as to derive benefit from it hereafter.

When ye fail. When ye are left, or when ye die. The expression is derived from the parable as referring to the discharge of the steward; but it refers to death, as if God then discharged his people, or took them from their stewardship and called them to account.

They may receive you. This is a form of expression denoting merely that you may be received. The plural form is used because it was used in the corresponding place in the parable, Luke 16:4. The direction is, so to use our worldly goods that we may be received into heaven when we die. God will receive us there, and we are to employ our property so that he will not cast us off for abusing it.

Everlasting habitations. Heaven, the eternal home of the righteous, where all our wants will be supplied, and where there can be no more anxiety, and no more removal from enjoyments, 2 Corinthians 5:1.

{3} "mammon of unrighteousness" "riches"

Verse 10. He that is faithful, &c. This is a maxim which will almost universally hold true. A man that shows fidelity in small matters will also in large; and he that will cheat and defraud in little things will also in those involving more trust and responsibility. Fidelity is required in small matters as well as in those of more importance.

{d} "He that is faithful" Matthew 25:21,23

Verse 11. Who will commit, &c. If you are not faithful in the small matters pertaining to this world, if you do not use aright your property and influence, you cannot expect that God will commit to you the true riches of his grace. Men who are dishonest and worldly, and who do not employ the deceitful mammon as they ought, cannot expect to grow in grace. God does not confer grace upon them, and their being unfaithful in earthly matters is evidence that they would be also in much greater affairs, and would likewise misimprove the true riches.

True riches. The graces of the gospel; the influences of the Spirit; eternal life, or religion. The riches of this world are false, deceitful, not to be trusted (Luke 16:9); the treasures of heaven are true, faithful, never-failing, Matthew 6:19,20.

{4} "mammon" = "riches"

Verse 12. Another man's. The word man's is not in the original. It is, "If ye have been unfaithful managers for another." It refers, doubtless, to God. The wealth of the world is his. It is committed to us as his stewards. It is uncertain and deceitful, and at any moment he can take it away from us. It is still his; and if, while intrusted with this, we are unfaithful, we cannot expect that he will confer on us the rewards of heaven.

That which is your own. The riches of heaven, which, if once given to us, may be considered as ours that is, it will be permanent and fixed, and will not be taken away as if at the pleasure of another. We may calculate on it, and look forward with the assurance that it will continue to be ours for ever, and will not be taken away like the riches of this world, as if they were not ours. The meaning of the whole parable is therefore thus expressed: If we do not use the things of this world as we ought--with honesty, truth, wisdom, and integrity, we cannot have evidence of piety, and shall not be received into heaven. If we are true to that which is least, it is an evidence that we are the children of God, and he will commit to our trust that which is of infinite importance, even the eternal riches and glory of heaven.

Verse 13. See Barnes "Matthew 6:24".

No Barnes text on this verse.

{e} "No servant" Joshua 24:15; Matthew 6:24

Verses 14,15. They derided him. The fact that they were "covetous" is here stated as the reason why they derided him, or, as it is literally, "they turned up the nose at him." They contemned or despised the doctrine which he had laid down, probably because it showed them that with their love of money they could not be the true friends of God, or that their profession of religion was really false and hollow. They were attempting to serve God and mammon, and they therefore looked upon his doctrine with contempt and scorn.

Justify yourselves. Attempt to appear just; or, you aim to appear righteous in the sight of men, and do not regard the heart.

That which is highly esteemed. That is, mere external works, or actions performed merely to appear to be righteous.

Is abomination. Is abominable, or hateful. The word used here is the one that in the Old Testament is commonly given to idols, and denotes God's abhorrence of such conduct. These words are to be applied chiefly to what Jesus was discoursing about. There are many things esteemed among men which are not abomination in the sight of God; as, for example, truth, parental and filial affection, industry, &c. But many things, much sought and admired, are hateful in his sight. The love of wealth and show, ambition and pride, gay and splendid vices, and all the wickedness that men contrive to gild and to make appear like virtue--external acts that appear well while the heart is evil--are abominable in the sight of God, and should be in the sight of men. Comp. Luke 18:11-14; 1 Samuel 16:7.

{f} "Pharisees also" Matthew 23:14

Verse 15. No Barnes text on this verse.

{g} "justify" Luke 10:29
{h} "God knoweth" Psalms 7:9; Jeremiah 17:10
{i} "esteemed" Proverbs 16:5; Malachi 3:15

Verse 16. See Barnes "Matthew 11:12-14".

Every man. Many men, or multitudes. This is an expression that is very common, as when we say everybody is engaged in a piece of business, meaning that it occupies general attention.

{k} "The law" Matthew 11:12,13

Verse 17. See Barnes "Matthew 5:18".

{l} "it is easier" Psalms 102:26; Isaiah 40:8; 51:6

Verse 18. See Barnes "Matthew 5:32". These verses occur in Matthew in a different order, and it is not improbable that they were spoken by our Saviour at different times. The design, here, seems to be to reprove the Pharisees for not observing the law of Moses, notwithstanding their great pretensions to external righteousness, and to show them that they had really departed from the law.

{m} "putteth away his wife" Matthew 5:32; 1 Corinthians 7:10,11

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