St Luke 16:1-18

1 Dicebat autem et ad discipulos suos: Homo quidam erat dives, qui habebat villicum: et hic diffamatus est apud illum quasi dissipasset bona ipsius. 2 Et vocavit illum, et ait illi: Quid hoc audio de te? redde rationem villicationis tuæ: jam enim non poteris villicare. 3 Ait autem villicus intra se: Quid faciam, quia dominus meus aufert a me villicationem? Fodere non valeo, mendicare erubesco. 4 Scio quid faciam, ut, cum amotus fuero a villicatione, recipiant me in domos suas. 5 Convocatis itaque singulis debitoribus domini sui, dicebat primo: Quantum debes domino meo? 6 At ille dixit: Centum cados olei. Dixitque illi: Accipe cautionem tuam: et sede cito, scribe quinquaginta. 7 Deinde alii dixit: Tu vero quantum debes? Qui ait: Centum coros tritici. Ait illi: Accipe litteras tuas, et scribe octoginta. 8 Et laudavit dominus villicum iniquitatis, quia prudenter fecisset: quia filii hujus sæculi prudentiores filiis lucis in generatione sua sunt. 9 Et ego vobis dico: facite vobis amicos de mammona iniquitatis: ut, cum defeceritis, recipiant vos in æterna tabernacula. 10 Qui fidelis est in minimo, et in majori fidelis est: et qui in modico iniquus est, et in majori iniquus est. 11 Si ergo in iniquo mammona fideles non fuistis quod verum est, quis credet vobis? 12 Et si in alieno fideles non fuistis, quod vestrum est, quis dabit vobis?13 Nemo servus potest duobus dominis servire: aut enim unum odiet, et alterum diliget: aut uni adhærebit, et alterum contemnet. Non potestis Deo servire et mammonæ.14 Audiebant autem omnia hæc pharisæi, qui erant avari: et deridebant illum. 15 Et ait illis: Vos estis qui justificatis vos coram hominibus: Deus autem novit corda vestra: quia quod hominibus altum est, abominatio est ante Deum. 16 Lex et prophetæ usque ad Joannem: ex eo regnum Dei evangelizatur, et omnis in illud vim facit. 17 Facilius est autem cælum et terram præterire, quam de lege unum apicem cadere. 18 Omnis qui dimittit uxorem suam et alteram ducit, mœchatur: et qui dimissam a viro ducit, mœchatur.

And he said also to his disciples: There was a certain rich man who had a steward: and the same was accused unto him, that he had wasted his goods. [2] And he called him, and said to him: How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship: for now thou canst be steward no longer. [3] And the steward said within himself: What shall I do, because my lord taketh away from me the stewardship? To dig I am not able; to beg I am ashamed. [4] I know what I will do, that when I shall be removed from the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. [5] Therefore calling together every one of his lord' s debtors, he said to the first: How much dost thou owe my lord? [6] But he said: An hundred barrels of oil. And he said to him: Take thy bill and sit down quickly, and write fifty. [7] Then he said to another: And how much dost thou owe? Who said: An hundred quarters of wheat. He said to him: Take thy bill, and write eighty. [8] And the lord commended the unjust steward, forasmuch as he had done wisely: for the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. [9] And I say to you: Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity; that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings. [10] He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater: and he that is unjust in that which is little, is unjust also in that which is greater.[11] If then you have not been faithful in the unjust mammon; who will trust you with that which is the true? [12] And if you have not been faithful in that which is another' s; who will give you that which is your own? [13] No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. [14] Now the Pharisees, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. [15] And he said to them: You are they who justify yourselves before men, but God knoweth your hearts; for that which is high to men, is an abomination before God.[16] The law and the prophets were until John; from that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every one useth violence towards it. [17] And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fall. [18] Every one that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her that is put away from her husband, committeth adultery.


...Ver. 2.—And he called him, and said unto him,. . . give an account of thy stewardship, i.e. of how much thou hast received and how thou hast expended it, for thou mayest be no longer steward.
So Christ saith, unto every one in the hour of death, “Give an account of thy stewardship. Give an account of thy life, of thy goods, and of thy talents, whether thou hast used them to promote the glory of God and the salvation of thyself and thy fellow-men.”

Climacus relates that a monk, who was afterwards abbot, saw in a dream, the first night he entered the monastery, certain men who demanded of him the payment of one hundred pounds of gold. Whereupon for the space of three years he gave himself up to obedience and mortification, and at the end of that time was told that ten pounds had been subtracted from his debt. For thirteen years longer he continued to practise still greater austerities, and then messengers were sent from God to say that all his debt was forgiven. The same writer has also something terrible to say about the abbot Stephen, who had for forty years lived a holy life of fasting and prayer. This man, the day before he died, fell into a trance, and was heard as if in colloquy with an unseen judge, denying at one time the accusations against him, at another time pleading guilty to the charges, and praying for mercy. Terrible indeed was the spectacle of this invisible and stern judgment...

Ver. 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. The κόζος which was the same size as the homer, contained ten ephahs. See Ezek. xlv. II.

“To me,” says S. Augustine (Quæst. Evang. Lib. ii 34), “the meaning of the passage seems this; that whatever the Jews do for the priests and Levites, should be more liberally provided for in the Church; that whereas they give a tenth, Christians should give a half, as Zaccheus gave, not of his crops, but of his goods; or at least that they should give two tenths, and thus exceed the payments of the Jews.”
Ver. 8.—And the lord commended the unjust steward because he had done wisely. The landlord, not the Lord Jesus, as Erasmus holds. The lord praised not the action, for it was dishonest, but the prudence, the cunning craft of the steward, just as we often admire, not indeed a crime, but the cleverness shown in contriving it.

The children of this world are in their generation, i.e. after their kind, in worldly matters, or as Himmel understands it, amongst their fellow-men, wiser than the children of light, i.e. than those who are followers of Christ. Very wisely has some one said, “In worldly matters we are philosophers, as to our spiritual affairs, fools; in earthly things we are lynx-eyed, but in heavenly we are moles.”
The children of this world, says S. Augustine (Lib. ii. de Genesi) are wiser in providing for their future; and very naturally so, because the desire of earthly pleasure and enjoyment is strong in man, but the aspirations of his soul are blunted and weakened, partly because of the body, partly from love of earthly things. Hence those that are led by the flesh are more active and energetic than those who are led by the spirit, inasmuch as spiritual things, being invisible, produce but little effect on the minds of men.

The parable was directed against the avarice of the Pharisees. We are taught by it to use our riches not for our own selfish ends, but for the relief of our poorer brethren. For Christ bids us all remember that we are but stewards of God’s good gifts, and therefore bound to use them so that we may give a good account of our stewardship, and obtain our due reward. In this sense the unjust steward is held up as an example, and not because of his injustice and fraud.

Hence S. Augustine, as already referred to, considers that Christ reasons thus, “If this steward could so wisely provide for this life, much more ought we to be solicitous for the life to come.” And again, “If this steward, unjust as he proved himself to be, was praised for his wisdom, much more shall we receive praise of God, if by our almsgiving we injure none, but benefit many.” And he goes on to say, “If a wrongdoer received praise from his lord, how much more pleasing are they to the Lord God, who do all in accordance with His will. So from the parable of the unjust judge Christ took occasion to speak of God as judge, although between the two no comparison was possible.”

We learn then from this parable (1.) That those who are possessed of riches, or any other gift of God, such as health, intellect, and the like, are but stewards of His bounty. (2.) That every one is bound to use his possessions to the honour and glory of God. (3.) And that every one at the day of judgment will have to give account, not only for the sins which he has committed, but also for duties which he has neglected to perform. Such is the general meaning of the parable. Its particular application I will proceed to explain.

Ver. 9.—And (in like manner) I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness. Ye have heard how the unjust steward made his lord’s debtors so kindly disposed towards him, that when he was deprived of his stewardship, they were willing to receive him into their houses. In like manner take heed that ye, who have wasted your lord’s goods through your misuse of them, by the mammon or the riches of unrighteousness—not by robbery and fraud, but in another sense which I will soon explain—give to the poor, so that after this life is over, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

Here note that the word unrighteousness has a double signification. In the case of the steward it meant dishonesty and deceit: in our case it has a different meaning, us I shall proceed, to show.
Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, i.e. of riches, which are “unrighteous” in a fourfold sense and from a fourfold cause.

1. Because riches are often amassed through unrighteousness, i.e. through fraud, usury, and the like of oneself or one’s ancestors. Hence S. Jerome (Ep. 150) says every rich man is either himself unrighteous or else the heir of an unrighteous man, and although he may not be ignorant of the evil-doings of his ancestors, yet he can scarcely be expected to know to whom restitution should be made. Therefore he is bound to make such restitution as lies in his power, by giving to the poor. And commenting on S. Matt. vi. the same Father goes on to say, Riches are called Mammon because they are acquired through unrighteousness, taking mammon to be derived from מן, min, and מנה, mona, i.e. violence, from the root ינה, iana, the meaning being “to exercise force.” But the real derivation seems to be from טמן taman, to hide or conceal; for riches and money are wont to be hidden.
2. They are unrighteous in the sense of faithless and deceptive, for they are not to be depended upon, but often desert one man and pass on to another.

3. They are called the mammon of unrighteousness, because in their endeavour to become rich men are guilty of fraud, dishonesty, unrighteous dealing, and every kind of sin.

4. And again, they are unrighteous, because wicked and ungodly men esteem them of more value than the heavenly treasures.  S. Augustine (serm. 35 De Verbis Domini). Hence we may understand Christ as saying, “Ye rich and avaricious men have made money your god, but be ye well assured that it is unrighteous, i.e. vain and deceptive. Break up your idol, therefore, and give to the poor, and God will recompense you with eternal riches.” See S. Matt. vi. 24.
That when ye fail, when life is over and your riches are no longer at your disposal, or according to the Syriac version, when it, i.e. mammon, fails you.
They may receive you. The poor, i.e. those whom you have made your friends by the right use of your riches. For they, if they are worthy of heaven, will by their prayers and by a communication of their merits make a way for you to enter therein: but if, on the contrary, they are unworthy of so great a blessing, you will be received into heaven because of your almsgiving, for what is given to the poor is accepted of Christ.

Christ seems, here to be speaking of the poor who lead godly lives, who are poor as far as earthly possessions are concerned, but rich in understanding and in spiritual grace. Let not the rich then think that they are conferring, but rather that they are receiving benefits from such as these, for they give gold, to receive in return heaven. Hence S. Gregory (Moral. xxii. 14) says, “Almsgiving is not so much the relieving the necessities of the poor as the offering of gifts to those who hereafter will receive us into everlasting habitations.”

Learn therefore, that heaven is the inheritance of the poor, not for their own possession, but rather that they may introduce therein those who have been their benefactors. They are therefore the door-keepers of heaven, for “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (see S. Matt. v. 3), and this their blessedness is not of their own deserving, but the special gift of God. So S. Augustine (lib. ii. q. 38 Quæst. Evang.) says, “They receive them not as of right but by the permission of Him who counselled them to make themselves friends, and who deigns to look upon Himself as being fed, clothed, entertained and visited in the person of the least of His followers.”

“Everlasting habitations,” says Theophylact, “are in Christ ordained for the poor, wherein they may receive those who have given them liberal alms out of that which God has committed to their trust.” Happy indeed is the exchange, for earthly things become heavenly. Hence almsgiving is the most skilful of arts, for it does not build us an earthly tabernacle, but provides us with eternal life.” S. Chrysostom.

Ver. 10.—He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much. By “that which is least” we must understand earthly possessions as distinguished from the “much” of spiritual gifts. That ye may not be deprived of your heavenly stewardship, or rather that ye may be entrusted therewith, take heed rightly to administer your temporal affairs, and especially to give alms to the poor, according to the purpose of God. For so Christ explains His words in the next verse. In a similar sense S. Paul writes, “If a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. iii 5.) Christ seems here to be reproaching the Pharisees with unfaithfulness in the disposal of their riches, and in the interpretation of the law, and also with being little worthy of the position they held (see S. Matt. v. and xxiii.), for from ver. 14 it is clear that these things were spoken against them.
Ver. 11.—If, therefore, ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? If ye have made a wrong use of this world’s fleeting possessions (1 Tim. vi. 7), who will entrust to your care the things which are lasting, and which pertain unto the kingdom of God? Theophylact and many others.

Ver. 12.—And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? The wording of this verse is different, but the sense is the same as that of the preceding. The mammon which in the verse above Christ called unrighteous, he here calls “another man’s.” For temporal possessions are another’s:

1. Because they are in their nature totally different from the nature of man. They are of the earth, given to man for his use in this life, to revert again to the earth after death.
2. They are another’s as regards God, for we are not absolute masters of what we possess but administrators only, bound to dispose of our goods according to His will. So Titus says, “He describes much riches as that which is another man’s, because to abound in riches is, considering human nature, foreign to men. For if any man possesses them, they are external to him, and as it were, an accident.” 

“They are,” says S. Ambrose, “foreign to the nature of man, for they have no continuance, they were neither born with us, nor can they follow us when we die.”  S. Augustine also (Quæst. Evang. ii. 35) “He calls earthly endowments another’s, for no man can carry them away with him at his death.” “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Tim. vi. 7); and Euthymius: “Earthly riches are called another’s for they do not remain long with their possessor.”

Christ reproves avarice, and shows that he who loves money cannot love God: therefore the Apostles, if they would love Him, must despise riches.  S. Jerome. But the better interpretation is one which I am about to give.

That which is your own. “Christ calls heavenly riches ours says Euthymius, “because, as Theophylact explains, ‘our citizenship is in heaven.’ For man was created in the image of God, but wealth and earthly possessions are not ours, for there is nothing divine therein. But to enjoy divine blessings, and to partake in the nature of God, is ours.”

But you will say, Men are wont to value that which is their own, more than that which is the property of another. Why then does Christ here imply the contrary?

I answer that the force of our Lord’s argument is seen: 1. If we look to the meaning of the parable, If ye have not been faithful in earthly things, how will ye be so in heavenly, and who will dare to commit such things to your trust? and 2. From the parable itself. Men are as a rule more careful in their management of the affairs of others than of their own, for many reasons, but chiefly because they are bound in justice to make good any losses which may have been incurred by their carelessness, and if careless may even be suspected of dishonesty or theft; whereas for their own losses, or for the mismanagement of their own concerns, they are responsible to no one.

True, therefore, is the argument of Christ, If ye have not been faithful in earthly things, which are another’s, God will not give you those heavenly treasures which are rightly your own. For he who makes a wrong use of that which belongs to another deserves to lose that which is his own. For, as Dionysius (Denis) the Carthusian astutely remarks, “In the former verse, Christ spoke of the good things of this life, ‘who will trust, or commit,’ because an account will have to be rendered of their use. But of the good things of the heavenly country, he says, ‘who will give,’ for we shall not be called upon to account for these, because once given they are everlastingly our own.”
For the following verse, see S. Matt. vi. 24.

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