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The Rich Man and Lazarus
Summary —The Unjust Steward. His Shrewd Forethought. Making Friends with the Unrighteous Mammon. The Scoffing of the Covetous Pharisees. The Rich Man. The Beggar at His Gate. Death. One in Abraham's Bosom; the Other in Hades. The Rich Man's Petition. The Great Gulf. Hearing Moses and the Prophets.
1–7. There was a certain rich man. The three parables of the last chapter, the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son, are a rebuke to the self-righteousness of the Pharisees: the two of this chapter are directed against their covetousness. Had a steward. An officer who had charge of his estates. Eliezer was the steward of Abraham; Joseph that of Potiphar (Gen 24:2–12 and 39:4). A man of business to take charge of the property is still common in the Old World on large estates. The Christian, to whom God has entrusted the earthly care of property that belongs to the Creator, is thus described (Matt. 25:14–30; Luke 19:11–27). Wasting his goods. Dishonest; an embezzler. Give an account. All will be called to such an account, at death, or sooner. Sometimes, because we have proved faithless, God takes the property out of our charge sooner. Dismissal from God's service, whether at death or sooner, is the consequence of wasting the Lord's goods. I cannot dig. He was not accustomed to, or willing to come to, hard labor. To beg I am ashamed. He ought to have been more ashamed to prove faithless to his trust. I am resolved. “All at once, after long reflection, he exclaims, as if striking his forehead: I have hit it.”—Godet. Many a rich man reaches a similar resolve when about to die. That they may receive me. He will put his Lord's debtors under such obligations to him that they will give him a home. He called every one. The debtors; those that owed rent or on account. A hundred measures of oil. Olive oil, one of the commonest products of Palestine. The measure contained about sixty pints. Take thy bond. The contract. Sit down quickly. In great haste, lest the dishonest transaction might be interrupted. Write fifty. The throwing off of fifty measures would be equivalent to several hundred dollars. Hundred measures of wheat. The wheat measure was about eleven bushels; the twenty remitted would be 220 bushels. 288
8. His lord commended the unjust steward. Commended not his faithfulness, but his wisdom in looking out for a home when about to lose his place. The one point taught is a prudent foresight that uses earthly resources to provide for a time when these resources will fail us.
9. And I say unto you. The parable has ended and Christ now makes the application. Mammon of unrighteousness. Mammon is equivalent to money, or wealth; called the “mammon of unrighteousness,” not because it is acquired unrighteously, but because most use it unrighteously, treating it as their own, when they are only stewards. What is the use the Lord charges us to put it to? It is: “Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness (riches), that when it shall fail (when you can use it no longer), they shall receive you into eternal tabernacles” (heaven). It is strange that there is any difficulty over this passage, as translated clearly in the Revised Version. The only friends who can receive us into heaven are the Father and the Son. These are, then, the friends we must secure. During life our means must be so used as to please God and to lay up eternal treasure. If we use it as a trust of the Lord we will secure such a friend. Instead of hoarding we must make heavenly friends.
11, 12. If ye have not been faithful. If one is faithless in an earthly trust, how can he expect to receive a heavenly trust? Another's. That which belongs to God. All who have property should understand that it is another's. Your own. The true riches, because they become a part of our being, the inalienable possession of the redeemed.
13. No servant can serve two masters. See note on Matt. 6:24.
14, 15. The Pharisees … covetous … scoffed. They understood the parable as an attack on covetousness and, like the worldly wise, thought his doctrine foolish. Is an abomination. Man exalts wealth, but the love of wealth, “the root of all evil,” is “an abomination in the sight of God.”
16. The law and the prophets. See note on Matt. 11:13. 289
17. Easier for heaven and earth to pass. See note on Matt. 5:18.
18. Every one that putteth away his wife. See note on Matt. 5:31.
The Rich Man and the Beggar (verses 19–31). A parable, also, showing the consequences of a worldly spirit and the worldly use of wealth. “Here, as in other cognate parables, great wisdom is displayed in bringing the whole force of the rebuke to bear on one point. It is not intimated that this man made free with other people's money, or that he had gained his fortune in a dishonest way. All other charges are removed, that the weight lying all on one point may more effectively imprint the intended lesson. To have represented him as dishonest, or drunken, would have blunted the weapon's edge. Here is an affluent citizen, on whose fair fame the breath of scandal can fix no blot. He had a large portion in this world, and did not seek—did not desire—any other. He spent his wealth in pleasing himself, and did not lay it out in serving God or helping man.”—Arnot.
19. A certain rich man. Not one whom the world would call great, but eminently respectable; one whom the worldly would admire, while the poor man was one whom the covetous would despise. Clothed in purple. The purple was anciently the royal color, the gorgeous hue of the imperial robes, and hence the very term, the purple, is still used to signify the royal dignity. And fine linen. The finest apparel. Faring sumptuously every day. Enjoying not only the most sumptuous fare on the table every day, but every sensual enjoyment. How the world would admire his lot in life!
20. A certain beggar. Beggary, such as is here depicted, is much more common in the East than with us, and, in the absence of any more systematic provision, alms-giving to the poor was insisted upon by the Old Testament (Job 29:13; Psa. 41:1; 112:9; Prov. 14:31). Named Lazarus. “Does not Christ seem to you to have been reading in that book where the found the name of the poor man written, but found not the name of the rich? For that book is the Book of Life.”—Augustine. Laid at his gate. Carried there because unable to walk. At the gate, where so many were passing, would be a favorable place for alms. Full of sores. Cutaneous sores are most common in connection with abject poverty.
22. The beggar died. What became of his body is not stated. It may have been cast into the potter's field. Was carried by the angels. Here is one who in his life had not a single friend, and now, suddenly, not one, but many angels wait upon him.—Luther. His body may have had no pall-bearers, but angels carried his soul. Into Abraham's bosom. The place of rest where Abraham welcomed his children; heavenly bliss. The Jews spoke of those who went to Abraham's heavenly abode as in Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried. We are to infer that he had a splendid burial; his body was placed in a costly tomb, but where was he?
23. In Hades. The abode of departed spirits, and to the wicked, a place of punishment. Being in torments. His wealth has failed him; his good things have departed. Seeth Abraham … and Lazarus. A proof of recognition beyond the grave. Afar off. Widely apart in condition, character, and space. 290
24. And he cried. The only instance in the New Testament of prayers to the saints. Father Abraham. His trust was in his fleshly descent. He said, “We have Abraham to our father.” Send Lazarus. He seems to think that he has some claims on him, in return for his crumbs. Dip the tip of his finger in water. He only dares ask the smallest favors. Tormented in this flame. “Flame may be regarded as a figurative term, to represent acutest suffering of which a spirit is susceptible by a material image of misery the most dire.”—Greswell.
25. Son. Abraham recognizes the fleshly tie. His answer is fatherly, affectionate. Remember. Analogy gives us every reason to suppose that in the disembodied state the whole life on earth will lie before the soul in all its thoughts, words, and deeds, like the map of the past journey before a traveler.—Alford. Thy good things. He was of the number who receive their portion in this life, instead of that good part which shall never be taken from them. He had preferred the world and its rewards, and had obtained them. But he had lost the world to come. Thy is emphatic. Earthly possessions and enjoyments were his choice. Now here he is comforted. The saved leave all sorrows behind when they leave the earth; the lost leave all their joys behind.
27–31. Send him to my father's house. This is introduced. not to show an interest in his brethren, but to call out the reply: They have Moses and the prophets. If they would refuse to hear the word of God, they would refuse to repent at the bidding of a ghost. Neither will they be persuaded, etc. This was demonstrated in the case of Jesus himself. The Jews refused to accept Christ, though Moses and the prophets testified of him. They asked for a sign, and “the sign of the prophet Jonah,” his resurrection from the dead, was given. Still they refused to repent. Unbelief is due, not to a lack of evidence, but to a rebellious heart. The seat of skepticism is in the moral nature. 291
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