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The parable of the unjust steward was designed to correct this opinion, and to shew them, that how much soever they thought of their own wisdom in religious things, they were not in fact so wise about those things, as people of the world generatly are about temporal concerns.
A certain man had a steward, and he was accused unto him of wasting his goods. For this reason he was called to render in an account of his stew. ardship, as he was about to be removed from his office. He had nothing to reply to the charge brought against him, and therefore considered what he should do for himself when he was discarded. “What shall I do,” saith he, “ for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship? I cannot dig, to beg I am ashamed.” As he was not yet put out of office, he resolved to make use of the power with which he was entrusted to secure a retreat among his master's tenants, when disrnissed from his service. “I am resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they (his master's tenants) may receive me into their houses.” The plan he proposed, was to confer some essential advantages on the tenants, that he might thereby lay them under obligations to him, which neither from motives of gratitude or interest, they would desire to violate. The accounts he had kept for his master he had in his possession, and he called on the debtors to bring in their accounts. He said unto the first, “ how much owest thou unto my lord ?” The debtor replies, a hundred measures of oil." These tenants it appears were to pay their rents, not in moncy, but in wheat and oil, and the other products of the lands they hired. The steward directed him to alter his account, or lease perhaps, and say fifty ; by which expedient it appeared, that it was originally designed he should pay fifty only.
He said to another, “how much owest thou ?" He answered, “a hundred measures of wheat." He directed him to take his bill, account, or lease, whichsoever it might be—for the Greek phrase to gramma signified any writing whatsoever and write fourscore. These certainly were no small favors that he showed the tenants, and might well dispose them to receive the steward afterwards into their houses. The parable closes with the observation, that “the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely."
Before we proceed to fix and illustrate the application of the parable, we wish to take notice of what we regard as a wrong interpretation of it, and clear the Saviour of a charge which has rashly been brought against him, of designing to countenance immorality. Some have intered, that God com
mended the conduct of the steward in defrauding I: his master, and recommended maukind to imitate
him. But this is altogether an unjustifiable infer1 ence. In the first place, the lord who commended
the steward · was his earthly master, the same spoken of in verses 3 and 5. Second, the idea kept up throughout the parable, is that the steward was actually unjust, and he is expressly said to be so, ver. 8. No attempt is made to hide or extenuate his fault. Third, this servant was not commended for his injustice, but for his prudence in making arrangements for his maintenance after he was dismissed from his master's employ. He is said to have done wisely, not in the particular of his injustice-such a construction would be truly absurd --but in the circumstance of his foresight, and his calculations in regard to the future. He took the future into consideration, and made preparation for it; and so far he was wise, and was commended ; but not for his injustice.
What now, we may inquire, was the object of Jesus in uitering this parable ? Ans. to shew the Scribes and Pharisees, whose character he had faithfully drawn in the parable of the prodigal, that although they felt proud of their moral attainments, and were generally regarded as the “children of light,” yet in fact they were not so wise and prudent, as men generally are, in the management of their secular concerns. The unjust steward showed more wisdom in the provision he had made for the future, than they ever manifested. “ The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light." They are here called the children of light for the same reason they are called the "children of the kingdom,” Matt. viii. 12. The Saviour then adds, “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations." Here he directed those who listened to him, to follow the example of the unjust steward. It would have been better for the steward if he had done his duty faithfully, and retained his stewardship; but when he found he must loose it, he did the next best thing he could. So Jesus proposed to those to whom he was speaking the steward's example. If they were determined not to do what they ought, then let them do the next best thing. If they would not embrace the gospel, then let them “make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness," or uncertain riches,' as Kenrick renders the expression. Let them avail themselves of the law of Moses, and make a good use of that, which was well represented by uncertain riches? when compared with the durable riches' of the gospel. And if they would make a wise and prudent use of the uncertain riches' of the law, and do as
God and Moses commanded them in that institution, they would be received into age-lasting tabernacles, for this is certainly the better rendering of tas aionious skenas—they would enjoy to the full all the comfort and shelter, if we inay so speak, that the law could afford. This they never yet had done-they had made void the law of God by their traditions-and corrupted the institutions of Moses; and the benefit their law otherwise would have confered upon them, they had not enjoyed. This was the reason they did not receive the gospel, to which a right improvement of the law would naturally have led them. “He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much.” Ver. 10. They had not been faithful in that which was least. “If, therefore, ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon (uncertain riches) who will comunit to your trust the true riches ?” Ver. 11. If you have not been faithful in your use of the law, you cannot receive the true and durable riches of the gospel. “If ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own ?" Ver. 12. If you have resembled the unjust steward, who was unfaithful to his master, how can you expect to receive the gospel, which was specially designed for you, and proclaimed to you before any other people upon the face of all the earth? It was their pride and avarice that prevented thein from rendering due obedience to the law of Moses, as well as to the gospel of Jesus Christ'; and it was to this the Saviour resered, when he said, “ye cannot serve God and mammon. These two masters no man can serve, • for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other." Ver. 13. The Pharisees listened to these things with deep attention, and felt themselves severely rebuked by this reference to their covetous spirit; and the consequence was that they derided Christ, ver. 14. To their hypocrisy, and disposition to justify themselves, Jesus resers in ver. 15, “ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts; for that which is (sometimes) highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God;" as though he had said, ye deceive men by your pretences, and your external show of godliness; and by these means you gain their esteem; but God looks on the heart; him you cannot deceive, and your pretended righteousness which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. From this Jesus returns immediately to the main theme of his discourse, viz. the rejection of the gospel by the Jews. He labors to shew, that the time had come for men to abandon the law of Moses, and embrace the gospel, or, in other words, enter the kingdom of Jesus Christ. See ver. 16. « The law and the prophets were until John ; since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” The Pharisees still maintained their adhesion to the law; but God designed that the law should not continue beyond the days of John, since which time the gospel was preached, and men eagerly embraced it. Not one jot or tittle of this law should fail, ver. 17. It was designed to be fulfilled, and done away ; and when the time arrived for its abrogation, it was easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than that it should longer remain. In ver. 18, we come to a striking but short parable, in which Jesus sets forth the sin of those who still adhered to the law. " Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, coinmitteth adultery: