Bible Commentary

Luke 16

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Luke 16)

Verse 3

[3] 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.

To beg I am ashamed — But not ashamed to cheat! This was likewise a sense of honour! "By men called honour, but by angels pride."

Verse 4

[4] I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.

I know — That is, I am resolved, what to do.

Verse 8

[8] 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 the lord commended the unjust steward — Namely, in this respect, because he had used timely precaution: so that though the dishonesty of such a servant be detestable, yet his foresight, care, and contrivance, about the interests of this life, deserve our imitation, with regard to the more important affairs of another.

The children of this world — Those who seek no other portion than this world: Are wiser - Not absolutely, for they are, one and all, egregious fools; but they are more consistent with themselves; they are truer to their principles; they more steadily pursue their end; they are wiser in their generation - That is, in their own way, than the children of light - The children of God, whose light shines on their hearts.

Verse 9

[9] 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.

And I say to you — Be good stewards even of the lowest talents wherewith God hath intrusted you. Mammon means riches or money. It is termed the mammon of unrighteousness, because of the manner wherein it is commonly either procured or employed. Make yourselves friends of this, by doing all possible good, particularly to the children of God: that when ye fail, when your flesh and your heart faileth, when this earthly tabernacle is dissolved, those of them who have gone before may receive, may welcome you into the everlasting habitations.

Verse 10

[10] 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.

And whether ye have more or less, see that ye be faithful as well as wise stewards. He that is faithful in what is meanest of all, worldly substance, is also faithful in things of a higher nature; and he that uses these lowest gifts unfaithfully, is likewise unfaithful in spiritual things.

Verse 11

[11] If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?

Who will intrust you with the true riches? — How should God intrust you with spiritual and eternal, which alone are true riches?

Verse 12

[12] And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?

If ye have not been faithful in that which was another's — None of these temporal things are yours: you are only stewards of them, not proprietors: God is the proprietor of all; he lodges them in your hands for a season: but still they are his property. Rich men, understand and consider this. If your steward uses any part of your estate (so called in the language of men) any farther or any otherwise than you direct, he is a knave: he has neither conscience nor honour. Neither have you either one or the other, if you use any part of that estate, which is in truth God's, not yours, any otherwise than he directs.

That which is your own — Heaven, which when you have it, will be your own for ever.

Verse 13

[13] 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 you cannot be faithful to God, if you trim between God and the world, if you do not serve him alone. Matthew 6:24.

Verse 15

[15] 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.

And he said to them, Ye are they who justify yourselves before men — The sense of the whole passage is, that pride, wherewith you justify yourselves, feeds covetousness, derides the Gospel, Luke 16:14, and destroys the law, Luke 16:18. All which is illustrated by a terrible example.

Ye justify yourselves before men — Ye think yourselves righteous, and persuade others to think you so.

Verse 16

[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 law and the prophets were in force until John: from that time the Gospel takes place; and humble upright men receive it with inexpressible earnestness. Matthew 11:13.

Verse 17

[17] And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.

Not that the Gospel at all destroys the law. Matthew 5:18.

Verse 18

[18] Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.

But ye do; particularly in this notorious instance. Matthew 5:31; 19:7.

Verse 19

[19] There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:

There was a certain rich man — Very probably a Pharisee, and one that justified himself before men; a very honest, as well as honourable gentleman: though it was not proper to mention his name on this occasion: who was clothed in purple and fine linen - and doubtless esteemed on this account, (perhaps not only by those who sold it, but by most that knew him,) as encouraging trade, and acting according to his quality: And feasted splendidly every day - And consequently was esteemed yet more, for his generosity and hospitality in keeping so good a table.

Verse 20

[20] And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,

And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, (according to the Greek pronunciation) or Eleazer. By his name it may be conjectured, he was of no mean family, though it was thus reduced. There was no reason for our Lord to conceal his name, which probably was then well known. Theophylact observes, from the tradition of the Hebrews, that he lived at Jerusalem.

Yea, the dogs also came and licked his sores — It seems this circumstance is recorded to show that all his ulcers lay bare, and were not closed or bound up.

Verse 22

[22] And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

And the beggar — Worn out with hunger, and pain, and want of all things, died: and was carried by angels (amazing change of the scene!) into Abraham's bosom - So the Jews styled paradise; the place where the souls of good men remain from death to the resurrection.

The rich man also died, and was buried — Doubtless with pomp enough, though we do not read of his lying in state; that stupid, senseless pageantry, that shocking insult on a poor, putrefying carcass, was reserved for our enlightened age!

Verse 23

[23] And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

He seeth Abraham afar off — And yet knew him at that distance: and shall not Abraham's children, when they are together in paradise, know each other!

Verse 24

[24] And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

Father Abraham, have mercy on me — It cannot be denied, but here is one precedent in Scripture of praying to departed saints: but who is it that prays, and with what success? Will any, who considers this, be fond of copying after him?

Verse 25

[25] But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

But Abraham said, Son — According to the flesh. Is it not worthy of observation, that Abraham will not revile even a damned soul? and shall living men revile one another? Thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things - Thou didst choose and accept of worldly things as thy good, thy happiness. And can any be at a loss to know why he was in torments? This damnable idolatry, had there been nothing more, was enough to sink him to the nethermost hell.

Verse 26

[26] And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

Beside this there is a great gulf fixed — Reader, to which side of it wilt thou go?

Verse 28

[28] For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.

Lest they also come into this place — He might justly fear lest their reproaches should add to his own torment.

Verse 31

[31] And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

Neither will they be persuaded — Truly to repent: for this implies an entire change of heart: but a thousand apparitions cannot, effect this. God only can, applying his word.

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