In chapter 16, the effect of grace on conduct is presented, and the
contrast that exists (the dispensation being changed) between the conduct
that Christianity requires with regard to the things of the world, and the
position of the Jews in that respect. Now this position was only the
expression of that of man made evident by the law. The doctrine thus
embodied by the parable is confirmed by the parabolic history of the rich
man and Lazarus, lifting up the veil that hides the other world in which
the result of men's conduct is manifested.
Man is the steward of God (that is, God has committed His goods to man).
Israel stands especially in this position.
But man has been unfaithful; Israel had indeed been so. God has taken away
his stewardship; but man is still in possession of the goods to administer
them, at least, in fact (as Israel was at that moment). These goods are the
things of earth-that which man can possess according to the flesh. Having
lost his stewardship by his unfaithfulness, and being still in possession
of the goods, he uses them to make friends of his master's debtors by doing
them good. This is what Christians should do with earthly possessions,
using them for others, having the future in view. The steward might have
appropriated the money due to his master; he preferred gaining friends with
it (that is, he sacrifices present to future advantage). We may turn the
miserable riches of this world into means of fulfilling love. The spirit of
grace which fills our hearts (ourselves the objects of grace) exercises
itself with regard to temporal things, which we use for others. For us it
is in view of the everlasting habitations. "That they may receive you" is
equivalent to "that you may be received"-a common form of expression in
Luke, to designate the fact without speaking of the individuals that
perform it, although using the word they.
Observe that earthly riches are not our own things; heavenly riches, in the
case of a true Christian, are his own.
These riches are unrighteous, in that they belong to fallen man, and not to
the heavenly man, nor had any place when Adam was innocent.
Now, when the veil is lifted from the other world, the truth is fully
brought to light. And the contrast between the Jewish dispensation and the
Christian, is clearly unfolded; for Christianity reveals that world, and,
as to its principle, belongs to heaven.
Judaism, according to God's government on earth, promised temporal blessing
to the righteous; but all was in disorder: even the Messiah, the head of
the system, was rejected. In a word, Israel, looked at as set under
responsibility, and to enjoy earthly blessing on obedience, had entirely
failed. Man, in this world, could no longer, on that footing, be the means
of bearing testimony to the ways of God in government. There will be a time
of earthly judgment, but it was not yet come. Meanwhile, the possession of
riches was anything rather than a proof of God's favour. Personal
selfishness, and alas! indifference to a brother in distress at his door,
was, instead, the characteristic of its possession among the Jews.
Revelation opens the other world to our view. Man, in this world, is
fallen, wicked man. If he has received his good things here, he has the
portion of sinful man; he will be tormented, while the other one whom he
had despised will find happiness in the other world.
It is not a question here of that which gives title to enter heaven, but of
character, and of the contrast between the principles of this world and the
invisible world. The Jew made choice of this world; he has lost this and
the other also. The poor man whom he had thought contemptible is found in
Abraham's bosom. The whole tenor of this parable shews its connection with
the question of Israel's hopes, and the idea that riches were a proof of
the favour of God (an idea which, false as it may be in every case, is
intelligible enough if this world is the scene of blessing under the
government of God). The subject of the parable is shewn also by that which
is found at the end of it. The miserable rich man desires that his brethren
might be warned by some one who had risen from the dead. Abraham declares
to him the uselessness of this means. It was all over with Israel. God has
not again presented His Son to the nation who rejected Him, despising the
law and the prophets. The testimony of His resurrection met with the same
unbelief that had rejected Him when living, as well as the prophets before
Him. There is no consolation in the other world if the testimony of the
word to the conscience is rejected in this. The gulf cannot be crossed. A
returning Lord would not convince those who had despised the word. All is
in connection with the judgment of the Jews, which would close the
dispensation; as the preceding parable shews what the conduct of Christians
should be with regard to things temporal. All flows from the grace which,
in love on God's part, accomplished the salvation of man, and set aside the
legal dispensation and its principles by bringing in the heavenly things.