Elder Beebe: - Please give your views on Luke 16:9. There is a command given by Christ to make friends with the “mammon of unrighteousness,” and when they fail, these receive them “into everlasting habitations.” Who are they that are to make friends with the “mammon of unrighteousness”? What are the “everlasting habitations”? You will greatly oblige by giving your views on the above mentioned verse.
Mammon, according to Webster, signifies riches, wealth, or the god of riches, and in this signification the term seems to be used in this text, as also in the sermon on the mount. The unjust steward in the parable had charge, so long as he held the stewardship, of his master’s goods, and was empowered legally to appropriate them. He was unjust, first, because he had wasted what he was in duty bound to faithfully take care of, and secondly, in making a fraudulent settlement with his master’s debtors; but he manifested commendable wisdom in so using his office while he held it as to secure the permanent friendship of those on whom he was soon to become dependent. We presume this parable, as well as that of the prodigal son, which immediately preceded it, had a primary reference to the Jewish nation, which was very soon to fail, and lose its nationality, and be removed from its special stewardship of the oracles, covenants, worldly sanctuary, carnal ordinances, etc., but the special admonition to the disciples has a much broader application. God has made his children stewards of so much of the riches, or mammon, of this world as lawfully belongs to us, and Paul says: “Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” God in his wisdom knows and in his providence commits to us the exact amount of worldly wealth of which it is his pleasure to make us stewards, and it is not wrong for us to hold it in charge, as faithful stewards, to be disbursed by us as his word and Spirit shall dictate. But we are restricted as stewards, and solemnly charged to use these things as not abusing them, knowing that their fashion passes away. We really possess nothing independently of God, for the world and the fullness thereof are his, and we ourselves are not our own, we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.
Now then, as the unjust steward was commended by his lord, in that he acted wisely in disposing of the goods entrusted to him in such a manner as to secure the good will and permanent friendship of those on whom he was so soon to become dependent, so it would have been wise in the Jews to have secured, as far as possible, the friendship of the Gentiles, among whom they were so soon to be dispersed, and on whose favor they were soon to become dependent. And the disciples of Christ should receive from the parable a lesson of wisdom in regard to their stewardship of the riches of this world, and so use the uncertain and transient things of this world as to secure a reciprocity of kindness when they should themselves become poor and destitute. So Jesus taught his disciples on the mount, saying unto them: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.” (Luke 6:38) Our stewardship over and possession of worldly treasures is brief at the best, but we are liable at any and every moment to fail, or to be deprived of it all, and then to become dependent on the charity of those who have the means to relieve our necessities; therefore, as we would that others should do to us, we are told to do even so unto them, that when ye fail, when your stewardship of the things of this world shall fail, and yourselves become needy and destitute, your deeds of hospitality will be remembered, and your bread cast on the waters shall be gathered after many days.
Perhaps we have our best illustration of this subject in the course pursued by the saints at Pentecost. The persecution was raging against christianity at that time, and all who confessed their faith in Jesus were liable to lose their property, and we are told that all who had possessions sold them and brought the proceeds and laid them down at the feet of the apostles. “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” (Acts 2:44,45) Thus as their stewardship of their own possessions and goods was to be taken from them, they acted wisely in making provision, while it was their undisputed right to do so, for their future support; that when they failed, or were reduced to dependence, they were received into everlasting or a permanent and reliable home.
We therefore conclude that the mammon of unrighteousness is the wealth or possessions of this world. Mammon not of righteousness, or to those who righteously possess and use them, but mammon of idolatrousness, when unrighteously held, desired or used; that the disciples of Christ were those commanded by him to make to themselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that their failing was when they should be deprived of the treasures of this world, and become dependent; that their reception into everlasting habitation is their being received into permanent homes, after the manner of those disciples at Pentecost.
We have thus briefly answered the several interrogatories of “Philos”. If what we have written shall be of any use to him and others, we shall have cause for humble gratitude to the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Before dismissing this subject, we feel constrained to call the attention of the saints to some further considerations having a bearing on this subject. In his sermon on the mount, and in the thirteenth verse of this sixteenth chapter of Luke, Jesus distinctly tells his disciples that they cannot serve God and mammon, and by the repetition of this instruction, almost in the same words, in Matthew 6:24, and Luke 16:13, we may infer its weighty importance, and in order that we may clearly understand and duly obey this divine instruction, and at the same time make to ourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, we must carefully mark the difference between the one and the other. It is one thing to make to ourselves friends of the riches or treasures of this world, and quite another to serve them as idols. If, in the providence of God, we are put in possession of earthly treasures, we would make friends of them, we should use them as not abusing them, knowing that their fashion passeth away. “Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.” (I Tim. 4:4) Receiving then with thanksgiving is an acknowledgment that we regard them as the gifts of God, for which were are obligated to thank him and to use them in his fear. But to set our affections on the things of the earth, and forego our religious duties and privileges for their acquisition, and make them the paramount object of our pursuit, is to serve them as a mammon, or idol of unrighteousness. Then they cease to be our friends, but become our idols. The loving apostle John in his last admonition said, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” With such an earthly nature as we possess we need the admonition, for we are informed that covetousness is idolatry. Look to this, brethren and sisters. Have you not sometimes been so eager for obtaining riches as to sacrifice some religious principle for their attainment? Have you at no time absented yourself from the house of prayer, or from some of the solemn feasts of Zion, to serve this mammon? If so, this mammon has, so far, become your master, not your friend; for his servant ye are to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey. Paul charges the saints to avoid the example of Esau, who for a morsel of meat sold his birthright. We have precious birthright privileges in the church of God, which we should not barter away for carnal gratifications, lest we be found servants of the mammon of unrighteousness. Have there not been cases where brethren in comfortable circumstances, and living in the bounds of a gospel church, for the sake of making a little more money, or of accumulating more wealth, have pulled up stakes and moved to some country where they could gain more wealth, but lose all the social privileges of religious society? Do such brethren serve, or make a friend of the mammon of unrighteousness? Brethren, except when compelled by actual want, who relinquish spiritual privileges for worldly gain, forget, or at least neglect, the instruction which Christ gave the disciples in his sermon on the mount: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven; ... for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” “No man 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. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air,” etc. (Matt. 6:19,20,21,24-26) We read also to the end of the chapter. Here we have the commentary of our Lord upon the text, and the text also. We do not understand, however, that our Lord commands his servants to be indolent, neglectful or lazy, for Paul commands the saints to be diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Not serving mammon, but the Lord. By serving him as our Master, and making friends of the good things of this world, which, under his blessing, crown our labors, we shall make the discrimination required: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” These are of the first and highest importance to Christians. “And all these things shall be added unto you.” All these things, such as food and raiment, or whatever our heavenly Father knoweth that we have need of. Relying on this gracious promise, trust all consequences to him, only see that he is our supreme Master, and he will make these earthly things our friends.
There are many ways in which the fidelity of Christians is tried as to their choice of masters. The poor, the sick, the destitute, the widow, the orphan, ask for our sympathy. The Saviour says, Give to him that asketh. Mammon says, You had better hold on to what you have, you may need it. Which master will you serve? Can you obey both? Jesus says, and you find the saying true, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
Again, if we would make friends instead of masters of what is called the mammon or god of unrighteousness, we should regard ourselves as stewards of those things, that they occupy a position of equality with us, inasmuch as both we and they are the creatures and property of God, only temporarily entrusted to our stewardship for a trial of our fidelity; both we and they are our Lord’s goods, and if we would have them for our friends, let us so use them that when we fail, or become destitute, those who have shared in our bounty will be ready to reciprocate the favors they have received at our hands. This we will do, not by defrauding our Lord, as the unjust steward did his lord, but by using our stewardship as our Lord has commanded us, by holding all his goods as only entrusted to us, and at all times subject to his order.
September 15, 1863.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 404 – 409