“AND I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive yon into everlasting habitations.”
It is encouraging to know that the mind of brother Hartsough is exercised to know the import of this parable. He speaks of darkness and wanderings of mind. How pleasant to find now and then a companion in the journey two so agreed that they can “walk together.” These experiences unite the children of God in love and fellowship, and cause them to long for the company and companionship of each other.
This parable, like all others, has a hidden import from the wise and prudent, but revealed to babes in Christ. Parables, because of the hidden treasure, should never be handled literally. The term, “a certain rich man,” was used often by the Savior, but we hardly think meant the same thing always. Whatever the saying may mean in this parable, the lesson, or instruction, to the apostles was very important, and meant much to them in after years. This instruction, like many other sayings of Jesus, had to be sealed to them by the Holy Ghost. It really seems almost strange that the understanding of the disciples was so limited during the years Jesus was with them in the flesh, yet in the wisdom of God it was far better so. They, like the prophets, knew just enough for the time, and the Lord’s people know just enough now for their needs. The fullness of the revelation awaits those who are still on this side of the river. This rich man had a steward, and having all confidence in him entrusted all his goods to his care, but the steward wasted his goods. When the rich man heard of the unfaithfulness of the steward he called him and told him what he had heard of him and required of him an accounting of his stewardship, saying he should no longer be steward. He seemed to understand that the decision was final hence offered no excuse, nor did he offer an apology, but began to plan within himself further dishonesty. He seemed very much opposed to work, and to beg he was ashamed, yet either would have been much better than what he decided to do. In shrewdness, however, he won the commendation even of his master. He had sold grain and oil, and knew perfectly well to whom and how much; therefore he went to his lord’s debtors and said to the first, How much owest thou my lord? And he answered, One hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill and sit down quickly and write fifty. Then he said to another, How much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said, Take thy bill and write fourscore. This Wisdom reminds us of the lawyers whom Jesus said would bind burdens upon others that they would not touch even with their finger. The debtors had no idea what they were doing when they were changing their bills from their original amounts, but the steward knew perfectly, having planned it all in his mind for his own benefit. The debtors no doubt thought the steward was a real friend, when indeed he was an enemy, which had to be made manifest later. Just how long before his design was known to them we are not told, but when put out of the stewardship he made it his business to see these men again, and doubtless said to them, I will now make my home with you, and as I cannot work shall live in ease. Astonished they began to say, How is this? Under what obligation are we to you? Why should you expect us to take care of you, you to live in pleasure and at ease while we labor to support you? Ah, said the steward, do you not remember your indebtedness to the rich man to whom I was steward? Do you not remember that when you owed him one hundred measures of oil you defrauded and wrote fifty, and when you owed one hundred measures of wheat you wrote fourscore? Yes, they answer, but why does that bring us under obligation to you? The steward answers, You are in my power; no one but myself knows of your dishonesty, and should I inform upon you you would be sorely punished and your reputation be lost. I have nothing to lose, I have been put out of the stewardship, my standing among men is gone. In order not to be punished and lose your good names you must take me into your homes and support me; I hold your secret. Now let us remember that the lord of the steward did not commend him for the dishonesty that seemed to fill his very being, but for his wisdom, saying “he had done wisely.” In the Savior’s command to his disciples to make to themselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, he did not mean for them to imitate the wickedness of the unfaithful and dishonest, steward, but that they should “be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves,” making to themselves lasting friends. The word “yourselves” should be emphasized in reading this text, much depends upon it. As the steward knew he was to be put out of the stewardship and must make provision against the day of failure, hence made friends who would take him into their homes when cast out, so do you, said the Savior to the apostles. They were to be gentle, kind, longsuffering, honest, harmless and pure in all their dealings with men. Such a life would manifest that they had been with Jesus and learned of him. The term, “the mammon of unrighteousness,” should also be read with special emphasis, in order to connect things previously said. Unrighteous men, through the wisdom of the steward, had become his lasting friends, and as failure was ahead of the apostles, in a certain sense, they would need friends to receive them “into everlasting habitations.”
We are aware that the word “mammon” is generally taken to mean money, or riches, and it has been suggested often that the Savior meant for the apostles to lay by all they could against the day of need, but this idea seems rather strange when they were cut off from every avenue to wealth and strictly commanded to take no thought for tomorrow, but let tomorrow take thought for the things of itself. When Jesus said, No man can serve God and mammon, he meant, as it seems to us, that no man can serve God and unrighteousness at the same time, Paul in his letter to the church at Rome said they were once servants of sin, yielding their members unto unrighteousness, but that they had obeyed the gospel and become the servants of God. This shows the impossibility of serving two masters. The Gentiles were in the eyes of the Jews and according to the law, though not under it, a “mammon of unrighteousness,” living in idolatry and sin of every conceivable kind, yet God knew the heathen, had chosen their inheritance and would justify them through faith. The cutting off of the Jews, their failure as a nation, was couched in the three little words, “when ye fail.” That people had been for centuries blessed of the Lord, but as a figure, or pattern, were soon to have the kingdom taken from them and given to another nation that would bring forth the fruits thereof in their season. Therefore as the church of God with all her branches was to be established among the Gentiles, the apostles should dwell with them and be faithful in all their stewardship of the manifold grace of God. When Paul and others preached in the synagogue the gospel of God they and their testimony were rejected, and they said, It was needful that the gospel first be preached unto you, but seeing that ye will not hear it, and deem yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles and they will hear us receive us into everlasting habitations. The making of friends among the different nations was not a mere work upon their part, but wrought through the operation of the Spirit, God working in the apostles love, gentleness, kindness and power and ability to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and working in the hearts of the Gentiles to receive the apostles and their testimony of Jesus, making both “wise unto salvation.” When the Lord appeared unto Cornelius and prepared him to receive Peter and the gospel, he also appeared unto Peter, giving him the vision through which he was taught God’s mercy and purpose toward the Gentiles, and also assured him of the friendship he should find in Cornelius. It seems to us that the real import of the text is as follows: Make to yourselves friends of the Gentiles, that, when the Jewish nation fails, they may receive you in love and fellowship into the dwelling-places of God. As suggested already, the time had not yet come when they should mingle with all nations, nor did it come until after the resurrection of Jesus. Had he meant riches by the term, “friends of the mammon of unrighteousness,” it hardly seems that he would have said, “that they may receive you into everlasting habitations,” when riches perish with the using, and neither can they purchase anything “everlasting.”
We hope brother Hartsough may consider what we say in the light of truth. We are always glad to give such views as we have, and it is right for every man to think for himself and ask God for wisdom and understanding. K.
Elder H. C. Ker
Signs of the Times
Volume 82, No. 12
June 15, 1914