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LUKE XVI. 1-13.

BROTHER Dr. J. H. McDonald,of Puyallup, Wash., about a year ago asked us to write on the above portion of Scripture. We did not feel at that time that we could do so, but during the past year we have had some exercise of mind on this Scripture, and will here try to write some of the things that have come into our mind upon this subject, leaving them for brother McDonald’s consideration, and that of the other readers of the SIGNS. According to this parable there was a certain rich man which had a steward, who was accused unto him of having wasted his goods. These accusations of unfaithfulness on the part of his steward caused the rich man to demand an accounting of the steward. Knowing he was to be removed from the stewardship for his dishonesty, the steward was at a less what to do: “What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.” Thereupon he resolves to add to his already unfaithful record more unfaithfulness: “I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.” So he called every one to him that was in debt to his master or lord. One man owed the rich man an hundred measures of oil, another owed an hundred measures of wheat. Now, in order to gain the friendship of these debtors to have something to fall back on in the day of his failure the steward juggles the accounts and fraudulently reduces the indebtedness of these men, to the detriment of the rich man whose steward he is supposed to be. Now when the lord of this steward, that is, the rich man, discovered what the steward had done he commended the unjust steward because he had done wisely. Even though the rich man himself had been defrauded he could not help but commend the wisdom which had prompted the steward to look out for himself. This wisdom so commended by the rich man is the wisdom of this world, and not the wisdom of God. The wisdom of God prompts one to suffer himself to be defrauded rather than defraud another, while the wisdom of this world looks out for self every time, and seeks its own ends through the defeat of others. Right here we are told: The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. This expression does not mean that the people of the world have more of the real true wisdom than have the children of God (light), for none have the real true wisdom but the people of God, but it means that what passes current as wisdom among the children of this world, “in their generation” is more plentiful far among the children of this world than among the Lord’s people. If you want to find that which is accounted wise and smart and clever go not among the children of light, but among the children of this world. When it comes to looking out for self, to being resourceful, persevering, self-confident and all-conquering, the man of the world excels the man of God every time. He has more of that kind of wisdom than has the man of God, for the child of this world is wiser in his generation than is the child of God in the same generation. Now Jesus did not cite this parable to his disciples as an example of what they must do. Jesus is not giving this to his people in this instance as a standard of conduct to be aspired to by them. No, but on the other hand, Jesus cites this instance of the rich man and his steward as showing what his disciples are not to do. While the lord of this steward, who was the rich man, commended the plan of his steward, the Lord of the twelve disciples did not commend any such principle in them, but commanded them to faithfulness, not unfaithfulness, in the unrighteous mammon, that if they were not faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who would commit unto them the true riches? If this steward defrauded his first master, what guarantee had the second master that he would not defraud him, too? “If ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?” The whole idea of the parable is to show how contrary to the true principle of godliness are the principles that pass current for wisdom among the children of this world. Right living in a disciple of Jesus demands faithfulness in the unrighteous mammon (that which is another man’s) as a forerunner of faithfulness in the true riches (that which is your own). “He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least [as that unjust steward], is unjust also in much.” The word “mammon” means riches; the word “unrighteousness” means devoid of or having no righteousness. Therefore, the unrighteous mammon means the wealth in which is no righteousness. It is our view that by the unrighteous mammon, Jesus meant the legal covenant or law of Moses. All the wealth of legalism has not a vestige of righteousness in it, that is, the true righteousness, or righteousness of God. The law, with all its prescribed duties, sacrifices and ordinances, could never make one sinner clean, or give life to the dead. The law abounded in rituals, ceremonies, feasts, fasts and holy days, in offerings for sin and all uncleanness, yet all were unrighteous; not one sinner was made a whit better or more righteous, though he literally observed it all. All the appurtenances of the law which came by Moses constituted its wealth or mammon, and it was unrighteous, because it was intended by God simply as a type, and was utterly without power to bestow righteousness. Every jot and tittle of the law had to be satisfied to make way for the true riches or covenant of Jesus Christ. Jesus was faithful in the unrighteous mammon, he acknowledged the claim of the law against his people as entirely just and true, and paid the whole account, not seeking to minimize it as did the unjust steward. Jesus is therefore the perfection of true and faithful service. a In order to come into that true riches which is his own, be rendered faithful service in the unrighteous or legal mammon. When a sinner is brought by the light of God’s Holy Spirit to see himself guilty before God, he confesses the law to be just, and all its claims against him true. Now there are men in this world who call themselves servants of God who when they find one who really feels himself to be a sinner, and acknowledges the law’s demands just and true, these servants tell such an one to not worry about his sins, that he is not such an awful sinner or debtor as he thinks he is, and that if he will do the best he can God will receive him and give him a receipt in full, though he makes only part payment. We say there are such men, and many of them in the world to-day, preaching what they call the gospel and serving what they call God, who tell sinners that they are not so deep in debt as they esteem themselves, thus robbing God of his just portion, or seeking to do so. These are the stewards (for so they profess to be) who seek to ingratiate themselves into favor with men by preaching a smooth and easy doctrine and denying or very much minimizing the sinner’s debt to divine justice. These stewards, the wisdom (rich man) of this world commends. But that sinner who is brought naked and undone before the law confesses his utter indebtedness, and also his utter. Inability to pay, that one makes to himself a friend of the unrighteous mammon. If a man owes another a debt, and even though he cannot pay it, yet comes to his creditor and acknowledges the debt and his desire to make it good, even though he cannot, that man makes a friend of his creditor, and wins his respect and compassion. But that man in debt who seeks through cunning and fraud to cheat his creditor out of his just due, brings down upon his head the relentless suspicion of his creditor, who will demand of him the very last cent. Therefore, said Jesus to his disciples, “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness.” That is just what every disciple of Jesus does. They confess their entire sinfulness and depravity, and their utter inability to measure up to the requirements of the law, yet they acknowledge the entire justness and holiness of the law, and never seek to minimize its demand or to avoid its penalty. These thus make to themselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness. Therefore, when they fail, as every such sinner will inevitably do, and be bankrupt before the law, then are such sinners received into the everlasting habitations, or dwelling-places, of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, into those many mansions in the Father’s house prepared through the work of Jesus to receive those who have been faithful in the unrighteous mammon. To be faithful in any capacity requires faith, and to be faithful under the law requires that faith which is the gift of God and the fruit of his Spirit. So when this faith of God is implanted in a sinner’s heart it makes him faithful in the unrighteous mammon, and brings him in the day of his failure into the everlasting dwelling-place of the gospel of Jesus. Unless he has this faith to be faithful under the law and all its requirements, he never can be faithful in that which is his own by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. The reason why so many men belittle their sinful condition in which all are involved in Adam, is because they have never been given faith to see themselves the sinners they really are, and the reason why so many so-called stewards rob God of his glory, and minimize man’s indebtedness to that God, is because they, too, have not been given faith to understand the law and the dignity of God, and have not faith to separate law from gospel. Not having been faithful in that which is another man’s (Moses’), how can they be faithful in the true riches (Christ’s)? No servant can serve two masters (Moses and Christ), 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 [legalism].”

We hope brother McDonald will excuse us for not sooner complying with his request.   L.

Elder H. H. Lefferts

Signs of the Times
Volume 84, No. 10.
May 15, 1916