Brother Beebe: In Signs No. 12, present Volume, Brother Mitchell has request for my views of Luke 16:9, "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". This has been to me, and I believe to many others, a very difficult text to understand. One difficulty has arisen from its connection with the parable of the unjust steward and whether, like him, we are to make use of other people's property to make to ourselves friends, as the terms mammon of unrighteousness, that is, riches unjustly obtained or used, would seem to imply. Such an idea would be revolting to any one having the principle of grace. Another very serious difficulty arises from the idea of any friends we could make thereby, being to receive us into everlasting habitations. Hence I have formerly thought that this text was spoken ironically by our Lord to show to His disciples the absurdity of coveting after or trusting in the riches of this world. This would very well correspond with the concluding declaration, verse 13, "No servant can serve two masters, etc". But by comparing this text with 1 Timothy 6:17-19, I conclude it is to be taken in a different sense. The passage in Timothy reads thus: "Charge them that are rich in this world that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life". Indeed on a little reflection, the comparison of a disciple in his relation to his Lord, to the case of the unjust as here presented, appears much more close than is discovered on a superficial view of the subject. The child of grace is brought so to feel his relation and accountability to God, as to know that all he possesses whether of an earthly or spiritual nature, he holds, not as his own, but as entrusted to him as a steward by his Lord. And we are taught by this text, and the one in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 and in other Scriptures, that whatever is thus entrusted to us is neither to be held as for our personal or family accommodations only, nor to be viewed as entrusted to us to be held close, as in trust, subject only to our Lord's personal calls, as is the case with that entrusted to worldly stewards, but is to be used to enable us to do good, and to distribute and communicate to our Lord's debtors, as occasion and opportunity calls. Thus, if gracious communications are made to us, we are not to lay them up to ourselves, but to seek to comfort others with the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God, and to administer the instruction which we receive; so of gifts, they are not to be kept laid up in a napkin, but to be employed for the edifying of the body of Christ. So of worldly riches, if we have them and rightly view their use, instead of supposing, as is too often the case, that they are given to us to hold fast, and to make us drudges to them, till they are taken from us or we by death are taken from them, and are thus put out of the stewardship, we should view them as committed to us, to make us more useful, according to the station assigned us, in doing good to others, and in serving our Lord, not in person, but in His members. "The Lord commended the unjust steward because he had done wisely." So our Lord, in His word, commends those stewards to whom He has committed riches, when they, according to worldly wisdom, waste them in distributing of them to the necessities of His debtors, especially those who are debtors to His grace, notwithstanding what human reason and self may say about the prudence, if not righteousness, of holding the riches fast in their own hands to transmit to the hands of their children. But why in our text are riches call the mammon of unrighteousness? Certainly not that our Lord requires His disciples to make use of any riches they may have acquired by unrighteous gain, for distributing to the poor or communicating to His saints or cause, instead of making restitution for the same. Such course only befits those who, instead of trusting Christ, are for purchasing heaven and worldly glory together, by their donations and bequests. But worldly riches are fitly so termed because most of the unrighteous acts among men are done with a reference to acquiring riches. Besides, they are the unrighteous mammon in the hands of Christ's disciples (and those are the persons He addresses), however honestly obtained, when hoarded up by them for their exclusive personal and family use instead of being so employed as to make themselves or their wealth useful to the cause and people of Christ; seeing that He has a just claim on them and all they have. Thus it is seen that what was unjust in the steward of the parable in giving away his Lord's goods is, in substance, the very use which our Lord requires His disciples to make of the goods He commits to them.
We now come to inquire concerning these friends, which we are to make to ourselves, and the everlasting habitation, etc. It is not said, "Make to yourselves friends with the mammon of unrighteousness". In that case it would be supposable that, like the unjust steward, we were to make friends of those on whom we bestowed our Lord's goods, and that should be the object in bestowing them. But the direction is: "Make to yourselves friends of the, etc.", that is, the friends are to be made of the mammon of unrighteousness and not of the persons to whom we make distribution. When we trust in riches and seek to hoard them up, to have and to hold for our special benefit, instead of being our friends, in reference to the heavenly mansions, they become our masters and grind us down to servitude under an earthly yoke. But when, instead of trusting in them, we trust in the living God and do good, being ready to distribute and willing to communicate, according to what we have, our riches that we may have then become our friends in the Christian life; they enable us to be more useful or rich in good works, which, of course, is what the Christian delights in. Riches thus used become instrumental in furnishing a decisive evidence of our love to Christ in our love manifested to His members; and consequently, of His love to us, and therefore of our interest in those mansions He has gone to prepare a place in. Hence when we fail, when heart and flesh fail under afflictions, persecutions, etc., riches, being thus made friends, instead of tying us down to earth, point our dejected spirits to those mansions in the house above, and thus in anticipation welcome or receive us into everlasting mansions; or as Paul has it, enables us to lay hold on eternal life. No wonder the covetous Pharisees who heard our Lord, derided Him. They thought more of providing earthly mansions for themselves and their children with their riches, than of securing in anticipation a reception into everlasting mansions. If this is a correct view of our Lord's instruction in the text, as I think in substance it is, how few comparatively of disciples in our day obey the instruction. Farewell.
August 19, 1846.
From: SIGNS of the TIMES: Vol. 14 (1846)
Select Works of Elder Samuel Trott
pgs 339 - 342