Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 16:8 - 16:8

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 16:8 - 16:8

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Luk_16:8. And the Lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.

THE parables never were intended to bear to the same point in every particular: some admit of a fuller, and others of a more partial application: some are to be interpreted solely in reference to the principal idea contained in them. It is of great importance that we should read them under this impression. If we endeavour to accommodate all their parts to the main scope, we shall both mar their beauty, and deduce from them the most fatal errors. This observation is particularly to be attended to in considering the parable before us. It will instantly remove all the cavils which have been raised against our Saviour as a minister of sin; and it will enable us to collect much useful instruction from this valuable portion of Holy Scripture.

The text leads us to consider,

I.       The wisdom of the unjust steward—

He had frequently betrayed the trust reposed in him by his lord and master. If he had not purloined, he had profusely wasted, his master’s substance; and for this he was now to be discharged from his stewardship—

[It is in vain for persons to hope that they shall always escape detection. Dishonesty may be practised for awhile; but it will generally defeat its own ends. This steward had hoped to derive pleasure, if not profit, from his unfaithfulness; but in the issue it involved him in much distress and poverty. No sooner was it discovered, than it exposed him to shame, and provoked his master to dismiss him from his service.]

But he contrived a way to remedy, in a measure, the evil he had brought upon himself—

[As soon as he had received warning, he began to say, What shall I do? nor ceased from his inquiries, till he had devised a happy expedient. He felt in himself that he was too idle to work, and too proud to beg: nor had he any hopes of obtaining another situation of trust and confidence. It was probable, therefore, that he might soon experience the pressure of extreme indigence. An artful plan for supplying his wants speedily arose in his mind. He determined to make all his master’s debtors accomplices in his iniquity: he remitted to every one a considerable portion of the sum he owed. Thus he secured their present friendship and future recommendations. They would not dare to oppose him, lest their own dishonesty should be revealed by him. He would be able to make them afterwards accede to any of his proposals. He cared not how much guilt he contracted, or how many souls he ruined. All which he desired, was, to secure a home till he should be otherwise provided: and doubtless his contrivance was well adapted to the end proposed.]

This device was commended by our Lord—

[Christ himself seems to be the person who gave the commendation [Note: It was the same person who uttered the words in the text.]: but it was the ingenuity, and not the dishonesty, that he commended. The very epithet which he gave the steward shewed his disapprobation of the act. The text itself explicitly declares the only ground of our Lord’s applause [Note: “He had done wisely.”].]

It admirably illustrates (what alone our Lord intended to illustrate),

II.      The comparative folly of God’s own children—

“The children of this world” are very indefatigable in prosecuting their temporal interests; but “the children of light” ought to be incomparably more earnest in pursuing their spiritual interests—

[They are called “children of light,” because they are enlightened by God’s word and Spirit. They have been “brought out of darkness into the marvellous light” of the Gospel. They see the vanity of all things that are visible and temporal, and the infinite importance of those that are invisible and eternal [Note: 2Co_4:18.]. They know what a strict account they must shortly give of their stewardship, and the necessity of improving every hour in securing an “everlasting habitation.” They know how much more important are their interests, more honourable their work, more certain their success, and more glorious their reward: they therefore should be more concerned about their souls than others are about their bodies; and “labour more for the meat that endureth, than others for that which perisheth [Note: Joh_6:27.].”]

It must be owned however that the children of this world discover more wisdom in the prosecution of their interests:

They seek them more earnestly

[What quickness in conceiving, eagerness in maturing, and promptness in executing his plans, did the unjust steward discover [Note: “What shall I do?—I am resolved—so he called—every one— sit down quickly”—]! Thus worldly men in general find it easy to put forth the whole energy of their souls. But where is the Christian that displays such ardour in his pursuits? How rarely can the spiritual man thus engage in his work! Alas! what backwardness to duty, what languor in it, and what readiness to disengage himself from it, does he feel! Happy indeed would he be who could fully equal the zeal of worldlings: but Christians have to oppose the tide of their corrupt nature, while others have only to commit themselves to its impetuous current.]

They follow them more uniformly

[The children of this world have at all times an eye to their own advantage. Though their thoughts be not immediately engaged about business, they can turn them into that channel the very instant that prospects of gain arise. But the children of light are often wholly indisposed for spiritual exercises [Note: Gal_5:17.]. Too often do they find occasion to adopt the language of St. Paul [Note: Rom_7:13; Rom_7:15; Rom_7:18-19; Rom_7:21-23.]— and frequently are they ready to compare themselves with the very beasts that perish [Note: Isa_1:3.].]

They contrive for them more ingeniously

[If a worldly man have prospects of advancement he will devise a thousand means to attain his end. If he have reason to fear a loss, he will try many expedients to avert, to mitigate, or to remedy the evil. He will rarely lose any thing which his cunning will enable him to secure. But how often does the Christian suffer loss purely through his own folly! How often does he see infallible means of gain, and yet neglect to use them! and infallible means of injury, which he is not careful to shun! Many times is he forced to adopt that most humiliating confession [Note: Psa_73:22. Pro_30:2.]—]

To prevent misapprehension, we subjoin a word of caution—

[Let not any one suppose that one fraud may be committed in order to prevent the consequences of another. This is too often practised: but it plunges the offender in deeper guilt and shame. God has warned us in many places what will be the reward of dishonesty [Note: 1Co_6:9-10.]. It is impossible that they who defraud an earthly master can be accepted of God. However their ingenuity may be admired, it will prove folly in the issue. Let every one then, who professes to be a child of light, remember the Apostle’s words [Note: 1Jn_1:6.] —]

To enforce the subject we conclude with suitableadvice—

1.       Be faithful to your Lord and Master—

[If ye be Christians indeed, Christ is the Master whom ye serve. Be faithful to him, then, whether ye have little or much [Note: Pro_23:26.]. Especially honour him in the distribution of the unrighteous mammon [Note: ver. 13.]. He is a kind and liberal Master, that does not grudge you any thing that is good. Nevertheless he expects that you improve for him the talents he has committed to you.]

2.       Be diligent in his service—

[We see how diligent worldlings are in the service of the world. Let not us be surpassed by them. We have a far better Master, and an infinitely richer reward.]

3.       Stand ready to give up your account to him—

[We know not how soon he will say, Give an account of thy stewardship: but it will be a joyful word to those who shall be found ready. Let us then be daily inspecting and balancing our accounts. He will then give us the true riches [Note: ver. 11.]: and will bestow upon us what shall to all eternity be our own [Note: ver. 12. Mat_24:45-47.].]