At that time, Jesus spoke to His disciples this parable: There was a certain rich man who had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods; and he called him, and said to him: How is it that I hear this of thee? Give an account of thy stewardship, for now thou canst be steward no longer. And the steward said within himself: What shall I do, because my lord taketh away from me the stewardship? To dig, I am not able: to beg, I am ashamed. I know what I will do, that when I shall be put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. Therefore calling together every one of his lord’s debtors, he said to the first: How much dost thou owe my lord? But he said: A hundred barrels of oil. And he said to him: Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then he said to another: And how much dost thou owe? Who said: A hundred quarters of wheat. He said to him: Take thy bill, and write eighty. And the lord commended the unjust steward, for as much as he had done wisely: for the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. And I say to you: Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity, that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings.
Verse 1. There was a certain rich man, &c. By this parable, our Saviour advises his disciples to accompany their penitential works with deeds of mercy to the poor. Ven. Bede. — There is a certain erroneous opinion, that obtains pretty generally amongst mankind, and which tends to increase crimes, and to lessen good works: and this is, the foolish persuasion that men are not accountable to any one, and that we can dispose as we please of the things in our possession. S. Chrys. — Whereas we are here informed, that we are only the dispensers of another’s property, viz. God’s. S. Amb. — When, therefore, we employ it not according to the will of our Master, but fritter and squander it away in pleasure, and in the gratification of our passions, we are, beyond all doubt, unjust stewards. Theophylactus. — And a strict account will be required of what we have thus dissipated, by our common Lord and Master. If then we are only stewards of that which we possess, let us cast from our minds that mean superciliousness and pride which the outward splendour of riches is so apt to inspire; and let us put on the humility, the modesty of stewards, knowing well that to whom much is given, much will be required. Abundance of riches makes not a man great, but the dispensing them according to the will and intention of his employer. A. — The intention of this parable, is to shew what use each one ought to make of the goods which God has committed to his charge. In the three former parables, addressed to the murmuring Scribes and Pharisees, our Saviour shews with what goodness he seeks the salvation and conversion of a sinner; in this, he teaches how the sinner, when converted, ought to correspond to his vocation, and preserve with great care the inestimable blessing of innocence. Calmet. — A steward, &c. The parable puts us in mind, that let men be ever so rich or powerful in this world, God is still their master; they are his servants, and must be accountable to him how they have managed his gifts and favours; that is, all things they have had in this world. Wi.
Verse 2. And he called him, &c. Such are the words which our Lord daily addresses to us. We daily see persons equally healthy, and likely to live as ourselves, suddenly summoned by death, to give an account of their stewardship. Happy summons to the faithful servant, who has reason to hope in his faithful administration. Not so to the unfaithful steward, whose pursuits are earthly: death to him is terrible indeed, and his exit is filled with sorrow. All thunder-stricken at these words, “now thou canst be steward no longer,” he says within himself, what shall I do! Ex D. Thoma.
Verse 8. And the lord commanded, &c. By this we are given to understand, that if the lord of this unjust steward could commend him for his worldly prudence, though it were an overt act of injustice; how much more will the Almighty be pleased with those who, obedient to his command, seek to redeem their sins by alms-deeds? Ex D. Thoma. — “Give alms out of thy substance,” says holy Toby to his son, “and turn not thy face from any poor person: for so it shall come to pass, that the face of the Lord shall not be turned from thee. According to thy abilities be merciful. If thou hast much, give abundantly; if thou hast little, take care, even of that little, to bestow willingly a little. For thus thou storest up to thyself a good reward, for the day of necessity. For alms deliver from sin, and from death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness.” Tob. iv. 7, 8, &c. Ibidem. — Children of this world, &c. are more prudent and circumspect as to what regards their temporal concerns, than they who profess themselves servants of God, are about the concerns of eternity. — Commended the unjust steward. Lit. the steward of iniquity: not for his cheating and injustice, but for his contrivances in favour of himself. — In their generation; i.e. in their concerns of this life. They apply themselves with greater care and pains, in their temporal affairs, than the children of light, whom God has favoured with the light of faith, do to gain heaven. Wi.
Verse 9. Make for yourselves friends, &c. Not that we are authorized to wrong our neighbour, to give to the poor: evil is never to be done, that good may come from it. D. Thoma. — But we are exhorted to make the poor our friends before God, by relieving them with the riches which justly indeed belong to us, but are called the mammon of iniquity, because only the iniquitous man esteems them as riches, on which he sets his affections; whilst the riches of the virtuous are wholly celestial and spiritual. S. Aug. de quæst. Evang. — Of the mammon of iniquity. Mammon is a Syriac word for riches; and so it might be translated, of the riches of iniquity. Riches are called unjust, and riches of iniquity, not of themselves, but because they are many times the occasion of unjust dealings, and of all kind of vices. Wi. — Mammon signifies riches. They are here called the mammon of iniquity, because oftentimes ill-gotten, ill-bestowed, or an occasion of evil; and at the best are but worldly, and false: and not the true riches of a Christian. — They may receive. By this we see, that the poor servants of God, whom we have relieved by our alms, may hereafter, by their intercession, bring our souls to heaven. Ch. — They may receive you into their eternal tabernacles. What a beautiful thought this! What a consolation to the rich man, when the term of his mortal existence is approaching, to think he shall have as many advocates to plead for his admittance into the eternal mansions of rest, as he has made friends among the poor by relieving their temporal wants. The rich give to the poor earthly treasures, the latter return in recompense eternal and infinite happiness. Hence we must infer, that the advantage is all on the side of the giver; according to the saying of our Lord, happier is the condition of him who gives, than of him who receives. A.
1. And he said to his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused to him that he had wasted his goods. 2. And he called him, and said to him, How is it that I hear this of you? give an account of your stewardship; for you may be no longer steward. 3. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord takes away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. 4. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. 5. So he called every one of his lord’s debtors to him, and said to the first, How much owe you to my lord? 6. And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said to him, Take your bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 7. Then said he to another, And how much owe you? And he said, A hundred measures of wheat. And he said to him, Take your bill, and write fourscore.
BEDE; Having rebuked in three parables those who murmured because He received penitents, our Savior shortly after subjoins a fourth and a fifth on almsgiving and frugality, because it is also the fittest order in preaching that almsgiving should be added after repentance. Hence it follows, And he said to his disciples, There was a certain rich man.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. There is a certain erroneous opinion inherent in mankind, which increases evil and lessens good. It is the feeling that all the good things we possess in the course of our life we possess as lords over them, and accordingly we seize them as our especial goods. But it is quite the contrary. For we are placed in this life not as lords in our own house, but as guests and strangers, led whither we would not, and at a time we think not of. He who is now rich, suddenly becomes a beggar. Therefore whoever you are, know yourself to be a dispenser of the things of others, and that the privileges granted you are for a brief and passing use. Cast away then from your soul the pride of power, and put on the humility and modesty of a steward.
BEDE; The bailiff is the manager of the farm, therefore he takes his name from the farm. But the steward, or director of the household, is the overseer of money as well as fruits, and of every thing his master possesses.
THEOPHYL. Next, that when we exercise not the management of our wealth according to our Lord’s pleasure, but abuse our trust to our own pleasures, we are guilty stewards. Hence it follows, And he was accused to him.
AMBROSE; From this we learn then, that we are not ourselves the masters, but rather the stewards of the property of others.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. Meanwhile he is taken and thrust out of his stewardship; for it follows, And he called him, and said to him, What is this that I hear of you? give an account of your stewardship, for you can be no longer steward. Day after day by the events which take place our Lord cries aloud to us the same thing, showing us a man at midday rejoicing in health, before the evening cold and lifeless; another expiring in the midst of a meal. And in various ways we go out from our stewardship; but the faithful steward, who has confidence concerning his management, desires with Paul to depart and be with Christ. But he whose wishes are on earth is troubled at his departing. Hence it is added of this steward, Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do, for my Lord takes away from me the stewardship? I cannot dig, to beg I all ashamed. Weakness in action is the fault of a slothful life. For no one would shrink who had been accustomed to apply himself to labor. But if we take the parable allegorically, after our departure hence there is no more time for working; the present life contains the practice of what is commanded, the future, consolation. If you have done nothing here, in vain then are you careful for the future, nor will you gain any thing by begging. The foolish virgins are an instance of this, who unwisely begged of the wise, but returned empty. For every one puts on his daily life as his inner garment; it is not possible for him to put it off or exchange it with another. But the wicked steward aptly contrived the remission of debts, to provide for himself an escape from his misfortunes among his fellow-servants; for it follows, I am resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. For as often as a man perceiving his end approaching, lightens by a kind deed the load of his sins, (either by forgiving a debtor his debts, or by giving abundance to the poor,) dispensing those things which are his Lord’s, he conciliates to himself many friends, who will afford him before the judge a real testimony, not by words, but by the demonstration of good works, nay moreover will provide for him by their testimony a resting-place of consolation. But nothing is our own, all things are in the power of God. Hence it follows, So he called every one of his Lord’s debtors to him, and said to the first, How much owe you to my Lord? And he said, A hundred casks of oil.
BEDE, A cadus in Greek is a vessel containing three urns. It follows, And he said to him, Take your bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty, forgiving him the half. It follows, Then said he to another, And how much owe you? And he said, A hundred measures of wheat. A corus is made up of thirty bushels. And he said to him, Take your bill, and write fourscore, forgiving him a fifth part. It may be then simply taken as follows: whosoever relieves the want of a poor man, either by supplying half or a fifth part, will be blessed with the reward of his mercy.
AUG. Or because out of the hundred measures of oil, he caused fifty to be written down by the debtors, and of the hundred measures of w heat, fourscore, the meaning thereof is this, that those things which every Jew performs toward the Priests and Levites should be the more attendant in the Church of Christ, that whereas they give a tenth, Christians should give a half, as Zaccheus gave of his goods, or at least by giving two tenths, that is, a fifth, exceed the payments of the Jews.
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. 9. And I say to you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. 10. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. 11. If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12. And if you have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? 13. No servant 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. You cannot serve God and mammon.
AUG. The steward whom his Lord cast out of his stewardship is nevertheless commended because he provided himself against the future. As it follows, And the Lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely; we ought not however to take the whole for our imitation. For we should never act deceitfully against our Lord in order that from the fraud itself we may give alms.
ORIGEN; But because the Gentiles say that wisdom is a virtue, and define it to be the experience of w hat is good, evil, and indifferent, or the knowledge of what is and what is not to be done, we must consider whether this word signifies many things, or one. For it is said that God by wisdom prepared the heavens. Now it is plain that wisdom is good, because the Lord by wisdom prepared the heavens. It is said also in Genesis, according to the LXX, that the serpent was the wisest animal, wherein he does not make wisdom a virtue, but evil-minded cunning. And it is in this sense that the Lord commended the steward that he had done wisely, that is, cunningly and evilly. And perhaps the word commended was spoken not in the sense of real commendation, but in a lower sense; as when we speak of a man being commended in slight and indifferent matters, and in a certain measure clashings and sharpness of wit are admired, by which the power of the mind is drawn out.
AUG. On the other hand this parable is spoken that we should understand that if the steward who acted deceitfully, could be praised by his lord, how much more they please God who do their works according to His commandment.
ORIGEN; The children of this world also are not called wiser but more prudent than the children of light, and this not absolutely and simply, but in their generation. For it follows, For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light, &c.
BEDE; The children of light and the children of this world are spoken of in the same manner as the children of the kingdom, and the children of hell. For whatever works a man does, he is also termed their sun.
THEOPHYL. By the children of this world then He means those who mind the good things which are on the earth; by the children of light, those who beholding the divine love, employ themselves with spiritual treasures. But it is found indeed in the management of human affairs, that we prudently order our own things, and busily set ourselves to work, in order that when we depart we may have a refuge for our life; but when we ought to direct the things of God, we take no forethought for what shall be our lot hereafter.
GREG. In order then that after death they may find something in their own hand, let men before death place their riches in the hands of the poor. Hence it follows, And I say to you, d/lake to yourselves friends of the man of unrighteousness, &c.
AUG. That which the Hebrews call mammon, in Latin is “riches.” As if He said, “Make to yourselves friends of the riches of unrighteousness.” Now some misunderstanding this, seize upon the things of others, and so give something to the poor, and think that they are doing what is commanded. That interpretation must be corrected into, Give alms of your righteous labors. For you will not corrupt Christ your Judge. If from the plunder of a poor man, you were to give any thing to the judge that he might decide for you, and that judge should decide for you, such is the force of justice, that you would be ill pleased in yourself. Do not then make to yourself such a God. God is the fountain of Justice, give not your alms then from interest and usury. I speak to the faithful, to whom we dispense the body of Christ. But if you have such money, it is of evil that you have it. Be no longer doers of evil. Zaccheus said, Half my goods I give to the poor. See how he runs who runs to make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; and not to be held guilty from any quarter, he says, If have taken any thing from any one, I restore fourfold. According to another interpretation, the mammon of unrighteousness are all the riches of the world, whenever they come. For if you seek the true riches, there are some in which Job when naked abounded, when he had his hears full towards God. The others are called riches from unrighteousness; because they are not true riches, for they are full of poverty, and ever liable to chances. For if they were true riches, they would give you security.
AUG. Or the riches of unrighteousness are so called, because they are not riches except to the unrighteous, and such as rest in their hopes and the fullness of their happiness. But when these things are possessed by the righteous, they have indeed so much money, but no riches are theirs but heavenly and spiritual.
AMBROSE. Or he spoke of the unrighteous Mammon, because by the various enticements of riches covetousness corrupts our hearts, that we may be willing to obey riches.
BASIL; Or if you have succeeded to a patrimony, you receive what has been amassed by the unrighteous; for in a number of predecessors some one must needs be found who has unjustly usurped the property of others. But suppose that your father has not been guilty of exaction, whence have you your money? If indeed you answer, “From myself;” you are ignorant of God, not having the knowledge of your Creator; but if, “From God,” tell me the reason for which you receive it. Is not the earth and the fullness thereof the Lord’s? If then whatever is ours belongs to our common Lord, so will it also belong to our fellow-servant.
THEOPHYL. Those then are called the riches of unrighteousness which the Lord has given for the necessities of our brethren and fellow-servants, but we spend upon ourselves. It became us then, from the beginning, to give all things to the poor, but because we have become the stewards of unrighteousness, wickedly retaining what was appointed for the aid of others, we must not surely remain in this cruelty, but distribute to the poor, that we may be received by them into everlasting habitations. For it follows, That, when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
GREG. But if through their friendship we obtain everlasting habitations, we ought to calculate that when we give we rather offer presents to patrons, than bestow benefits upon he needy.
AUG. For who are they that shall have everlasting habitations but the saints of God? and who are they that are to be received by them into everlasting habitations but they who administer to their want, and whatsoever they have need of, gladly supply. They are those little ones of Christ, who have forsaken all that belonged to them and followed Him; and whatsoever they had have given to the poor, that they might serve God without earthly shackles, and freeing their shoulders from the burdens of the world, might raise them aloft as with wings.
AUG. We must not then understand those by whom we wish to be received into everlasting habitations to be as it were debtors of God; seeing that the just and holy are signified in this place, who cause those to enter in, who administered to their necessity of their own worldly goods.
AMBROSE; Or else, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that by giving to the poor we may purchase the favor of angels and all the saints.
CHRYS. Mark also that He said not, “that they may receive you into their own habitations.” For it is not they who receive you. Therefore when He said, Make to yourselves friends, he added, of the mammon of unrighteousness, to show, that their friendship will not alone protect us unless good works accompany us, unless we righteously cast away all riches unrighteously amassed. The most skillful then of all arts is that of almsgiving. For it builds not for us houses of mud, but lays up in store an everlasting life. Now in each of the arts one needs the support of another; but when we ought to show mercy, we need nothing else but the will alone.
CYRIL; Thus then Christ taught those who abound in riches, earnestly to love the friendship of the poor, and to have treasure in heaven. But He knew the sloth of the human mind, how that they who court riches bestow no work of charity upon the needy. That to such men there results no profit of spiritual gifts, He shows by obvious examples, adding, He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. Now our Lord opens to us the eye of the heart, explaining what He had said, adding, If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteousness mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? That which is least then is the mammon of unrighteousness, that is, earthly riches, which seem nothing to those that are heavenly wise. I think then that a man is faithful in a little, when he imparts aid to those who are bowed down with sorrow. If then we have been unfaithful in a little thing, how shall we obtain from hence the true riches, that is, the fruitful gift of Divine grace, impressing the image of God on the human soul? But that our Lord’s words incline to this meaning is plain from the following; for He says, And if you have not been faithful in that which is another man’s who shall give you that which is your own?
AMBROSE; Riches are foreign to us, because they are something beyond nature, they are not born with us, and they do not pass away with us. But Christ is ours, because He is the life of man. Lastly, He came to His own.
THEOPHYL. Thus then hitherto He has taught us how faithfully we ought to dispose of our wealth. But because the management of our wealth according to God is no otherwise obtained than by the indifference of a mind unaffected towards riches, He adds, No man can serve two masters.
AMBROSE; Not because the Lord is two, but one. For although there are who serve mammon, yet he knows no rights of lordship; but has himself placed upon himself a yoke of servitude. There is one Lord, because there is one God. Hence it is evident, that the power of the Father and the Son is one and He assigns a reason, thus saying, For either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.
AUG. But these things were not spoken indifferently or at random. For no one when asked whether he loves the devil, answers that he loves him, but rather that he hates him; but all generally proclaim that they love God. Therefore either he will hate the one, (that is, the devil,) and love the other, (that is, God;) or will hold to the one, (that is, the devil, when he pursues as it were temporal wants,) and will despise the other, (that is, God,) as when men frequently neglect His threats for their desires, who because of His goodness flatter themselves that they will have impunity.
CYRIL; But the conclusion of the whole discourse is what follows, You cannot serve God and man. Let us then transfer all our devotions to the one, forsaking riches.
BEDE; Let then the covetous hear this, that we can not at the same time serve Christ and riches; and yet He said not, “Who has riches,” but, who serves riches; for he who is the servant of riches, watches them as a servant; but he who has shaken off the yoke of servitude, dispenses them as a master; but he who serves mammon, verily serves him who is set over those earthly things as the reward of his iniquity, and is called the prince of this world.