And he said also
to his disciples: 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 removed from 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: An 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: An hundred quarters of wheat.
He said to him: Take thy bill, and write eighty.
And the lord commended the unjust steward, forasmuch as he had done wisely:
for the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children
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. He that
is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater:
and he that is unjust in that which is little, is unjust also in that which
from the Catholic Encyclopedia
The unjust steward
is, beyond question, the hardest of all our Lord's parables, if we may argue
from the number and variety of meanings set upon it. Verses 10-13 are no
part of the narration but a discourse to which it gives rise. The connecting
link between them is the difficult expression "mammon [more correctly 'Mamon']
of iniquity "and we may suppose with Bengel that Christ was speaking to those
of His followers, like Levi, who had been farmers of the taxes, i.e.,
"publicans". In the contrast between the "children of this world" and the
"children of light" we find a clue to the general lesson. Mark the resemblance
to St. John's Gospel in the opposition thus brought out. There are two
generations or kinds of men-the worldling and the Christian; but of these
one behaves with a perfect understanding of the order to which he belongs;
the other often acts foolishly, does not put his talent to interest. How
shall he proceed in the least Christian of all occupations, which is the
handling of money? He must get good out of its evil, turn it to account for
everlasting life, and this by almsgiving, "yet that which remaineth, give
alms; and behold, all things are clean unto you" (Luke 11:41). The strong
conclusion follows, which lies implicit in all this, "You cannot serve God
and mammon" (Luke 16:13).
A lack of wisdom has been shown by commentators who were perplexed that our
Lord should derive a moral from conduct, evidently supposed unjust, on the
steward's part; we answer, a just man's dealings would not have afforded
the contrast which points the lesson--that Christians should make use of
opportunities, but innocently, as well as the man of business who lets slip
no chance. Some critics have gone farther and connect the hidden meaning
with Shakespeare's "soul of good in things evil", but we may leave that aside.
Catholic preachers dwell on the special duty of helping the poor, considered
as in some sense keepers of the gates of Heaven, "everlasting tents". St.
Paul's "faithful dispenser" (I Corinthians 4:2) may be quoted here. The
"measures" written down are enormous, beyond a private estate, which favours
the notion of "publicani". The Revised Version transforms "bill" happily
into "bond". It may be doubted which is "the lord" that commended the unjust
steward. Whether we apply it to Christ or the rich man we shall obtain a
satisfactory sense. "In their generation" should be "for their generation",
as the Greek text proves. St. Ambrose, with an eye to the dreadful scandals
of history, sees in the steward a wicked ruler in the Church. Tertullian
(De Fuga) and, long afterwards, Salmeron apply all to the Jewish people and
to the Gentiles, who were indeed debtors to the law, but who should have
been treated indulgently and not repelled.
By St. Augustine
1. Our duty is
to give to others the admonitions we have received ourselves. The recent
lesson of the Gospel has admonished us to make friends of the mammon of iniquity,
that they too may receive those who do so into everlasting
habitations. But who are they that shall have everlasting habitations,
but the Saints of God? And who are they who are to be received by them into
everlasting habitations, but they who serve their need, and minister cheerfully
to their necessities? Accordingly let us remember, that in the last judgment
the Lord will say to those who shall stand on His right hand, I was
an hungred, and ye gave Me meat; and the rest which ye know. And upon
their enquiring when they had afforded these good offices to Him, He answered,
When ye did it to one of the least of Mine, ye did it unto Me.
These least are they who receive into everlasting habitations. This He said
to them on the right hand, because they did so: and the contrary He said
to them on the left, because they would not. But what have they on the right
hand who did so, received, or rather, what are they to receive?
Come, says He, ye blessed of My Father, possess the kingdom
prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungred,
and ye gave Me meat. When ye did it to one of the least of Mine, ye did it
unto Me. Who then are these least ones of Christ? They are those who
have left all they had, and followed Him, and have distributed whatever they
had to the poor; that unencumbered and without any worldly fetter they might
serve God, and might lift their shoulders free from the burdens of the world,
and winged as it were aloft. These are the least. And why the least? Because
lowly, because not puffed up, not proud. Yet weigh them in the scales, these
least ones, and thou wilt find them a heavy weight.
2. But what means it, that He says they are friends of the mammon of
iniquity? What is the mammon of iniquity? First, what is
mammon? For it is not a Latin word. It is a Hebrew word, and
cognate to the Punic language. For these languages are allied to one another
by a kind of nearness of signification. What the Punics call mammon, is called
in Latin, lucre. What the Hebrews call mammon, is called in Latin,
riches. That we may express the whole then in Latin, our Lord
Jesus Christ says this, Make to yourselves friends of the riches of
iniquity. Some, by a bad understanding of this, plunder the goods of
others, and bestow some of that upon the poor, and so think that they do
what is enjoined them. For they say, To plunder the goods of others,
is the mammon of iniquity; to spend some of it, especially on the poor saints,
this is to make friends with the mammon of iniquity. This understanding of
it must be corrected, yea, must be utterly effaced from the tablets of your
heart. I would not that ye should so understand it. Give alms of your righteous
labours: give out of that which ye possess rightfully. For ye cannot corrupt
Christ your Judge, that He should not hear you together with the poor, from
whom ye take away. For if thou wert to despoil any one who was weak, thyself
being stronger and of greater power, and he were to come with thee to the
judge, any man you please on this earth, who had any power of judging, and
he were to wish to plead his cause with thee; if thou wert to give anything
of the spoil and plunder of that poor man to the judge, that he might pronounce
judgment in thy favour; would that judge please even thee? True, he has
pronounced judgment in thy favour, and yet so great is the force of justice,
that he would displease even thee. Do not then represent God to thyself as
such an one as this. Do not set up such an idol in the temple of thine heart.
Thy God is not such as thou oughtest not to be thyself. If thou wouldest
not judge so, but wouldest judge justly; even so thy God is better than thou:
He is not inferior to thee: He is more just, He is the fountain of justice.
Whatsoever good thou hast done, thou hast gotten from Him; and whatsoever
good thou hast given vent to, thou hast drunk in from Him. Dost thou praise
the vessel, because it hath something from Him, and blame the fountain? Do
not give alms out of usury and increase. I am speaking to the faithful, am
speaking to those to whom we distribute the body of Christ. Be in fear and
amend yourselves: that I may not have hereafter to say, Thou doest so, and
thou too doest so. Yet I trow, that if I should do so, ye ought not to be
angry with me, but with yourselves, that ye may amend yourselves. For this
is the meaning of the expression in the Psalm, Be ye angry, and sin
not. I would have you be angry, but only that ye may not sin. Now in
order that ye may not sin, with whom ought ye to be angry but with yourselves?
For what is a penitent man, but a man who is angry with himself? That he
may obtain pardon, he exacts punishment from himself; and so with good right
says to God, Turn Thine eyes from my sins, for I acknowledge my sin.
If thou acknowledgest it, then He will pardon it. Ye then who have done so
wrongly, do so no more: it is not lawful.
3. But if ye have done so already, and have such money in your possession,
and have filled your coffers thereby, and were heaping up treasure by these
means: what ye have comes of evil, now then add not evil to it, and make
to yourselves friends of the mammon of iniquity. Had Zacchaeus what he had
from good sources? Read and see. He was the chief of the publicans, that
is, he was one to whom the public taxes were paid in: by this he had his
wealth. He had oppressed many, had taken from many, and so had heaped much
together. Christ entered into his house, and salvation came upon his house;
for so said the Lord Himself, This day is salvation come to this
house. Now mark the method of this salvation. First he was longing
to see the Lord, because he was little in stature: but when the crowd hindered
him, he got up into a sycamore tree, and saw Him as He passed by. But Jesus
saw him, and said, Zacchaeus, come down, I must abide at thy house.
Thou art hanging there, but I will not keep thee in suspense. I will not,
that is, put thee off.
Thou didst wish to see Me as I passed by, to-day shalt thou find Me dwelling
at thy house. So the Lord went in unto him, and he, filled with joy, said,
The half of my goods I give to the poor. Lo, how swiftly he runs,
who runs to make friends of the mammon of iniquity. And lest he should be
held guilty on any other account, he said, If I have taken anything
from any man, I will restore fourfold. He inflicted sentence
of condemnation on himself, that he might not incur damnation.
So then, ye who have anything from evil sources, do good therewith. Ye who
have not, wish not to acquire by evil means. Be thou good thyself, who doest
good with what is evilly acquired: and when with this evil thou beginnest
to do any good, do not remain evil thyself. Thy money is being converted
to good, and dost thou thyself continue evil?
4. There is indeed another way of understanding it; and I will not withhold
it too. The mammon of iniquity is all the riches of this world, from whatever
source they come. For howsoever they be heaped together, they are the mammon
of iniquity, that is, the riches of iniquity. What is, they are the
riches of iniquity? It is money which iniquity calls by the name of
riches. For if we seek for the true riches, they are different from these.
In these Job abounded, naked as he was, when he had a heart full to Godward,
and poured out praises like most costly gems to his God, when he had lost
all he had. And from what treasure did he this, if he had nothing? These
then are the true riches.
But the other sort are called riches by iniquity. Thou dost possess these
riches. I blame it not: an inheritance has come to thee, thy father was rich,
and he left it to thee. Or thou hast honestly acquired them: thou hast a
house full of the fruit of just labour; I blame it not. Yet even thus do
not call them riches. For if thou dost call them riches, thou wilt love them:
and if thou love them, thou wilt perish with them. Lose, that thou be not
lost: give, that thou mayest gain: sow, that thou mayest reap. Call not these
riches, for the true they are not. They are full of poverty,
and liable ever to accidents.
What sort of riches are those, for whose sake thou art afraid of the robber,
for whose sake thou art afraid of thine own servant, lest he should kill
thee, and take them away, and fly? If they were true riches, they would give
5. So then those are the true riches, which when we have them, we cannot
lose. And lest haply thou shouldest fear a thief because of them, they will
be there where none can take them away. Hear thy Lord, Lay up for
yourselves treasures in heaven, where no thief approacheth. Then will
they be riches, when thou hast removed them hence. As long as they are in
the earth, they are not riches. But the world calls them riches, iniquity
calls them so. God calls them therefore the mammon of iniquity, because iniquity
calls them riches. Hear the Psalm, O Lord, deliver me out of the hand
of strange children, whose mouth hath spoken vanity, and their right hand
is a right hand of iniquity. Whose sons are as new plants, firmly rooted
from their youth. Their daughters decked out, adorned round about after the
similitude of a temple. Their storehouses full, flowing out from this into
that. Their oxen fat, their sheep fruitful, multiplying in their goings forth.
There is no breach of wall, nor going forth, no crying out in their
streets. Lo, what sort of happiness the Psalmist has described: but
hear what is the case with them whom he has set forth as children of iniquity.
Whose mouth hath spoken vanity, and their right hand is a right hand
Thus has he set them forth, and said that their happiness is only upon the
earth. And what did he add? They are happy the people that hath these
things. But who called them so? Strange children, aliens
from the race, and belonging not to the seed of Abraham: they called
the people happy that hath these things. Who called them so? They
whose mouth hath spoken vanity. It is a vain thing then to call them
happy who have these things. And yet they are called so by them, whose
mouth hath spoken vanity. By them the mammon of iniquity
of the Gospel is called riches.
6. But what sayest thou? Seeing that these strange children that
they whose mouth hath spoken vanity, have called the people
happy that hath these things, what sayest thou? These are false riches,
show me the true. Thou findest fault with these, show me what thou praisest.
Thou wishest me to despise these, show me what to prefer. Let the Psalmist
speak himself. For he who said, they called the people happy that hath
these things, gives us such an answer, as if we had said to him, that
is, to the Psalmist himself, Lo, this thou hast taken away from us,
and nothing hast thou given us: lo, these, lo, these we despise; whereby
shall we live, whereby shall we be happy? For they who have spoken, they
will undertake to answer for themselves. For they have called
men who have riches happy. But what sayest thou?
As if he had been thus questioned, he makes answer and says, They call the
rich happy: but I say, Happy are the people whose is the Lord their
God. Thus then thou hast heard of the true riches, make friends of
the mammon of iniquity, and thou shalt be a happy people, whose is
the Lord their God. At times we go along the way, and see very pleasant
and productive estates, and we say, Whose estate is that? We
are told, such a mans; and we say, Happy man!
We speak vanity. Happy he whose is that house, happy he whose
that estate, happy he whose that flock, happy he whose that servant, happy
he whose is that household. Take away vanity if Thou wouldest hear the truth.
Happy he whose is the Lord his God. For not he who
has that estate is happy: but he whose is that God. But in order
to declare most plainly the happiness of possessions, thou sayest that thy
estate has made thee happy. And why? Because thou livest by it. For when
thou dost highly praise thine estate, thou sayest thus, It finds me
food, I live by it. Consider whereby thou dost really live. He by whom
thou livest, is He to whom thou sayest, With Thee is the fountain of
life. Happy is the people whose God is the Lord. O Lord
my God, O Lord our God, make us happy by Thee, that we may come unto Thee.
We wish not to be happy from gold, or silver, or land, from these earthly,
and most vain, and transitory goods of this perishable life. Let not our
mouth speak vanity. Make us happy by Thee, seeing that we shall never
lose Thee. When we shall once have gotten Thee, we shall neither lose Thee,
nor be lost ourselves. Make us happy by Thee, because Happy is the
people whose is the Lord their God. Nor will God be angry if we shall
say of Him, He is our estate. For we read that the Lord is the portion
of my inheritance. Grand thing, Brethren, we are both His inheritance,
and He is ours, seeing that we both cultivate His service and He cultivateth
It is no derogation to His honour that He cultivateth us. Because if we cultivate
Him as our God, He cultivateth us as His field. And, (that ye may know that
He doth cultivate us) hear Him whom He hath sent to us: I, saith
He, am the vine, ye are the branches, My Father is the Husbandman.
Therefore He doth cultivate us. But if we yield fruit, He prepares for us
His garner. But if under the attention of so great a hand we will be barren,
and for good fruit bring forth thorns, I am loth to say what follows. Let
us make an end with a theme of joy. Let us turn then to the Lord,