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ON THE PARABLE OF THE UNJUST STEWARD.
LUKE XVI. 1.
There was a certain rich Man, which had a Steward; and the same was accused unto him, that he had wasted his goods.
THE text is part of our blessed Lord's Parable of "the unjust Steward;" which is replete with wisdom, and will furnish many useful admonitions for our instruction and improvement; but as its meaning may be mistaken, and as its application is not very obvious, I shall attempt to give a short illustration of it, and conclude with such practical observations as the subject might suggest.
The Parable is as follows: "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 unto him, and said unto
him, How is it that I hear this of thee? Give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord" (or master) "taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig, to beg I am ashamed. 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 of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said an hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, take thy bill and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said an hundred measures of wheat: And he said unto him, take thy bill and write fourscore. And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely for the children of this world," our blessed Lord observes, " are, in their in their generation, wiser than the children of light. And I say unto you," he continues, "make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness," (meaning, by this expression, riches) "that when ye fail, they may receive you," (or rather, ye may be received) "into everlasting habitations." There is some difficulty in the inter
pretation of this Parable; for, it may be asked, on a superficial view of the subject, How could our blessed Saviour, consistently with the pure principles of justice and of truth, which the holy Gospel every where exhibits, make this lord, or master, "commend an unjust steward," or assert that a man who altered and falsified his accounts had done" wisely ?" But a patient and attentive consideration of a few particulars will, I trust, remove the difficulty.
In the first place, it may be observed, that, from the general sense of the word in the original, which is here translated " unjust," and from the frequency of Hebrew idioms in the New Testament, we may understand that our blessed Saviour did not intend to fix any epithet of fraud, or dishonesty, on the Steward in this Parable; but rather meant that he had disappointed the expectations of his lord, and had "wasted his goods" by an unprofitable and lavish distribution of them. We are fully authorised in giving this interpretation from the accusation brought against him; which, you will observe, was not that of pilfering, and purloining, or any other species of dishonesty, but of being wasteful and profuse. The single charge of misconduct alleged against him was, that he had
"wasted his master's goods." Or, rather, in the present tense, that he was then wasting them, or dissipating them, (as the Greek expression indicates) without any prudent discrimination, and without any proper regard to the motives that influenced his own conduct, or the effects which it produced on others.
When called to account, he seemed mortified at his approaching degradation, and fully sensible of his ill conduct. He reflected on his present situation, and he could not but look forward to the future-" What shall I do ?" He had made his master's house, perhaps, the scene of riot and profusion. He had entertained sycophants and flatterers, without procuring one friend, and without benefiting himself, or doing that good to others, which his liberal employer might have intended. Bred in the midst of luxury and self-indulgence,-wasteful and profligate himself, and the instrument of intemperance and dissipation to others, he was unable to work; he could not provide a future subsistence by daily labor, and his pride would not permit him to follow the wretched practice of common mendicants.
The embarrassments of his situation, however, roused his mind to a proper sense of duty,
and "he resolved what to do." "I, who have lavished away my master's substance in so many foolish and expensive gratifications,”— (thus we may suppose him reflecting with himself) “ I, who, instead of relieving the misfortunes of honest industry, have encouraged the importunities of the idle, and the worthless ;I, who have pampered hypocrites, to my own shame and disgrace, and made parasites ungrateful;—I, who have acted with such preposterous folly, as to entirely mistake the true use of those riches, which were entrusted to my management and distribution; - before my final dismission, will endeavour to do something that shall be acceptable to the generous disposition of my lord, and that might secure a provision for myself, among men of a very different class from those, whom I have so foolishly indulged."
Such we may suppose were the sentiments that passed in his mind. Accordingly, he sent for two of his master's debtors, as they are called ;—men who were indebted, we find, not for the expensive articles of luxury and pride, nor for money, the common instrument of both, but for the necessaries of life; (such as wheat and oil were in those countries,) and he said to the one, who