St. Luke, xvi. 9.
" I say unto you. Make to yourselves friends of the
mammon of unrighteousness ; that, when ye fail, they
may receive you into everlasting habitations."
LAST Sunday the Church showed us in the
Epistle that we are debtors, meaning thereby
that whatever we have received from God,
whether riches, or talents, whether strength
of body or strength of mind, whether good
dispositions or religious thoughts, these, what
ever they may be, cannot be considered as the
result or reward of so much work on our part,
but that they are so much given, or rather
lent, to us by God ; and that as we ourselves are
not workmen who have received wages, we
may not therefore rest upon them ; but as we
are debtors, to whom has been lent everything
which we possess, we have now our debt to
pay. The Church then showed us, in the
Gospel for that day, that as we distinguish
honest debtors from fraudulent debtors, so we
distinguish the faithful from the unfaithful;
we do it by their works, not by their promises.
An honest debtor may not be able to pay his
debts, it is possible, but he is continually doing
his utmost to pay them ; if he is doing any
thing less than his utmost, whatever that may
be, he is not an honest debtor. Here, therefore,
is the test. If you would know the true from
the false, see what men do with all those good
things which have been lent them by God:
we do not gather grapes of thorns, or figs of
thistles; we need not be deceived, therefore,
we shall know them by their fruits.
We now go on to this ninth Sunday, and
here we are told again, first, that no single
Christian man can possibly consider himself in
any other light than that of a debtor, because
we all have received each his own gifts. " Bre
thren," says St. Paul in the Epistle, " I would
not that ye should be ignorant, how that all
our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed
through the Sea, and were all baptised unto
Moses in the cloud, and in the sea, and did all
eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink
the same spiritual drink, for they drank of that
Spiritual Rock that followed them, and that
rock was Christ." ow we Christians must be
conscious that every word of this was as true
of those whom St. Paul was then addressing,
as it was of the Israelites whose type he was
then explaining; and that it is as true of
everyone of us now, as it was of the Christians
of St. Paul s own time. Everyone of us now
is under the cloud, the shadow of God s hand ;
everyone of us now Mas passed through the
water consecrated by Christ for the washing
away of our sins ; everyone of us now has been
baptised unto our Spiritual Moses, in the Holy
Ghost and in the water; and we have all eaten
the same spiritual meat, and all drunk the same
spiritual drink, for the rock who follows us
through our wilderness is Christ, \vho gives us
His Body and Blood for our nourishment, even
as typically He gave nourishment to the chil
dren of Israel in their wilderness.
But this is our righteousness; it is in the
power of this that we perform our good works.
That, therefore, which results from these
gifts is not our own ; it is intrusted to us ; we
are not owners, we are stewards ; it is intrusted
to us to be used for our Master, and to be dis
pensed among those in whom our Master takes
an interest. In the Gospel the Church shows
us the use we are to make of our stewardship,
and as in this particular instance the lesson
turns rather on those gifts which relate to this
world, which the Evangelist distinguishes as
the mammon of unrighteousness, than on those
which are of a spiritual nature, we will take
these last as our present subject. In the first
place, we must remember throughout what we
have already shown, that all gifts of every
kind are God s gifts, for the whole lesson of
the parable is based on this. We admit this
readily enough when we think of spiritual help
and grace, but we are very apt to consider our
money, our rank, our possessions, our influence,
as exclusively our own. " May I not do what
I please with my own?" there is no more com
mon expression than this: but the answer is
easy Yes, of course you may, if these things
are your own, but how came they to be yours ;
" the earth is the Lord s, and the fulness there
of." This is just w r hat St. Chrysostom says,
" There is a certain false idea, which all men
entertain more or less, which increases evil and
lessens good ; it is the feeling that all the good
things which we possess in the course of our
life, we possess as lords over them, and ac
cordingly we seize upon them as our own
especial goods. But it is quite the contrary,
for in this life we are placed not as lords in
our own houses, but as strangers led whither
we would not ; and at a time we think not of
he who is rich, may suddenly become a beggar.
Therefore, says he, " whosoever thou art," know
thyself to be a dispenser of these things to
others, and that the privileges granted them
are but for a brief and passing time. Cast
away, then, from thy soul the pride of covet-
ousness, and put on the modesty and humility
of a steward."
ow if you will call to mind the various
passages of Scripture which treat on this sub
ject, you will remember that stewardship, or
some situation similiar to it, is always the
expression used to signify our possession of
anything on this earth; it is the pound in
trusted, it is the talent committed to our
keeping, it is the vineyard let out to husband
men. The invariable idea is that of men
holding or occupying that which is not their
own, but for which, nevertheless, they are
But the most common expression of all is,
the word stewardship. Part of our stewardship
is " the mammon of unrighteousness," which
simply means this world s goods, and not neces
sarily goods unrighteously obtained. " They
are so called," Augustine says, " to distinguish
them from the true riches. All the riches of
this world are full of poverty, and are ever liable
to chances. If they were the true riches which
were spoken of afterwards, they would give
you security."
But this gift, mammon of unrighteousness
as it is, and often used as it is for unrighteous
purposes, may yet be used in God s Service,
and must be used in God s Service, if God
should have committed it to our keeping.
The parable of the Unjust Steward, which
explains this, has been thought a difficult one.
People say, how is it the lord commends the
steward for being unjust? how is it that he tells
us to make friends of the mammon of unrigh
teousness, which they imagine to mean, make
the mammon of unrighteousness our friend?
ow that is just what the Lord does not
mean. He neither commends the steward for
being unjust, nor does he tell us to love our
riches ; this last mistake is made by overlook
ing the word "of," which in this case, as in
many others, means " by," as when we say,
taught of God, meaning taught by God. "I will
show you," he says, "how to make friends.
You may make them even by means of the
mammon of unrighteousness, by means of your
worldly riches ; and real friends, too, not friends
who can receive you into their houses only, as
the steward in the parable hoped to be received,
but friends who can receive you into ever
lasting habitations God the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Ghost, the only friends whose
habitations are everlasting."
either does the lord commend the steward
for being unjust; he commends "the unjust
steward," the man, that is, who is designated
as The Unjust Steward. He was not unjust
from anything that appears in the parable, but
he was a man who had already been accused
of having wasted his lord s goods ; it is for this
that he is called the unjust steward, and not
for those acts for which his lord was com
mending him. H
But the acts which the lord was commend
ing were unjust, we say; the steward was
making friends for himself by defrauding his
master. ot at all ; this mistake arises from our
not considering the customs of the East ; it
arises from our estimating a steward by what
we should call a steward here in England. A
steward here is a man who receives wages,
and whose office and business it is to look over
accounts, and to keep a balance of receipts
and payments, so that his employer should not
be defrauded of his due. If such a man were
to tell his lord s tenants to falsify their bills,
he would be committing an act of gross dis
honesty which no one could commend, and
which would be very far from making friends
even of those who were dishonest enough to
profit by it.
The Eastern steward is a very different
character. The lords of the soil there are petty
chieftains rather than landed proprietors, their
tenants are not like ours, men who pay rents,
but vassals, who render tribute, a hundred
measures of wheat, or a hundred measures of
oil, according to their assessment. The stew
ard is a man who makes to the lord of the soil
a certain fixed payment for the privilege of
farming this tribute; it is his lord s tribute
certainly, but all that he can make by it is
honestly his own. We have nothing like this
in England, unless it be the man who farms
the tolls of a gate or bridge, but that is almost
the invariable way of arranging the multi
farious tributes of the East.
These stewards are often managers of the
household, or of public works, or of other
things, as well as contractors. In this capacity
the unjust steward had been accused to his
lord, and for maladministration in this had
been discharged. His object is to make
friends, he therefore does not exact all that is
due to him, he makes presents; to one he
gives back fifty measures of oil, to another
twenty measures of wheat; not his master s
oil and his master s wheat, although it had
come to him as his lord s tribute, but his own
property, that which he had contracted for,
and paid for, and might keep or give back or
put to such use as he pleased. His lord saw
the use he made of the wealth which had
passed into his hands, and he commended him,
not for his injustice, that was merely a circum
stance in the parable, that was merely a means
of accounting for the steward s being placed in
such a situation as to require friends, but for
his wisdom; what his lord said, was, You are
wise, you have acted rightly, you have made
good use of your riches, you have made these
people your friends by means of your acquired
wealth, it is much better than spending it all
on yourself, and " doing as you pleased with
your own."
So far the parable; and now our Lord
Jesus Christ makes His own observations on
His own story. The first is, that " in their
generation" the children of this world are
wiser than the children of light. The story
you have heard, He would say, is nothing
strange to you; it is a thing you see done
every day. When anyone wants any of the
things of this world, he uses the best and
likeliest means of obtaining them. If he does
say This is my wealth, which I may use as I
please, still he does not please to spend it on
himself, or on his pleasures. If he wants
friends, he uses it so as to make friends. " The
Steward who was cast out of the Stewardship,"
says Augustine, "is commended because he
provided himself against the future, instead of
spending his wealth on the present. ow this
is very often the case with those whose
thoughts are employed on the things of this
world. Very frequently men order their
matters prudently, and set themselves to work
busily, in order that they may have a refuge
for their old age; they are wise, therefore, in
their generation, they are wise in adapting
their means to the end they have in view. But
this is not the case with the children of light,
with those who profess to seek in Heaven a
refuge for their eternity. Wise as their choice
may have been, they follow up the profession
they have chosen like fools ; they take no fore
thought for the things of God; they do not
adapt their means to the end that they pro
pose ; in their generation, therefore, after their
kind, so far as their knowledge goes, or their
desires prompt them, the children of this world
are wiser than the children of light.
"And I say unto you," said our Lord, turning
to those who were children of light, " imitate
this, yours is only a stewardship, not an abi
ding possession; it is a possession that you
may be deprived of any day, and you cannot
say you have been profitable servants ; you
have had the farming of your Lord s goods,
His talents, His earthly wealth, the riches of
His heavenly grace; you know that you have
wasted these goods; if you look into your own
consciences and compare them with your past
lives, you must know that you have wasted
what God has given you ; you know that the
time must come when the Lord will call you,
when yo,u will die, and must give up your
stewardship ; you know that at His call every
man will rise from the dead, and stand before
Him, and that He will say to each one of us,
give an account of thy stewardship. What
will you say? You feel conscious that you have
wasted His goods, and that your stewardship
will not bear examination; you cannot now
begin to dig, since the time for work is over,
and you are ashamed to beg for that which
you know you have not deserved. What will
you do ? Then, nothing ; it will be too late then,
but you may do something now; call together
your Lord s debtors, call together those who,
like yourself, have received of the Lord s
bounty, though not indeed, it may be, in so
great a measure as you have received it. Im
part this bounty to them ; if they are hungry
and you are full, feed them ; if they are sick and
you are in health, tend them ; if they are in
prison, tied and bound with the chain of their
sins, and you are at freedom, visit them; if
they are ignorant, and you are wise and
learned, teach them. The hundred measures of
oil, and the hundred measures of wheat are
yours, nobody denies it; but you have to give
an account of your stewardship in a great
many other things which are not yours. Use,
therefore, these things, which after all come
originally from your Lord s tribute and not
from your own private property, so as to make
yourselves friends. You will need them
when you come to have your own accounts
What! friends of those who are poorer,
weaker, more ignorant, more bound by their
sins than we are ourselves? Yes, truly.
Gregory says rightly, "If after death you
would find something in your own hand,
before your death place your riches in the
hands of the poor," and so of your learn
ing, and so of your virtues, and so of every
gift that God has given you. Often and
often it happens that what we keep we
lose, what we spend we waste, what we
give we have.
But how can such friends profit us? Evi
dently they are more in want than we are, how
can they help us?
Do you forget that blessed saying, "Inas
much as ye have done it unto the least of
these My brethren, ye have done it unto ME."
These are not the men of whom you may
make friends ; . you may ; men do meet with
instances of love and gratitude on earth some
times, but not often, not generally; it was
not very much of either that fell to the share
of the greatest Benefactor the earth ever saw ;
but these are not the friends you make by a
right use of the mammon of unrighteousness ;
these cannot receive you into everlasting habi
tations. Who can? Who alone can? Who
but the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, into
whose ame ye have beelT baptised? " Thus,
then," says Cyril, " Christ taught those who
abound in riches earnestly to have friendship
with the poor, and to have treasure in Heaven."
. . . ow Our Lord opens to us the eye of the
heart, explaining what He had said, and adding,
" If, therefore, ye have not been faithful in the
unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your
trust the true riches? That which is least is
the mammon of unrighteousness, that is,
earthly riches, which seem nothing to those
that are heavenly-wise. I think then," he con
tinues, " 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 this little thing, how shall we obtain from
hence the true riches, that is, the true gift of
divine grace, impressing the image of God on
the soul? If ye have not been faithful in that
which is another man s, (another man s, inas
much as it was the stewardship intrusted to
you for the sake of others,) who shall give
you that which is your own," that Divine
grace that mainly and primarily benefits your
self? Riches, earthly riches, the mammon of
unrighteousness, neither are ours nor can be
ours, except as a trust, except as that which
is another man s ; if we do keep them as long
as we remain in this world, we must die, and
leave our riches to others, and if we have not
been faithful over those riches which cannot
profit us in themselves, but only in proportion
as we use them well, who shall give us that
that really will abide with us and be our own,
our own not in this world only, but our own
/ *
to carry with us in the world to come; our
own to keep, not through time only, but
through eternity, our own in heaven, as well
as our own on earth.
God grant us these riches, which in this
world will enable us to do always such
things as are rightful, so that we, who with
out Him cannot do anything that is good,
may by Him be enabled to live after His
will, while in the world to come they will
procure us that reward which shall never
fail them who live after it in this life, the
love of Him who shall "come quickly," and
" whose reward shall be with Him to give
to every man according as his work shall be."

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful