In Luke 16 the steward of the first seven verses is commended by the lord (small “L”) for his worldly wisdom, it seems in verse eight. Then in verse nine it is stated by Jesus, it looks like (because He is speaking), to make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. Am I misreading this? If not, can you please help me in resolving what feels like a conflict of the usual character of instruction from our Lord? Because the best I can make of it is advice to have a rich friend or friends for ‘insurance’ in time of trouble which, of course, just doesn’t sit well. (nothing against friends that are well off – just for the wrong reasons).
Luke 16:1-14 says, “And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called 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 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 are in their generation wiser than the children of light. And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. 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. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? 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. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.”
The Lord made this statement to stir them up to think. Just like He did to the rich man that came to Him. Matthew 19:16-24 says, “And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
The rich man’s question was, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life??” Jesus response was, “And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Was Jesus really teaching that people can be saved by keeping the commandments? No, for that would be contradicting clear Scripture. Romans 3:20 says, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Jesus was NOT trying to tell the rich man that he could be saved by being good and keeping the Law. On the contrary, Jesus was trying to illustrate to the man that he was really a sinner, and had not kept the Law as perfectly as he had thought. That was why Jesus told him, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” You see, the rich man really did not love his neighbor as himself. If he did, then he would have sold his belongings and given them to the poor. That illustrated the purpose of the Law, found in Romans 3:19,20, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
When it says, “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. And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations,” that was a statement to get them (the Pharisees) stirred up to think about what they were doing, and how they were living. Where is the “everlasting habitation” of those who live for the mammon of unrighteousness? The lake of fire. That statement was made to stir them up to think about the condition and direction of their lives. They would not think of making friends of that crowd; and yet, they were doing underhanded financial dealings of their own. Mark 12:38-40 says, “And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.”