The Man of Sorrows, by John Nelson Darby, [n.d. (prior to 1882)], at sacred-texts.com
1.—"There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him, that he had wasted his goods." Man generally is God's steward; and in another sense and in another way Israel was God's steward put into God's vine-yard, and entrusted with law, promises, covenants, worship. But in all Israel was found to have wasted His goods. Man looked at as a steward has been found to be entirely unfaithful. Now, what is to be done? God appears, and in the sovereignty of His grace turns that which man has abused on the earth into a means of heavenly fruit. The things of this world being in the hands of man, he is not to be using them for the present enjoyment of this world, which is altogether apart from God, but with a view to the future. We are not to seek to possess the things now, but by the right use of these things to make a provision for other times. "Make to yourself friends of the mammon of unrighteousness." It is better to turn all into a friend for another day than to have money now. Man here is gone to destruction. Therefore now man is a steward out of place.
2.—"Give an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward." He is discharged from stewardship, has lost his place, but not the things of which he has the administration. Here is something far better than the alchemy which would turn all into gold. For this is grace, turning even gold itself, that vile thing which enslaves men's
hearts, into a means of showing love and getting riches for Heaven. To Israel God is saying: "You have failed in the stewardship, therefore now I am going to put you out." In chapter 15 the elder brother, the Jew, would not go in; and here, in chapter 16, God is putting the Jew out of the stewardship. With Adam all is over, but we have a title in grace to use, in a heavenly way, that to which we have no title at all as man.
11.—"If, therefore, ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? If ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?" Our own things are the heavenly things; the earthly things are another's; and if you do not use your title in grace in devoting in love these earthly temporal goods, which are not your own, how can God trust you with the spiritual things which are "your own?" Our own things are all the glories of Christ. All that is Christ's is ours, for "we are not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold" (1 Peter 1. 18). We were bought with a price, it is true, not with money, but "with the precious Blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1. 19). God has not given us eternal life in order that we might be getting money. "No man can serve two masters," and if you want to be rich you cannot be seeking to serve God. We have to do our duty in this world, but it is never our duty to serve mammon and desire riches.
Now He goes on to show that there are these everlasting habitations, when the grand results will appear of what has been done here. The old thing is
fleeting away and the new coming in. The Jew, who refused to come to the feast, is loosening the law while rejecting grace. (See chap. 15, verses 18, 19.)
19.—"A certain rich man, clothed in purple." The thought here is Jewish, and the great principle is that all God's dealings as to distributive justice on the earth were no longer in force, and that now He only deals in grace. He draws aside the veil to show the result in another world. The rich man had his good things here, he belonged to the earth, and the basket and the store belonged to him. His treasure was on earth, and his heart there too. But look into the other world and see the result—"torment." The good things have changed now. "The rich man died and was buried; and in Hell he lift up his eyes, being in torment." "And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores," "and the beggar died." Was he buried? Not a word about it, for he belonged not to the earth, "he was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom." He who had the "evil things" down here was carried to the best place in Heaven. Then mark, it was not the afflictions, sores, etc., of Lazarus made him righteous, any more than the riches of the rich man made him unrighteous. God having done with the earthly things, no earthly circumstances are a mark of God's present favour or the reverse; though, no doubt, God's dealings with Lazarus were the means of bringing down his pride, breaking the will, and so preparing him for the place He was going to take him to.
31.—"If they hear not Moses and the prophets." Here this solemn truth comes out that even the resurrection of Christ will not convince them; for if they refuse to hear God's Word as they have it, they will not hear the testimony of God, even though One rose from the dead; and we know they did not.
This chapter is to let in the light of another world upon God's ways and dealings in this. The whole world is bankrupt before God, so that man is now trading with another's goods. When man rejected Christ he was turned out of his stewardship. This is man's position. We should, therefore, dispose of everything now in reference to the world to come, according to this permission in grace revealed in chapter 16, to use the things of which we have the administration. If we are serving mammon we shall not get the blessing of serving God in the sense of God's gifts, for it is retributive justice here in a sense. If you are not faithful in another man's, who will give you that which is your own? If you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? If you are loving money, you cannot have your heart filled with Christ. We are not to be "slothful in business," but "fervent in spirit, serving the Lord," and for this He opens Heaven to us. Not as He said to Abraham, "Unto a land that I will show thee." He has shown Heaven unto us, having opened it to us in grace. It is the revelation of grace that gives power over earthly things. May the Lord keep before us a living Christ as our light for guidance and salvation to walk and trust in!