The Pharisees - Part 7

Posted in: 2011
By Tom L. Ballinger
Aug 27, 2011 - 10:27:37 AM

Plainer Words since 1968
August 27, 2011
 The verbal conflict that went on during the period of the Four Gospels was mainly between the Pharisaical Society and the Lord Jesus Christ. As far as they were concerned, He was their bitter enemy. The Pharisees busied themselves with schemes to make Him appear as a false prophet. But, Christ took their doctrine, based upon the “mythological” Oral Law, and revealed it as fraudulent “Law.” The Lord Jesus ripped them to shreds, using their own doctrine against them.
To amplify the doctrine of the Pharisees, it will be noticed how the Lord’s use of their doctrine, as He takes their false position and principle, and turns it back on them. Let’s take note of the passages of Scripture which precede the story of “The Rich Man and Lazarus.”
LUKE 16:1-8
16:1 And He [Jesus] 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. 2 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. 3 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. 4 I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they [the debtors] may receive me into their houses. 5 So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? 6 And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 7 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 [80]. 8 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.
The word Christ used for “commended” was “epaineo (ep-ahee-neh'-o); to applaud, laud, or praise.” Imagine applauding the “Unjust Steward” for his crooked actions. You say, “It’s unbelievable.” That is the Irony!
The story of the “Unjust Steward” was spoken to His Disciples in the presence of the Pharisees. This story, if not correctly understood, is one of the strangest to be found in the Bible, but this story of the “Unjust Steward” is the real key to understanding the account of “The Rich Man and Lazarus” in Luke 16:19-31. So, it is important to get the “Unjust Steward” right! When we do, “The Rich Man and Lazarus” falls right in place.
Understanding the story of the “Unjust Steward” has been a perplexing and baffling matter to many; yea, even to most students of the Word. We will not shrug it off as if it is of no importance. But, on the contrary, we view the words of our Lord Jesus Christ as most important and are worthy of our diligent scrutiny.
The key to understanding this outstanding story is to realize that it is Satire. Remember that strong Satire is Irony. The “Unjust Steward” is strong Satire. As such, it is classed as Irony. Christ Jesus uses Irony as He tells this story.
The story makes good sense until the eighth verse is read and considered; “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.” In fact, the eighth verse makes the story absurd. The story is unbelievable. It is preposterous. But, our Lord Jesus said it. Would He relate such a ridiculous narrative to teach His Disciples that if they, as stewards, were unfaithful; would He COMMEND them for their crooked dealings?
The aim in the use of the literary device of “Satire” is to expose and attack vice and folly, using irony, and sarcasm. A common feature of Satire is strong irony or sarcasm. The use of militant irony or sarcasm often professes to approve (or, at least, accept as natural) the very things the Satirist says. in this case, what Christ wishes to attack.
In this satirical story, the “certain rich man,” after he discovered what the crooked steward had done, congratulated him for acting so shrewdly in taking care of his own interest. If that was not enough, the rich man continued the steward’s employment and at a good increase in salary.
The story is absurd. Such a thing never happened. It probably would not ever happen. The creditors were blackmailed into a position that they would have to provide for the steward when his position was lost. They were parties to the crime. No employer would commend, or applaud an employee for such crooked dealings. A man of the world would never believe the story. However, there were some, the Pharisees, who professed to be “children of light” who actually believed that such a thing was going to happen in their dealings with God. Thus, it is true that the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the so-called “children of light.”
Christ said what He didn’t mean, and He meant what He didn’t say. In this story, Christ said the master applauded his trusted steward who admitted he was an embezzler. But, in Irony, the master actually MEANT; because of your theft, you ARE CONDEMNED.
Ah, the Master Teacher taught imperishable Truth by means of the literary technique of Satire by using the expression of militant Irony.
The Lord Jesus told this story about the dishonest steward in order to ridicule the absurd position of the scribes and Pharisees. As the ones who controlled everything in Israel, they used their power and authority to obtain profit for themselves. (This sounds characteristic of today’s political elite).
They discounted the requirements of God in order to make friends for themselves and continue to solidify their own systems and powers. Since they were commended by men, they actually thought they were commended by God. They were proud and satisfied with their accomplishments. But, really, they were out of favor with God, so they used the things of God to secure favor with men.
Jesus Christ laid bare their ridiculous position by telling this ridiculous story. This masterpiece of Satire was a masterful rebuke. He summed it up by saying even the men of this world would not believe that an employer, who planned to terminate a man for unfaithfulness, would commend him. The scribes and Pharisees regarded themselves as “children of light” (John 9:41) and acted as though they believed it, while no man of the world would believe this. The Lord put their principles in words and rebuked them with this story.
The Ironical story of the “Unjust Steward” is followed by the Lord turning to the scribes and Pharisees, and saying:
“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” (Luke 16:9).
In Luke 16:9, the Lord was still speaking in the form of Irony when He said, in plainer words; “I tell you, use your ill-gotten worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, those you have illegally favored may receive and welcome you into the everlasting [aionios] dwellings.” This one verse is packed with Irony. The “debtors” in this story participated in the crime committed by the “Unjust Steward.” They will, certainly, not possess “everlasting dwellings” because they will miss the joys of the Day of Christ.  They will be co-inhabitators with the “unprofitable servants” who will be cast into “outer darkness” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” because they will have no place in the Pre-Millennial Kingdom of Christ.
Matthew 25:30 provides the clue as to the eternal fate of “unprofitable servants,” as well as criminal elements such as those who conspired with the “Unjust Steward.”
“And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Luke 16:9 contradicts the positive statement the Lord made in Matthew 6:24:
“No man 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.”
“Mammon,” as used in the New Testament, is a personification of an “idol of the heart”—to wit, riches (Bagster’s Help to Bible Study). Christ’s statement in Luke 16:9 does not set forth a moral tenant. Read the verse again-- Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. This was a classical statement of Irony—saying what He didn’t mean and meaning what He didn’t say!
Luke 16:9 is one of the most ironic statements in the Bible. Christ, sarcastically, said to the Pharisees that it is a good thing for you to make friends with the “mammon of unrighteousness” because you are not friendly to God; and when you fail, you will not be received into the “everlasting habitations” that God has prepared. Thus, make for yourselves friends of unrighteous mammon.
We note that the Lord Jesus was speaking a moral precept to His Disciples since they were already friends of the One Who, alone, could provide for them EVERLASTING HABITATIONS.
We need to keep in mind that while Christ was speaking to the Disciples, He was targeting the Pharisees with His statements. The Pharisees were among the crowd.
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