“The parable of the good Samaritan” was given in response to a comment a lawyer made to Jesus. The lawyer was trying to justify his life style. Jesus had told him that in order to be saved, “. . . Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10:27). “But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?” (v. 29). Like most lawyers he wanted to complicate things.
Jesus then gave the parable: “. . . A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead” (Luke 10:30). Jericho was regarded as a second Jerusalem. There was a lot of commerce, and much travel in and out of the city. This amount of traffic was bound to attract thieves and robbers. “And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side” (vv. 31-32). A number of priests and Levites resided at Jericho. While in Jerusalem they officiated at the Temple. The priest and the Levite were more than likely returning to their residences in Jericho, and did not want to be bothered or get involved with this injured man. Like many of the religious leaders, they professed religion but did not practice it. The Law of Moses required one to return a lost animal that belonged to either friend or foe (Deut. 22:4, Ex. 23:4). How much more should an injured man be helped? Isaiah the prophet corrected the people of Israel for their lack of concern for the unfortunate. He wrote: “Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” (Isa. 58:7). Certainly the priests and Levites must have been negligent.
“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him” (Luke 10:33). Who were the Samaritans? These were a Gentile people who had been placed in Palestine by the king of Assyria after the northern kingdom fell. The Israelites had been deported and the Samaritans moved into their cities. The Jews held the Samaritans in contempt. What did the Samaritan do about the wounded man? He “. . . went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee” (vv. 34-35). A lowly Samaritan did what the Law of Moses would have surely required-that which the priest and Levite refused to do.
Jesus then went to the heart of the question the lawyer had asked. “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” (v. 36). There was no way the lawyer could weasel out of this question. He replied: “. . . He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise” (v. 37). The parable answers the lawyer’s question beautifully. A neighbor is not necessarily someone who lives next door, or an acquaintance, or a friend. Neighbors can be all these, but most certainly includes any fellow man in genuine need. These are the times, Jesus said, we must be willing to help. This is what it means to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
“The parable of the unforgiving servant” was given to explain why it is important to forgive others. Jesus had just told Peter that we must be willing to forgive others, not once, but seventy times seven. Commentators take this figure to represent an infinite number of times. But to illustrate why we should forgive others, Jesus went on to give the parable.
It starts out: “Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents” (Matt.18:23-24). The Living Bible places the amount at $10 million. “But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and [besought] him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all” (vv. 25-26). The lord was not cruel. He had a magnanimous spirit and chose to overlook the debt. “Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt” (v. 27). One would think such a servant would be so grateful that he would have the same kind of compassion for others. Not so. “But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: [The Living Bible gives this figure as $2000] and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt” (vv. 28-30). This cruelty and lack of mercy was quickly noticed by his fellowservants. “So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done” (v. 31). What was the lord’s reaction? “Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him” (vv. 32-34).
What lesson does this parable illustrate? Jesus explained: “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (v. 35). If one is truly sorry for the wrong he has done, Jesus said it is our Christian duty to forgive. Why? Because God has forgiven us many times over, compared to the wrong done to us by others. Earlier Jesus had given the disciples what is called the Lord’s Prayer. It is a sample prayer, that is, an outline that we should follow when we pray. We are told in this prayer to ask God to ” . . . forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). As we are willing to forgive others, God will graciously forgive us of our many flaws and transgressions against Him. In our dealings with others the New Testament tells us: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Col. 3:13). If we are not willing to show compassion and mercy on others, God will not show mercy and compassion on us. This is the lesson of the parable of the unforgiving servant.
Another important parable is “the parable of the unjust steward.” It teaches an important principle in the use of money. The parable is given in Luke 16:1-8. “. . . There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods” (v. 1). This manager had proved to be defective. He had not been responsible in handling his duties. He now had to be held accountable. “And he [the rich man] 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” (v. 2). The steward saw “the handwriting on the wall.” He was now fired, so he laid plans for the future.
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 (vv. 3-7).
Notice what the rich man did. He recognized a clever man when he saw one. “And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely. . . ” (Luke 16:8). He did not commend the steward because he cheated him, but because he was shrewd and took measures to assure his future. Then at the end of the parable Jesus added, “. . . for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” What did Jesus mean by this remark? There are two classes of people in the sight of God: (1) the children of light, that is, Christians (Matt. 5:14), and (2) the children of this world (1 John 4:4-5), that is, those who make wealth and security their aim and goal in life. Paul addressed this difference in Ephesians 2:1-2: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” Of these people Paul wrote: “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3:18-19).
The unjust steward was commended for his cleverness in looking after his own interests. Then Jesus gave the lesson behind the parable. He describes real security and a proper use of money. “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). What did Jesus mean by this statement?
The word “mammon” is a term used to define riches or wealth. (See marginal rendering.) The unjust steward made friends out of the mammon of unrighteousness. We are to take mammon and make friends, but not in the same manner the unjust steward did. How are we to do this when Jesus said, “when ye fail”? In verse nine, several other translations render “ye fail,” as “it shall fail,” meaning that the mammon of unrighteousness shall eventually fail, or come to an end. When will the mammon of unrighteousness fail? The answer: When Jesus Christ returns and sets up His Kingdom on the earth (Rev. 19:11-16)! The Apostle John foretold this time: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17). Jesus said to use the mammon of unrighteousness that ” . . . they may receive you into everlasting habitations” (Luke 16:9). What did he mean?
Here is the answer:
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:31-34).
This is the everlasting habitation of which Jesus spoke in Luke 16:9. Christians should use the physical blessings of this life to share with others. What is the best way to share with others-to have them receive you into “everlasting habitations”? By faithfully contributing to God’s work, we make the gospel available to others. Paul described it in this manner: “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:12-14). For ministers of God to effectively do the work of God, financial support is absolutely necessary. In the long run there can be no truly productive effort without an educated, full-time ministry. This is how Jesus said to use the mammon of unrighteousness.
Then He added:
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 (Luke 16:10-13).