And one of the company said to him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.…
It may seem strange that to so natural a request Christ should return so discouraging an answer, and, withal, apply it with such a parable. But there are two things to be considered.
1. That it was not Christ's mission to reorganize society immediately, nor by a demonstrative act, but that He undertook to reorganize society by implanting those principles which should work in us reorganific wisdom. Certain great influences were to be infused into the heart, which gradually but surely would work out all needed changes, and work them out in the order of their proper succession and growth. It was for Christ to prepare the great influences and principles that the world needed, but for us to carry them out into practical execution. It is for God to bring forth the spring, and all its genial influences, upon the earth; but men must avail themselves of these influences, and by the plough, and by the seed, and by the ready hand of tillage, prepare the harvests that they are to reap. And so, in the New Testament, there are authoritatively established principles of love and justice, which, if practised, would evolve the world's harmony. And it is our business, each in his own place, and with reference to the age in which he lives, to apply these principles, and to change the face of society, and the administration of affairs in the world. This was the reason why our Saviour did not undertake that which He was asked to do.
2. But, in the case in hand, although there might be a matter of great injustice in the partition of the estate, the elder and stronger and shrewder, perhaps, getting advantage of the younger, and defrauding him; yet it was quite possible that both of these brothers might be alike under the influence of corroding and hateful avarice. A man may demand his dues with a spirit just as selfish as that which withholds them. A man may be just as selfish in seeking his rights as another man is in withholding them from him. Both the despot and his victim — the evil-doer and the evil-sufferer — may be in a like selfishness, in a common bitterness, and in a common guilt. Human life is full of such cases and scenes. Every day, men that are hard, coarse, selfish, avaricious, envious, contentious, are striving together, and in full conflict, each sometimes wronged and sometimes wronging; but either way, and always, actor or recipient, of a worldly spirit, of a corrupt nature, of an intense selfishness, of a despotic pride, unjust and unlovely. While Christ refused, then, to assume the office of civil justice, or to interfere even by advice, He gave to both of these men, and to all upon that occasion, the instruction which the motive of the petitioner seemed to suggest.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.