THE UNRIGHTEOUS MAMMON
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, October 13, 1991
“I say to you, make friends for yourselves of the unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. If … you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:9,11)
Divine revelation has, through all ages, been accommodated to the state of the people to whom it was given. The Writings reveal that the Jews of the Lord’s time were not capable of receiving interior truths, so the Lord told them parables which served as examples which they could follow. An example of this is the parable of the Good Samaritan. A lawyer asked the Lord who his neighbor was. In answer to this query the Lord told this parable, and concluded by asking him: “Which of these three, do you think, was neighbor to him who fell among thieves?” The lawyer answered: “He who showed mercy on him.” To this the Lord replied: “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:36,37).
Parables, in the letter, appear to be little more than example stories, but they contain Divine truths within them in every particular, for the Lord spoke in correspondences. They contain an internal sense that treats, inmostly, of the Lord’s glorification, next of the progressive states of man’s regeneration, and finally of the successive states of the Lord’s church on earth. In our sermon this morning we shall consider this parable as it relates to man’s regeneration.
The Writings tell us that everyone derives from parents the tendency to love self and the world above everything else. Because this nature is impressed on us from birth, we tend to lapse into the evils which come naturally to us from our heredity. To the extent that we indulge these evil affections, the evil becomes, as it were, ingrafted in our nature. Such evils are altogether contrary to spiritual life and are destructive of it.
Everyone has an internal and external mind, and it is in the external that these hereditary tendencies reside. The internal mind, on the other hand, is created according to order. Thus “man’s external things have been formed according to the image of the world, and his internal things according to the image of heaven” (AC 9279:2).
Because the internal mind is created according to order, we have influx from the Lord through the internal into the external, and therefore the internal can have a perception of the state of the external, “for that which is in the external can be seen from the internal” (AC 10468). It is this relationship between the internal and external minds that makes self-examination possible, and therefore also regeneration. For unless we were able to see from the internal the evils residing in the external, we could have no desire to turn away from, resist, or fight against these evils. Regeneration, then, would be impossible.
In the parable it is said that a certain rich man had a steward who had been accused “of wasting his goods.” He called him, and said to him: “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you may no longer be steward.”
The Writings tell us that by a “steward” in the Word is meant the unregenerate external of man. This is called a steward because it has nothing that is really its own; it merely administers the things of the internal of man (see AC 1795). We note that the steward was accused of wasting his master’s goods. That is, the unregenerate external of man wastes the goods which the internal receives by influx from the Lord, who is represented in the parable by the rich man. He is called a “rich man” because spiritual riches are goods and truths, and all goods and truths are the Lord’s.
We see from this that the internal, which is created in the order of heaven and abounds in goods and truths, perceives that the external, born into the loves and pleasures of the world and the cupidities of the body, has been squandering, that is, misusing the goods and truths which inflow from the Lord. The rich man then demands of the steward an account of his stewardship. Since the rich man represents what is the Lord’s in the internal of man, and the steward the external, this indicates self-examination from interior truth, which is from the Lord in the internal. We read: “The interior man can see, as from a higher position, what is going on in the exterior, . . . and . . . the interior . . . has the capacity and ability of chastening the exterior” (AC 5127:2). Note that the master threatens his steward with banishment for having squandered his wealth.
When interior truths from the Word, which reside in the interiors, shed their light on the external, they reveal corrupt loves there. A person then becomes aware of evil lovesthe inordinate love of pleasure, selfish ambition, contempt for others, the evils of deceit and self-justification; and perceiving his unworthiness, and fearful of impending damnation, the person seeks for ways to avert spiritual disaster. The steward said within himself: “What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me; I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg.”
The phrase “I cannot dig” means that the external, in this state of perception, realizes that of himself he is incapable of acquiring truths. The phrase “I am ashamed to beg” means that although he realizes that he cannot acquire truths of himself, still he cannot rely on receiving truths without doing something to acquire them. He must acquire them as of himself.
The steward then devised a plan whereby to assure himself of future employment. He called his master’s debtors to him and inquired as to the amount of their debts to his master. We note that there were two debtors, one owing a hundred measures of oil and the other a hundred measures of wheat.
The two debtors represent the human will and understanding, which owe their existence to the Lord. It is from influx from the Lord through the interiors that man has the faculties of willing and understanding. The Writings tell us that oil corresponds to the good of love to the Lord and to the neighbor. Wheat corresponds to the truths of the church and the wisdom derived from them. A hundred corresponds to what is full and complete. The one debtor’s owing a hundred measures of oil and the other of wheat mean that the hereditary will is totally lacking in good of its own, and the understanding is totally lacking in truth of its own. What they have they owe to the Lord (see AC 977). They are debtors.
The steward then told the debtor who owed the oil to write out a bill for fifty. Fifty in the internal sense also signifies what is full. We read: “In the Lord’s parable of the steward, who said to him who owed the oil . . . ‘Take the bond and sit down quickly, and write fifty’; ‘fifty’ denotes full payment” (AC 2252:5).
Since both a hundred and also fifty signify what is full and complete, we see that even though the will is lacking in anything of the good of love, still the Lord, in His mercy, will accept as full payment any sincere effort that the will may make to do good. The Lord does not demand full payment because we can never return to the Lord all that we receive from Himthe will can never become perfect.
This is evident from the teaching that man “can never be so regenerated that he can in any way be said to be perfect; for there are things to be regenerated that are innumerable” (AC 5122:3). Since this is the case, the Lord accepts as full payment any effort that we make to regenerate.
But the debtor who owed the wheat was told to write his bill for eighty. The number eighty, which is a multiple of forty, signifies temptation (see AC 1936, 4617). The reason the debtor representing the understanding was told to write his bill for eighty measures of wheat is that the understanding cannot be regenerated without undergoing spiritual trials. The Writings teach that “temptations take place to the end that man may be confirmed in truths against falsities” (AC 2272). When a person is undergoing spiritual trials, the delights of evil come to a cessation. The effect of this on the person who is enduring the trial is that he has new thoughtsthoughts of a nature contrary to what he had beforethoughts to which one may afterwards be bent by the Lord.
The master of the steward then commended him on his cunning action, that is, the internal of man perceives that the external acted prudently when it saw its impending ruin. Therefore the Lord said: “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” Here, “the children of this world” mean the things of the external mind of man. They are referred to as “children of this world” because the external is, by birth, an image of the world. Its being wiser than the children of light means that, motivated by self-love, the external of man in an unregenerate state acts more prudently than it would if it was motivated by genuine love for the neighbor.
More interiorly, this means that the Lord uses our love of selfour love of honor and self-advancement, with its accompanying prudenceto lead us from what is lower to what is higher. Therefore, the Lord said: “If you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?”
Considered only as to its literal sense, this parable is perplexing. It seems that the Lord is not only condoning evil, but even commending it by encouraging us to follow the example of the unjust and crafty steward. But when we see its interior meaning, then we see the Lord’s mercy in regenerating us. We see how, in providence, He leads us from evil to good, step by step, providing us with delights in every stage of our progress. We must make use of these external delights even though they are not genuinely good if we are to prepare ourselves for the reception of genuine good and truth.
The unrighteous mammon are the knowledges of truth and good which exist with evil and external people. With such they become falsities, because applied to evil, “but as they continue to be knowledges . . . they are serviceable to use with the good by application to what is good” (AE 700:17).
These knowledges, called the unrighteous mammon, are referred to in the Writings as “mediate goods,” which are said to be absolutely essential as a means in the regenerative process. This process involves a complete reversal of man’s nature.
We read: “Seeing . . . that man’s state of life has to be so greatly changed, it must need be that he is kept in a kind of mediate good, that is, in a good which partakes both of the affections of the world and of the affection of heaven; and unless he is kept in this mediate good, he in no wise admits heavenly goods and truths” (AC 4063:3, emphasis added).
The truths which we first learn are not genuine truths but appear as truths, and serve to introduce us into genuine goods and truths. When genuine goods and truths have been insinuated by means of these, they are separated or dismissed, and the genuine goods and truths are retained (see AC 3974).
In the process of regeneration there is always a gradual progression from what is lower to what is higher, or from what is outmost to what is inmost. If our lives were suddenly changed, so that from being evil we became good, we would be deprived of all our delights. We would be as if dead, for it is in delights our lives consist.
For example: Parents and teachers must frequently appeal to a child’s pride or love of reputation in order to induce the child to do better work. They cannot, realistically, appeal to the child’s love of use, for as yet it does not exist. An employer appeals to a young employee’s ambition and love of self-advancement to encourage greater effort. Again he cannot appeal to the person’s love of use and of the neighbor, for as yet the person has very little of such love, and so it would not prove a sufficiently strong motive to produce the kind of effort desired. The delights which are appealed to are not good in themselves, but by means of them a person may be led to greater effort, and eventually may be led by the Lord to feel delight in that which is genuinely good, true and useful.
Although “mediate goods,” or unrighteous mammon, in the Lord’s merciful providence, serve as a means of regeneration, we must be careful only to make friends of them, that is, use them. We must not become slaves to such delights. The Lord solemnly warns us against this, saying: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13).
If we make use of natural appetites, affections and delights as a means of attaining genuine delights from the Lord, that is to say, if we are faithful in the unrighteous mammon, we will be entrusted with the true riches, that when we leave this world, we will be received into everlasting habitations. Amen.
Lessons: Matt. 25:14-30, Luke 16:1-13, AC 4063:2-5
Arcana Coelestia 4063:2-5
How the case is with the good signified by “Laban” relatively to the good of truth represented by Jacob may be seen from what has been stated and shown in the foregoing chapter. This may be further illustrated by the states of man’s regeneration, which in the representative sense is also here treated of. When a man is being regenerated, he is kept by the Lord in a kind of mediate good. This good serves for introducing genuine goods and truths, but after these have been introduced, it is separated from them. Everyone who has learned anything about regeneration and about the new man can understand that the new man is altogether different from the old; for the new man is in the affection of spiritual and heavenly things, and these produce its delights and pleasantnesses, whereas the old man is in the affections of worldly and earthly things, and these produce its delights and pleasantnesses; consequently the new man has regard to ends in heaven, but the old man to ends in the world. From this it is manifest that the new man is altogether different and diverse from the old.
In order that a man may be brought from the state of the old man into that of the new, the concupiscences of the world must be put off, and the affections of heaven must be put on. This is effected by innumerable means, which are known to the Lord alone, and many of which have also been made known by the Lord to angels, but few if any to man. Nevertheless, all of them both in general and particular have been made manifest in the internal sense of the Word. When therefore a man from being the old man is made a new one (that is, when he is being regenerated), it is not done in a moment as some believe, but through a course of years; nay, during the man’s whole life, even to its end; for his concupiscences have to be extirpated and heavenly affections have to be insinuated; and the man has to be gifted with a life which he had not before, and of which indeed he knew scarcely anything. Seeing therefore that the man’s states of life have to be so greatly changed, it must needs be that he is long kept in a kind of mediate good, that is, in a good which partakes both of the affections of the world and of the affections of heaven; and unless he is kept in this mediate good, he in no wise admits heavenly goods and truths.
This mediate or middle good is what is signified by “Laban and his flock.” But man is kept in this middle good no longer than until it has served this use; but this having been served, it is separated. This separation is treated of in this chapter. That there is an intermediate good, and that it is separated after it has subserved its use, may be illustrated by the changes of state which every man undergoes from infancy even to old age. It is known that a man’s state is of one kind in infancy, of another in childhood, another in youth, another in adult age, and another in old age. It is also known that a man puts off his state of infancy with its toys when he passes into the state of youth; that he puts off his state of youth when he passes into the state of young manhood; and this again when he passes into the state of mature age; and at last this state when he passes into that of old age. And if one will consider, he may also know that every age has its delights, and that by these he is introduced by successive steps into those of the age next following; and that these delights had served the purpose of bringing him thereto; and finally to the delight of intelligence and wisdom in old age.
From all this it is manifest that former things are always left behind when a new state of life is put on. But this comparison can serve only to show that delights are means, and that these are left behind when the man enters into the state next following; whereas during man’s regeneration his state becomes altogether different from his former one, and he is led to it, not in any natural manner but by the Lord in a supernatural manner; nor does anyone arrive at this state except by the means or media of regeneration, which are provided by the Lord alone, and thus by the mediate good of which we have been speaking. And when the man has been brought to that state in which be has no longer worldly, earthly, and corporeal things as his end but those which are of heaven, then this mediate good is separated. To have anything as the end is to love it more than anything else.