is a famous passage of Scripture, and therefore worthy of our attention for
that alone. It is also a passage of Scripture which is seldom the subject of a
sermon, at least today.
Luk 16:19-31 NIV
"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived
in luxury every day. (20) At his gate was
laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores (21)
and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and
licked his sores. (22) "The time came
when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man
also died and was buried. (23) In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and
saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. (24)
So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip
the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in
this fire.' (25) "But Abraham replied,
'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while
Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in
agony. (26) And besides all this, between us
and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to
you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.' (27) "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father,
send Lazarus to my father's house, (28) for I
have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this
place of torment.' (29) "Abraham
replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' (30) " 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if
someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' (31) "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the
Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'
riches are a curse, smite me!” (Tevye, in Fiddler on the Roof). That
might just be the attitude of most American Christians. In this lesson,
however, we shall see
perils of wealth
suffering perfects the saint
stewardship is the key concept in handling wealth.
know little about Lazarus except that after his death he went to heaven. But
we can infer something of his character from that.
defeated in poverty
are two sins which come to mind as afflicting this poor beggar. We can
sympathize with them, but we must recognize them for what they are: sin.
first is envy. Why should the rich man have so much, be so flourishingly
abundant, while I sit here begging at his gate? It sounds like asking for
justice. It’s really whining about what I don’t have rather than what he
(the rich man) does have.
is the second. It is a sore temptation to blame God for your troubles,
and accuse him of being unjust to you.
– a source of strength
has two characteristics: it’s painful, and it gets you into better shape.
Affliction has the same effect spiritually. What kind of affliction, other
than medical, did our Lazarus endure?
had to deal with Judgmentalism. “Everybody knows” that he must have done
something to deserve this; the question is simply, what?
had to deal with slander. He is in no position to defend himself in
social circles – but slander he must have had. How else do you think that
all the people going to all those parties must have justified ignoring
is a common thought in ancient Christianity that Lazarus was being chastised by
God. Sounds like punishment, right? They didn’t see it that way.
saw chastisement as evidence that God loves you. Lazarus was being
chastised so that he might become a stronger saint.
way this works: this is an opportunity for self-examination. Something
which is commanded at communion, in such a hurry.
obliges the Christian to seek consolation from God, to hide in the shadow
of his wings.
à Kempis put it this way:
IT IS good for us to have trials and
troubles at times, for they often remind us that we are on probation and ought
not to hope in any worldly thing. It is good for us sometimes to suffer
contradiction, to be misjudged by men even though we do well and mean well.
These things help us to be humble and shield us from vainglory. When to all
outward appearances men give us no credit, when they do not think well of us,
then we are more inclined to seek God Who sees our hearts. Therefore, a man
ought to root himself so firmly in God that he will not need the consolations
When a man of good will is afflicted,
tempted, and tormented by evil thoughts, he realizes clearly that his greatest
need is God, without Whom he can do no good. Saddened by his miseries and sufferings,
he laments and prays. He wearies of living longer and wishes for death that he
might be dissolved and be with Christ. Then he understands fully that perfect
security and complete peace cannot be found on earth.
rich man and Lazarus
may observe three important questions here:
did the rich man see Lazarus at all? First, because the story is for our
benefit, and we need to understand hell as torment, not just a “Christless
eternity,” as the modern phrase has it. Next, it is a form of punishment
for the rich man to see Lazarus in heaven, knowing who made it to
Abraham’s bosom – and who didn’t.
did the rich man call out to Abraham? After all, he knew Lazarus,
somewhat. For Abraham he might need a name tag. Perhaps it was because
he considered himself a child of Abraham. But I think it more likely was
this: he was ashamed to talk to Lazarus directly. Projecting his own
motives into Lazarus, talking to him would bring a sneering rebuke. He
may have felt that Abraham would have persuaded Lazarus to do as he asked.
did he see Abraham? Why not Moses, or other figure? Perhaps it was
simply that God wanted to see before him a man whose hospitality was well
known through the Scriptures – and that even one so exalted as Abraham
could do nothing to ease his suffering.
did he do to deserve this?
take it for granted that the rich man got what he deserved. But it is useful
to us to expand upon that question and ask, how did this happen?
was an unfortunate lack of misery and suffering in the rich man’s life.
He lived in luxury, and luxury breeds forgetfulness.
sins were those of omission. He might try to justify himself by his
contributions to charity, perhaps – but he’s in hell for what he didn’t
key characteristic that is likely enough: he had no sense of thankfulness
in his life.
last is important. If you ask those who tithe why they do so, you usually get
an answer that starts with shuffling a foot and ends with, “well, God has been
so good to us…” The thankful heart opens the eyes.
just what should this guy have done?
begin with, we need to understand what we mean by “wealth.” There are two
is “richer than …” Wealth is a competitive sport. I must keep up; I need
a new boat. In this definition, no one is ever wealthy. But just a
little bit more…
other results from comparison – my needs vs. my resources. If my
resources exceed my needs, I am rich.
the second one as a Christian should, most of us are rich. That is to say, we
have been accorded by God a surplus of material things – and as you would
expect, if he gives you the tools, he gives you the job. Stewardship – the
rich man’s true answer to wealth – means accepting responsibility of using all
your wealth in God’s way.
it is then that we get commands like this:
1Ti 6:17-19 NIV
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put
their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who
richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (18)
Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and
willing to share. (19) In this way they will
lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that
they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
the last word in verse 17).
rich man is not in a particularly good negotiating position. In fact, it
sounds like he’s begging. But we may see within some other facts.
of my tongue
note again that he petitions Abraham. His life has been one of wheeling and
dealing, and he doesn’t want to ask the underling – especially one as low as a
simply tells him that he has received “your good things.” That has a couple of
means here that these are things you have earned (clear in the Greek.)
You earned them, you could use them how you please.
should also note that they are “good things.” It is not a case of the
rich man’s desire for evil, but his placing his desire for good things
request is impossible to fill, for there is a “great gulf fixed” (KJV) over
which no man can pass. This then provokes the second request.
rich man first asks on behalf of number one, himself. That failing, he turns
to his family. Surely his brothers would repent if Lazarus walked in the door,
right? So he asks Abraham (again) to send Lazarus back to the world of the
living, with the message.
tells him that this is not necessary; they have the Scriptures. What more
evidence do they need? He puts the matter to the extreme: even if someone
came back from the dead, they would still not believe. This point is about to
be proven in a most practical manner.
need to ask the hard questions:
you were Lazarus. Could you
aside envy and blasphemy and accept your lot in life?
you accept this affliction as being from God, and thus for your benefit?
you were the rich man. Could you
past your own wealth and use it to be generous?
you accept the roadside beggar as your brother; then be generous to him,
expecting nothing in return except the favor of God?