As Jesus approaches Jerusalem and the cross, he continues to say much about the poor.
16 ‘The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. 17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.
18 ‘Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
19 ‘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 Hades, 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 set in place, 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 family, 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.”’
We see more clearly God’s heart for the poor. This story is no exception. In this Grow Daily I want to focus on the rich man and his destiny.
It’s noteworthy that the rich man is not given a name, but the poor man is. To me it indicates that Lazarus was known and loved by God. This rich man was rich indeed! He dressed in purple and fine linen – an indication of his wealth and he lived in luxury every day we are told. We are not told how he became rich – whether or not he inherited it or whether he worked hard for his money. It doesn’t seem relevant to the story Jesus tells. Lazarus lived beside his gate and he probably raided the equivalent of his dumpster for his daily food.
Life deals each of us a different set of cards. Some become rich through hard work and timely opportunities while others inherit their wealth. Some find themselves in poverty all their lives through no fault of their own while others remain in poverty through their own folly.
The other notable aspect of this story is its indication of a destiny for each of us after death. In this story Lazarus is destined to Abraham’s side – an expression to indicate his destiny is with God in heaven. But the rich man’s destiny is apart from God, in Hades, in agony and there is a chasm between the two places, and one cannot move from one place to the other.
There are some obvious questions that this passage throws up about our own destiny whether we end up in heaven or hell – with God or apart from him. One is ‘Did the rich man go to hell because he was rich?’ Other parts of the New Testament drive home the truth that it is trust in Jesus’ perfect substitutionary sacrifice of the cross in our place that gets us to heaven and not the cards of richness or poverty – or somewhere in between – that determines our destiny.
New Testament letter writer James sheds light on what Jesus is emphasising in this story. James says that if a brother or sister is going without daily food and all you say is keep warm and well fed and do nothing about it then you are demonstrating that you have no real saving faith despite what you might claim to the contrary. To the rich who have failed to properly treat their workers or who have ignored the poor amongst them he indicates that God hears their cries and that their corroded wealth will testify against them and eat their flesh alive! Now that’s not a very nice picture.
How we treat the poor in our life indicates the genuineness of our true faith. James also said that faith without works is dead! This passage is a dire warning that each of us claiming faith in Jesus need to heed.
Head: Think about where the poor are located in your world. Those in your church, in your neighbourhood, in your city, in distant parts of the world.
Heart: How closely is your heart aligned with Jesus’ when it comes to his love for the poor?
Hands: What can you do this week to better notice the poor in your world and increase your support for them?
Dear Father in Heaven, this story Jesus told makes us uncomfortable because it shines a light on our hearts and how we treat people poorer than ourselves. Help us with your Holy Spirit to examine our hearts and to make changes so we might better reflect your love for all people especially people like Lazarus.
A song to listen to: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us
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