Listening to the Word of God is all it takes.
Luke 16:16-31 – Focus on verses 29 – 31
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.”’
‘You did not listen to me.’
I am guilty of being on the receiving end of this sentence more times than I would like to admit. My son will say ‘But Mum, I did tell you that I had to be at school 45min earlier today’ or my husband will say ‘I did tell you that that bill was due yesterday.’ When this happens, I feel a bit perplexed, was I so self-absorbed that I did not to really hear them or take their words to heart and action them in my brain.
We can hear things but not really hear them, not really believe them and not change our thoughts or actions in response.
The Rich man in the story was self-absorbed. During his life he had neither taken notice of those around him nor listened to the words of Moses and the Prophets (The writings of Moses are the first five books of the Bible and the prophets are the remainder of the Old Testament). He finally, in death, gets to the point where he realises his folly and wants to warn his brothers.
What will make his brothers change their ways? What will make his brothers less self-absorbed in their own lives? What will make his brothers, in his words, repent?
Abraham states that they already have all they need – the word of God. The rich man does not agree, his idea to get their attention is a visit from a dead man, Lazarus. Abraham’s words following that are very sobering, he basically says that if listening to the words in the Bible does not convince you nothing will.
There are many lessons from Jesus in this parable but in verse 31 Jesus is telling us about the power of the words written for us and the importance of listening to them.
We can engage with the Bible in various way. We can outright reject it but of those of us that don’t, some of us are so absorbed in our own lives that there is no time to listen to the words at all. Others of us, are at church each week listening to the stories but like the rich man, who probably went to the temple each week, the words wash over us and don’t really change our thoughts or actions – our lives continue on our own ‘self-absorbed’ path. The ultimate is to really listen, really hear and absorb the words into our hearts and lives. This will change our thoughts and actions and will set us on a path home to God.
Head: Are you surprised by what Jesus is telling the crowd, namely that really listening to the words of the Bible will have more impact than being visited by the ghost of someone who has died.
Heart: If you were one of the brothers right now consider what you would like your listening skills to be like.
Hands: With the word of God, we first have to give our eyes or ears time to see or hear the word and secondly we have to make an effort to take our ‘listening’ to the level where we truly are ‘hearing’ what is says.
This is a very provoking parable and none of us want to be in the place of the rich man. Please open our eyes and show us the Lazaruses around us in our own lives. Please help us make time to be exposed to the words you have written for us. Help us reject our own excuses of why we can’t make time. When we hear or read your word help the truths not just wash over us but rather touch us deeply so that we really believe and change our thoughts and actions in response. We thank you for giving us the Word and for making a way through Jesus for us to find a way home.
A song to listen to: Your Word
Living Church Creek Road