The Rich Man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31

rich man and lazThis week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 16:19-31, a story Jesus told to address the concept of large wealth and its implications to salvation.

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.’

Question #1: What is Jesus warning us about? Jesus is warning us about the extreme danger of having a lot of wealth. Jesus is saying quite clearly in these verses that a life centered on money, possessions and personal comfort is not the plan he would have for our lives. He is saying indirectly that we will live in Hell for eternity if that is how we are. It is quite plain that if our lives are not devoted to Christ, that the place we will live in is called Hades, that it is fiery hot, full of torment and regret. The void between there and heaven is wide and there is no escape from it, no relief, not even a cool drop of water for our tongues. We don’t talk much about Hell in feel-good Americanized Christianity, but it is healthy to do so.

Question #2: What is Jesus encouraging us to do? To repent from a self-centered life and to follow what Moses and the Prophets taught us to do throughout scripture for thousands of years–that is, to follow God, love him only, and serve no others gods. If you read the entire Bible, you will see this theme hundreds of times, in virtually every book–from Genesis to Revelation, and in story upon story, prophecy upon prophecy, and teaching upon teaching. Or you will see the consequences illustrated when people fail to follow, love and serve Him–calamity and destruction, followed by repentance, obeying and blessing.

Question #3: Is this a warning only to wealthy people? I’ll answer this question with a few questions; you be the judge: Do we live in a comfort-, entertainment-, pleasure- and money-obsessed society? Do a majority of people want the best and nicest home, car, vacation, retirement, job, clothes, and church? Is the daily news dominated by stories about the economy, stock market, sports stars and celebrity multimillion dollar contracts? Are casinos and lotteries doing a bang up business? It isn’t just the small minority of very wealthy people in our country that are focused on these things, but it is also those that are not wealthy but are striving either to be wealthy or to have some of the trappings of wealth. Reflecting on this and the entirety of scripture, it seems that the warning is for everyone.

Question #3: If ‘scripture interprets scripture,’ are there other Bible verses where Jesus taught like this? These Bible verses provide conclusive evidence of the connection between wealth and salvation:

  • Matthew 6:19-21, Luke 12:33: not treasures on earth, but in heaven
  • Matthew 6:24: you can’t serve God and money
  • Mark 10:25: it’s easier for a camel to go through a needle than for the rich to enter heaven
  • Luke 12:15: be on guard against greed; life isn’t about material possessions
  • Luke 12:29-31: don’t set your heart on material possessions
  • Mark 10:17-31; Rich Man and the kingdom of God
  • Matthew 22:36-40: love God with all your heart, mind and soul

Question #4: Why is Jesus preoccupied with Money? The Bible contains: 500 verses on prayer and fewer than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,350 verses on money and possessions. Jesus talked about money a lot: more about money than Heaven and Hell combined, more than anything else except the Kingdom of God. Furthermore, Jesus is more preoccupied with us and the Kingdom of God. More than anything Jesus wants us to live with him for eternity, so much that he painfully died for us. He loves us and wants the best for us, both today and for eternity.  He knows what will make us really happy, and this is only He, both today and forever. These are his motivations for teaching us this stuff.

Question #5: What are valid questions to ask one’s self about this?  Introspection is always healthy for those considering Christ, or for those who follow him. Examine your own thoughts and beliefs about money, possessions, comfort, and retirement. Do you look to Jesus for hope, joy, happiness, fulfillment and comfort?  Are you happy, content and joyful or are you financially stressed? Is your heart set on Him, His Kingdom, and eternity, or on the things of this world? Are you serving yourself, money or Jesus as you arrange and plan your future? Are you generous with your time and money- giving a lot of it away? Only you and God know the answers to these questions and whether there is need for repentance. Jesus is always standing there with open arms to forgive us and to guide us on our walk with Him–the Good Shepherd.

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the forty-ninth post in this series.

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