O GOD, the strength of all those who put their trust in thee; Mercifully accept our prayers; and because, through the weakness of our mortal nature, we can do no good thing without thee, grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments we may please thee, both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. 27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” (Luke 16:19-31)
There is an illustration that fits well with today’s text which I will share from one of my references. There once was a very wealthy woman, Mrs. Morgan, who lived in a luxurious mansion with servants to satisfy her every desire. She never missed a Sunday of church, and was highly favored and respected in social circles. Though she gave a respectable offering each attendance at church, she never troubled herself to go further in directly assisting the poor of Christ in the community. She had a faithful and devout servant woman whose age was beyond that at which she should be doing grueling household chores such as she did for Mrs. Morgan. But no matter the diligence with which she pursued her daily duties, it never seemed good enough for the lady of the house. One day, both women were tragically killed in a fire at the mansion. Both, surprisingly, went to heaven. When the wealthy lady approached St. Peter at the gate, he greeted her with a big smile and a surprised look.
“We are happy to see you, but are surprised that you came.” “Never mind that, St. Peter, how about showing me my quarters.” St. Peter helped her into the Angel-mobile and started off.
As they rode that approached a magnificent mansion overlooking a beautiful lake. “Oh, that must be my mansion,” Mrs. Morgan exclaimed. “No, that mansion belongs your old servant who labored so hard for you and her fellow human beings,” answered St. Peter. As they continued riding, the neighborhood became less elaborate, but Mrs. Morgan supposed that it was only in preparation for her most beautiful of all mansions that would dwarf that of her servant. Suddenly, the Angel-mobile slowed and turned into a cramped driveway which led to a little two-room bungalow. “Who lives here?” asked Mrs. Morgan. “O, this is your place” said St. Peter.
“But’ blurted out Mrs. Morgan, “I had a beautiful mansion on earth, and my servant was always poor and lived as a peasant. Why should I receive a home of so much lesser worth than her?” St. Peter responded, “You see Mrs. Morgan, the Lord built you the nicest home He could put together of those things you sent up to Him.”
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matt 6:19-21 (KJV)
Before we look more closely at this great parable of Jesus, we must understand that Christ never uses a parable of things physical or spiritual whose principle is not consistent with the truth. This story of the rich man and Lazarus may be just as actual as it is figurative. God’s principles never change and neither does His truth.
We should not have our opinions misdirected at the rich man’s elaborate wealth. That was not his sin. His sin lay in how he viewed his wealth and horded it from caring for the “least of these my brethren.” So far as we are told, the rich man was not a violet man, nor a thief, nor an adulterer. In fact, he probably was a fairly pious man at keeping the WRITTEN Commandments of God. But those were not written in the soft sinews of his heart. Remember the General Confession? There are two classes of sin that are confessed: 1) “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done”; And 2) “we have done those things which we ought not to have done.”
The parable addresses the issues of the hereafter in stark illustration of Paradise and Hell. There are those whose wealth dim their eyes to mercy and compassion, and encrypt their hearts in greed and malice. There are, on the other hand, those who would prefer to give whatever material possession they have if it will render a greater good in improving the life of that one standing nearby. Because their hearts are not centered on the material, their souls are fixed on goodness and mercy. Christ does not mean to teach that there is evil in riches, but in the way that we may covet such wealth. There is no honor is being desperately poor, either, but the circumstances of life may render any of us unable to provide for ourselves and impoverished by misfortune. When poor men, such as Lazarus, are made to beg by the gates of the wealthy, this condition is an illustration of the sin in the sin that lies covered in the purple garments of the wealthy who refuse to share their excess with those who are so deprived even of food to eat.
It should be noted that God does not always provide material reward to His righteous in this world. The tables are often turned so that the wealthy are the wicked, and the poor, the righteous. It does not necessarily need to be so, but often is. Even a very righteous man may be corrupted when he comes into great wealth. He may forget the estate from which he has come, and dwell only on the improvement of his finances.
We must not misapply Scriptural counsel regarding money: it is not money itself that is evil, but the love thereof. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Tim 6:10) If God rewards you will a million dollars in your account, the mere possession of so much money does not make you a bad person. The manner in which you use the money for good is a measure of your virtue.
The deference which Christ shows to the poor man in giving him a Godly name, Lazarus, or Eleazar, is notable. The name means, God is MY Help. We have churches in the AOC in parts of the world in which every member depends upon God alone for the next morsel of food they consume. This Holy name imputes a righteous character to the poor man.
But what of the rich man? He is given no name at all. Why do you suppose this is so? Because if our names are not written in the Book of Life, then they are not written at all. In fact, there are no names in Hell. Why would you need a name there?
19There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day This man was filled with himself and cared not a whit for those around him. He had much more than he needed, yet was unwilling to share a morsel from his well-stocked pantry to a poor man diseased and dying. The love of wealth petrifies the heart and closes its gates of mercy. Christ only refers to this man as a “rich man.” He has no redeeming qualities that recommend him to God.
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores You may wonder why Lazarus is a beggar? Could it be a result of his complete helplessness due to disease. He could not help himself – he had to be helped. Someone must help those around us who are unable, due to tragic circumstances, to help themselves. Before the advent of utopian and socialistic philosophy, the Church and Community were the source of help – and still should be.
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. He desired no great thing – only to be fed the crumbs from the rich man’s table. These the rich man did not need, but it is doubtful that the rich man cared enough to give them to Lazarus. Even though men of means showered no mercy on their own kind, at least the dogs lived up to their reputation of loyalty. The dogs comforted Lazarus – not with food which they had not – but with compassion and love. Are we better than dogs?
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried How casually does the LORD make reference to that grave which awaits every beloved reader of this devotion. It shall come to pass that each of us shall die. Then what?
You will observe a great difference in the disposition of Lazarus after death, and that of the rich man after death. Christ says of the beggar (he) was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom Truly the destination of all righteous souls. Abraham is father, not only to the Hebrews, but all who believe in the Promised Seed – Jesus Christ! What a royal sendoff did Lazarus receive. Though a poor, sick beggar, he was honored with the dignity of being carried by the angels to Abraham’s Bosom. Angels are important heavenly dignitaries, but not so dignified as to ignore any soul that dies in Christ.
How does the honor paid Lazarus differ from the disposition of the Rich Man’s body? The rich man also died, and was buried. He was placed, not in the Bosom of Abraham, but in the depth of the earth – his eternal home, or ultimately, Hell. Instead of the angels carrying him to Abraham’s Bosom, the rich man lies in the cursed soil of the world. Quite well do the final words of a poem by Sir Walter Scott summarize the matter:
“For him no minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonored , and unsung.”
But Scott’s words do not fully reveal the extent of the tragedy of such a lifestyle – the fires of Hell await such a one the very moment his eyes are blinded by death.
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Christ does not leave the reality of hell open for question, but states the fact outright. There are fires in Hel, and torments as well. There are no medical stations there to relieve the pain for, in Hell, the character of its citizens rule – NO MERCY! The rich man can see Lazaraus “afar off” in the bosom of Abraham. Heaven is a far off place from Hell. But the wicked can see the delight of those in Heaven.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame The pride of wealth no longer dominates the rich man’s thinking. He takes no longer pride in his fine raiment for that was burned away the moment he was cast into Hell. The rich man begs for that which he had none of in life – MERCY! Lazarus is now rich, and the rich man a beggar. He begs for mercy to be delivered by the very finger of him to whom he granted no mercy. Hell is a hot dry place. The drought never ends there. It is interesting to note that there is no evidence that Lazarus is aware of the rich man’s condition in Hell. Such knowledge might dampen his joy in Heaven for he obviously was a man of compassion as opposed to the rich man. Hell is a place of torment. God sends no one to Hell – we send ourselves.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. We sometimes find men in conditions and circumstances from which we cannot extricate them, but we still should have what kindness we can have and show respectful regard. Observe with what sympathy Abraham addresses the rich man in Hell: He calls him “son!” It is possible that this man could have been a true son of Abraham as was Lazarus had he followed in that faith of Abraham in Christ. But he was more likely a son by hereditary descent and not spiritual. The temporary luxuries of riches born out of greed will avail nothing in Heaven. The pleasure is so temporary, and eternity so very long – endless in fact.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. We must recognize that the distance is so great between Heaven and Hell that none can pass to and from. No one has descended to Hell and returned to tell of it, and the same is true of Heaven regardless the cheap little books of commercial fodder marketed today. If you believe that you can visit Hell, you probably will do so for longer than you wish.
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Even the wicked in Hell are aware of the lost condition of their loved ones. Does this give cause for pause? Those in Hell would do anything to save their loved ones (for the damned also love their own) from coming to such a place of hot torment.
. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. Have we, too, heard the voice of Moses from the beginning in Genesis? Have we heard and heeded the writings of the prophets and the Gsopel and Espitles that tell of Christ? If so, it is enough! We need no astounding signs to prove our faith else it is not faith. An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matt 12:39-40) Is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior enough for you, or do you seek cleverly designed signs of men?
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. Really? Christ rose from the dead and the obstinate, faithlees Jewish rulers still hated Him. Faith is based in hope and love, not sure evidence.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. If our faith is not founded on God’s Word, no other considerations are important. We believe because God’s Love is reflected to our hearts in the hope and reality revealed by Scripture. If our hearts are made of lead, the iron Magnet will not attract it. There must be a kinship (even if distant) in the heart that responds to the Call of God. Do you have that kinship?