Summary: We must learn to see as Christ sees
One question I often get is this. They’ll say, “I want to understand the Bible.” As a good engineer, of course, I’m usually trying to figure out what the question means, and so I ask myself, what do they mean? “What precisely is it about the Bible that you want to know?” Do you want a simple history lesson? Do you want to know how to have eternal life? Do you want to know how to liver life here more abundantly? The Bible answers so many life questions; I often don’t know how to start.
But, if you want to know, what is that the Bible is trying to accomplish – what the plan for your life and growth is, this is a good place to start. You see, in this story we just read, Jesus is going to tell you what the plan is – where it is you need to go. What you need to do to grow. In its own way, this story is going to give us an ‘roadmap of faith’ that takes us from where we are to where it is that he wants us to be.
This is a story a lot of people know, and its one that should make us all a little bit uncomfortable. After all, the inescapable point is pretty simple – Real riches consist not of what we have but in who we are. There are several teachings like this – the Rich Young Ruler, ‘You cannot serve God & wealth,’ even some of the stuff we read in the responsive reading, that should make any American, who by definition, lives in the richest country in the world, feel just a little bit nervous. This message is not one that is going to tell you how to be healthy or wealthy – just wise.
This morning, I want to suggest that the outline of this story is the same outline of the journey that all of us must make – a journey of learning how to see and what that means for each us. If you have your Bibles, I want to point out three easy sections of this story that mirror own journeys.
If you look at verses 19 – 22, I’d suggest this is where each and every one us starts. Here, you’ve got a rich man who is blind. While we may not all be rich, we’ve all been blind. Simply put, he doesn’t see, he doesn’t believe. He lives his life not badly, just blindly. But in verse 23, you’ll see that he, like everybody is going to have a moment when he learns to see. See what it says here? In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.
That’s going to be the crux of the story – he learned to see. And once it is you learn to see, you can never be the same. It is going to change you. In verses 27-31, you see the natural result of seeing – believing.
So briefly we’re going to look at these three stages: (1) Not Seeing, Not Believing, (2) Seeing, (3) Believing. This week, we’re going to look at the first two, and next week we’ll look at number three.
Not Seeing, Not Believing
But, I want to start by just making one point about the set up of this story, and the point is this. This rich guy? He isn’t evil – he’s just blind. I’d argue that any grown-up assessment of life is that there are very few people in this world who actively try to be evil – in reality, they’re just blind. Very few hunters set out to shoot their friends; they just mistake them for quail, vice-presidents or not.
If you’ve ever watched kid’s shows as a grownup, you’ve seen this. Kid’s stories often seem flat and one-dimensional. They have one guy who is the perfect white-hat hero battling the evil black-hat villain. The villain wants to do bad things, just to be bad. He’s hard to relate to, because frankly, I don’t know anybody like that.
As we get older, our villains tend to turn into the ‘misguided’ type. These become a little more realistic because we can understand that motivation. If you ask a bank robber, “Why do you rob banks?,” I suspect his answer would be, “Because I need the money.” It isn’t some nefarious plot to take over the world; it’s just an attempt to survive and do well. But you have to ask yourself, survive and do well in what context? It’s an understandable motivation – but it is one that is blind to the fact that it’s not fair.
In the movies, you often see Sunday Schools where the teachers are telling flat, uninteresting stories that seem to have no relationship to “real life.” I don’t know where they get that, because frankly real Bible stories are pretty complex things. You have to dumb down a Bible story pretty badly to make it seem irrelevant.