Summary: While there are many decisions that occupy our mind, many of these are decisions with temporary results. There are other decisions that are too often given lesser attention that have permanent, eternal results.
Those who play chess know that decisions made early in the game may very well have an irreversible effect on the outcome of the game. Decisions have lasting results. Too often those who make a decision to sample some drugs at the urging of another over time become addicted to drugs. Decisions have lasting results. Of course not all decisions in life fall under the category of serious lasting consequences. Should I wear a white shirt or a blue shirt? My decision most likely will not make a really significant difference in my life. But many decisions we make are of serious significance. The sad truth is that many people give more attention to the rather mundane decisions of life than those decisions that have very serious lasting results.
Today we begin a series for this month of February entitled, Decisions, Decisions. As we continue in the Gospel as recorded by Luke we will be seeing the importance of decisions in life. Those who came into contact with Jesus most often made a decision concerning Him. Today, when people are brought into contact with Jesus through God’s word, through the Gospel, they too come to a decision point concerning Him. This is a decision of extreme importance.
Jesus frequently taught by use of story – or parable. A parable has been defined as an “earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” Some say the story Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus was not a parable but a true story. They point out that Jesus gave the poor man a name which was not something Jesus did in His parables. Whether this is a parable or a true story, the teaching is the same. The name Lazarus was the Greek version of the Hebrew name Eleazar which means “whom God has helped.” It may be that Jesus gave this name intentionally so those hearing Him talk, especially the Pharisees whom we are told in verse 14, “ . . . were lovers of money.” Not only the Pharisees, but others as well, thought that earthly wealth was a sign of God’s love and blessing for certain people. Those who thought this way also believed that those who were poor were not pleasing to God or were being punished by God. Lazarus died extremely poor while the rich man died extremely wealthy. We learn that neither earthly wealth nor poverty is permanent.
Jesus tells His followers while the Pharisees were also listening . . .
19 "Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day.
20 "And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores,
21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.
22 "Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.
23 "In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 "And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.'
25 "But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.
26 'And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.'
Let’s pause in the story at this point and give some attention to . . .
I. Earthly Wealth Is Not Permanent
Jesus taught this truth in other places. You remember the parable of the rich farmer who thought he was in good condition forever because he had such great wealth. We learn how temporary that wealth was for him as Jesus told that the rich farmer died and all that wealth would belong to another. Why did Jesus need to point this out to His hearers? There were those in the crowd, and there are those today, who think personal wealth indicates God’s favor with a person and poverty a lack of His favor. The truth is there are those who are rich and there are those who are poor are living within God’s will. There are those who are rich and those who are poor who are living contrary to God’s will. How we use our wealth, our material blessings, is more an evidence of our relationship with the Lord than simply having wealth.