Summary: The first of a two-part series on "The Rich Man and Lazarus," this is a salvation message that looks at the comfort of heaven in contrast to the agony of hell.
HOW DO YOU LIVE; HOW WILL YOU DIE?
To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, He must be number one in our lives. We’ve seen that emphasized so clearly these past several weeks in the teachings of Jesus found in this section of the Book of Luke. We first of all discovered that Jesus must be our first love; we cannot love anyone else more than we love Him and be His disciple. Last week saw that He is the owner of everything, we are only stewards or managers of His which resources He has entrusted to us including the money and material possessions He bestows on us for the meeting of our needs. Everything belongs to Him as the Creator; we are only caretakers of His property for the short time we are on this earth.
Our text builds on this previous teaching of Jesus. The One for whom you live your life today determines where you will spend eternity. How you live now determines what will happen to you when you die. This is clearly seen in the persons of Lazarus and the Rich Man.
Lazarus goes to heaven for eternity. Oftentimes in Church History the Rich Man has been called by the name of Dives, but neither Jesus nor Luke gave him that name. Dives is the Latin word for “Rich Man” which was the term used in the Latin Vulgate translation of the Greek text. The Medieval Church began to call him by that name. The Old African-American Spiritual “Poor Man Lazarus” sums up his live so appropriately:
“Rich Man Dives, he lives so well,
And when he died he went straight to hell.”
What do these two individuals teach us about heaven and hell?
In today’s society Lazarus would be a homeless person. The Scriptures call him a beggar, a word which describes someone who is absolutely poor and helpless. He was completely destitute. Having no food or shelter, he was totally impoverished. He had a “longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.” He “was covered with sores,” so he was in poor health. In the New Testament blind people and paralytics usually became beggars. Our text says that Lazarus “was laid at the Rich Man’s Gate” implying other people had to lay him at the gate of the rich man’s house each day; so there is a probability that he suffered from paralysis or was crippled in some way. Like Job in the Old Testament his body “was covered with sores,” and the only medical attention and sympathy he received was through the dogs which “came and licked his sores.”
The Rich Man provides a stark contrast to Lazarus. Verse 19 tells us he was “dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.” His home was The White House or Buckingham Palace. He lacked nothing. He had everything one could of “this world’s goods.” He was abundantly wealthy. He wore designer clothes from Claiborne, Cole Haan, Perry Ellis, Polo, and Calvin Klein. “Purple and fine linen” were the top lines of that day. In fact, purple was so expensive that only royalty could usually afford it.
This rich man had a serious problem. He had chosen the wrong priorities in life, and the only honest obituary that could be written for him in the end was just one sentence: “The rich man also died and was buried.” Maybe this is the same rich man Jesus earlier mentions in Luke 12:19-21:
“And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
This man was not prepared to die; he had stored up things for himself but was not rich toward God. He had lived for himself, for earthly wealth, fame, and fortune. As our lessons from the Psalms remind us: he had grown rich; the splendor of his house had increased; but he took nothing with him when he died. He “had riches without understanding.” He was
who did not make God his stronghold
but trusted in his great wealth
and grew strong by destroying other!” [--Psalm 52:7]
Lazarus was one he destroyed.
The name Lazarus is very significant. Remember it; it means, “God has helped,” and God helped him for all eternity. God was Lazarus’ stronghold; the rich man had trusted in his great riches; and that made the eternal difference. What happens when we die? The Bible is clear in both the Old and New Testaments. Ecclesiastes 12:7 affirms that when each of us dies: