Summary: Lessons to learn as we think about death and the rest of our lives - am I ready and are those around me ready? What will I do with the rest of my days?
Tuesday was All Saints Day and therefore this Sunday is All Saints Sunday. I don’t know if you realized it. I remember how it was in Poland – a national holiday – one of the big ones. Mostly people spend the day with relatives, walk in the cemetery, clean the graves of family members. Flowers and candles are lit and placed on the graves. Among Catholics, prayers are spoken for the dead.
What is the purpose of this day for us? The intention is to remember those who passed on before us – those who trusted in Christ and are therefore members of the heavenly host. We praise God for his mercy on their lives and thank him for those loved ones. It’s a time to look back but also a time to look to your own life – are you ready to face death?
Today’s story, told by Jesus, is about two men who did just that. They died and this story has several powerful lessons to teach us about both our present life and the life to come.
The first lesson we learn from this story is that every person is responsible to God for what he has been given. Luke 12:48b says “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required.”
Notice this rich man. Do we know how he became rich? Did he inherit his riches or maybe he worked hard all his life and used his talent of administration to make money. And what about Lazarus? Why was he poor and homeless? What tragedy happened in his life? How did he become lame – for the Scripture says that he was laid at the gate. He was not able to walk and covered with sores. We don’t know the whole sad story.
But what we do know is that both of these men die. One man went to heaven and the other went to hell. We are not given the reasons for why Lazarus went to heaven. It wasn’t because he was poor and a beggar (Abraham was a rich man, after all). This story does not really focus on Lazarus and his salvation. But it does focus on the rich man.
You see, he lived in luxury every day of his life. And at his gate was this poor man who begged for food, for medical help, for shelter and the rich man did nothing. He didn’t lift a finger to help him. God had blessed this man with an abundance of supplies – his cup was running over! And what did he use his gifts for? Himself.
Was his neglect of poor Lazarus that caused him to go to hell? No! No one is saved by their good works, by their charity or love for neighbor. We are all saved by our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
But the fact that he ignored a needy man day after day at his gate reveals his heart. The fruit of his life reveals where his roots are. This is not a man who loves and serves the Lord. If he did, he would have blessed his neighbor. He would have reached out in mercy and compassion as Jesus would have done.
And so James writes these powerful words: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:15-17) No we’re not saved by our good works but our good works are always a fruit of our relationship with God.
And so when this rich man is blessed with so much, he has a marvelous opportunity to bless many with all that he has. How many blessings has the Lord poured out upon you? No you may not be rich but in what ways has the Lord given YOU an abundance in order to bless someone who is right around the corner? Watch for those opportunities! Pray that your eyes would be open to the ways you can bless others – even in small ways.
Yes, we are responsible for all that God has given us in this life.
A second lesson from this story is that with death there are no second chances for repentance.
This rich man realizes his failure after he has died. He pleads to Father Abraham for pity, for mercy. But after death mercy is no more. There is no second chance to repent and call upon the name of the Lord. All of life he had the opportunity to turn to God and call upon his name. Now it’s too late.