Summary: Life lived without regrets is lived with the awareness that our choices matter and make a difference in this life and the afterlife.
Title: Living with No Regrets
Text: Luke 16:19-31
Thesis: Life lived without regrets is lived with the awareness that our choices matter and make a difference in this life and the afterlife.
I talked with a man this past Thursday evening whose wife is dying of terminal cancer. Knowing that, they decided to do what they can to fully enjoy the time they have remaining… so they have made a “Bucket List” of things they want to do and are checking them off one by one. The next is a quick trip to Europe between Chemo treatments.
A bucket list is a list of things a person has not done but wants to do before they die. It is called a bucket list because these are things you want to do before you kick the bucket, so to speak. There is some whimsy to a bucket list and rarely does a person on their death-bed deeply regret not having visited Rocky Mountain National Park, which is a good thing in that if your death is imminent you may not get to see it before the government shut-down is lifted.
I confess I’ve had my share of whimsy when it comes to those kinds of things. I always thought it would be fun to live in an isolated cabin in Alaska or spend a year living in a little village in Ireland or pull a William Least Heat Moon and drive all the “blue” highways on a road map of the United States. But failing to get to do any of those things will not result in deeply felt regret when I die.
But there are things people regret when it comes to the end of life. A number of people have taken the time to compile a list of deathbed regrets.
Bonnie Ware is an Australian palliative care nurse who has cared for many patients during the last twelve weeks of their lives. She took the time to record their personal insights and regrets at the end of life and found that there were five common recurring themes:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
At the end of life we do not want to look back with a list of, “I wish I hads…” Our text today is a parable about a man who in the afterlife looked back with considerable regret.
Jesus introduces us to two characters in this parable.
I. The two characters in the parable
“There was a certain rich man who lived splendidly… at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who longed for scraps from the rich man’s table.” Luke 16:19-21
A. The Rich Man -
1. Splendidly clothed in purple and linen
2. Lived and feasted in luxury every day, i.e., a gourmet glutton!
(It is said that in that culture a rich man would use a loaf of bread to wipe his hands following a meal and it was that bread that was tossed to the dogs.)
Summation: Characterized by self-Indulgence
B. The Poor Man
1. Laid at the gate
2. Covered with ulcerated sores
3. Longed for scraps to eat
4. Dogs licked his sores (making him ceremonially unclean, i.e., as a leper)
Summation: Characterized by abject poverty
Once the characters are introduced the parable moves quickly from one reality to another reality.
II. The two scenes in the parable, 16:22-23
“The poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and went to the place of the dead.” Luke 16:22-23
Note there were two distinct realities: This life and the afterlife. Note the total reversal of circumstances the men experienced in the afterlife.
In the afterlife Lazarus is in heaven… hanging out with Father Abraham.
A. Lazarus is in Heaven
Summation: Afterlife in heaven
B. The Rich Man is in Hell
“In hell, where he was in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at this side.” Luke 16:23
Summation: Afterlife in hell
The real meat of this parable follows in the ensuing conversation between the rich man and Abraham.
III. The Conversation, 16:24-31
“The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have pity! Send Lazarus over to dip his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.” Luke 16:24
I wonder if the rich man was even aware of the disparity between his circumstances and those of Lazarus. I wonder if in his mind it was perfectly natural for there to be rich people and poor people. I wonder if he didn’t see wealth and poverty as inevitable realities in life.