Summary: God’s heart for the poor is clearly presented in Luke’s gospel. Jesus continues to hammer home the point of good news to the poor and warnings to the wealthy. What should we take from this?
(If you rate this sermon, please offer helpful comments. God bless, Greg)
If you think of yourself as extremely rich, raise your hand.
If you think of yourself as terribly poor and needy raise your hand.
What does it look like to be extremely rich today? What about terribly poor and needy?
In Luke 16 Jesus gives us a picture of these two opposite socio-economical conditions. It’s in this story of the rich man and Lazarus. In fact, Luke’s gospel is full of teaching concerning the rich and poor. Luke, the beloved physician, is inspired by God to write this gospel of Jesus Christ and as the Holy Spirit leads him along, he unfolds a message from God’s heart concerning God’s love for and ultimate blessing on those who are poor. And with it comes a warning to the rich.
It all starts in Luke when Jesus was born into a poor family. Joseph and Mary were not suburbanites from middle class America. Joseph was a carpenter, or stone mason who most likely worked for a day’s wages and hired himself out to build houses, or whatever, for those who did have riches. In those days the poor were at the mercy of the rich. Sometimes the rich would hire laborers who broke their backs working all day in the heat and elements only to be refused pay at the end of the day. The book of James, who incidentally is the Lord’s half brother, addresses this in James 5:1-6.
5:1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.
2 Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten.
3 Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!
4 Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.
5 You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
6 You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.
Did you hear that? James speaks as one with experience, doesn’t he? Perhaps he has seen his dad, Joseph, come home from working all day, exhausted and dejected, because the man that hired him refused to pay. For the day laborer like Joseph, this made the difference in whether or not his family had food to eat or went hungry.
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray: “give us this day our daily bread,” most of us have no concept of what that means. In those days, many went without food some days. Not because they were fasting, but because they were poor and did not have food. Jesus grew up in the midst of a culture where poverty was the accepted norm among most people. Those of us who have gone to Honduras have seen some of this. There are poor people there who would hear Jesus words in a different light than we do here today.
When Jesus entered his ministry back in Luke chapter 4, do you remember what he read in the synagogue? Look at it again with me. Luke 4:16-19
16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read.
17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written,
18 "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE DOWNTRODDEN,
19 TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD."
20 And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him.
21 And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
Jesus, God’s Messiah, had come to bless the poor with good news from God. Look at chapter 6:20-21, 24-25. Later when John the Baptist was in prison and sent messengers to Jesus, listen to Jesus’ response: Luke 7:22. Jesus ministry was a ministry to the poor. In chapter 12:16-21 Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool who decided to store up his wealth by building bigger barns to keep all his harvest. He funded his retirement but thought nothing about the poor or God who gave him all his blessings. Listen to the haunting words of Jesus and think about God’s judgment on him: