Summary: Jesus has just said, "No one can serve two masters; you cannot serve God and money" (Luke 16:13). Then Jesus goes on to share his parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Paul's words to Timothy (I Timothy 6:6-19) support Jesus' claim.
“Take Hold of Eternal Life”
Proper 21-C, September 25, 2016
All three of the Scripture lessons read in our worship service this morning could easily remind us of that old adage: “You can’t have your cake and eat it too!” Why? Because there really are some things—in this life—that are mutually exclusive of each other! To have one is to forfeit the other!
In the words preceding our Gospel lesson, Jesus has just said: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Luke 16:13)!
In the Old Testament lesson today (Amos 6:1-7), the Prophet Amos, a southerner by birth from the kingdom of Judah, was led by the Holy Spirit of God into the northern kingdom of Israel—to speak a rather disturbing message to the people there about the ever-widening gap in Israel between the “Haves” and the “Have-Nots.”
God is concerned that many of the wealthiest people in the nation have become completely oblivious to the plight of the poor. So it’s in very picturesque language that Amos admonishes those people, whose lives are primarily committed to the false god of pleasure! There they are lounging around on their ivory couches, eating only the choicest cuts of lamb and beef! All the while they are being entertained “musically” by professional singers with exceptional voices, accompanied by harps! They are drinking only the finest vintage wines; having anointed themselves with the finest of oils to moisturize their skin and, perhaps also, to deepen their tans.
These actions are not sinful in and of themselves but the number one indictment against them by God is that: “They are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph” (v. 6)!
So can’t we see then that very bold connection between our Old Testament Lesson today and another Parable that Jesus shares with us in our Gospel Lesson: “The Rich Man and Lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31)?
This parable of Jesus is just chocked full of contrasts and reversals.
• The poor man is named while the rich man is not.
• The rich man is dressed in purple cloth, while the poor man is only adorned with sores!
• The rich man feasts sumptuously every day, while Lazarus, looking up, longed only to be fed with any kind of leftovers that may have come to him from the rich man’s table.
• Both of these men must have died in a close range of time to each other; another reminder that death is always: “The Great Equalizer!”
But just when the lives of these two men are about as far apart from each other as they could possibly be; there is a great shift that takes place in Jesus’ sharing this parable with us!
All of a sudden there is a great reversal of roles! Much like the funnel on an old-fashioned hourglass, ALL THE SAND THAT WAS ON ONE SIDE OF THE FUNNEL has now been drawn through that narrow sieve of death to be distributed on the other side. THE ONE WHO WAS AFFLICTED—IS NOW COMFORTED! AND THE ONE WHO LIVED COMFORTABLY IS NOW IN AGONY!
The real lesson of Jesus’ parable comes in the conversation between the rich man and Abraham after the rich man and Lazarus have both died!
Two points are being made here: (1) One point regards the finality of a person’s place in eternity at the time of their death. Nothing could be done for the rich man once he had closed his eyes in death. (2) The second point regards the importance of you and me listening to the Word of God now if we want to escape the rich man’s fate.
Certainly both of these messages are given to us repeatedly by other passages in the Bible too. Just listen to the words of Jesus in John 5:25-27: “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live! For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man!”
And St. Paul also shares these words with us in 2 Corinthian 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil!”
So the question that the Old Testament Lesson and the Gospel Lesson, and even the Epistle Lesson are placing before every one of us this morning is: “Are you listening?”