Summary: A sermon based on Luke 16:19-31 focused on stewardship (Material adapted from J.C. Ryle at: http://www.biblebb.com/files/ryle/pract13.htm)
A Sunday School teacher told her class of 2nd graders the story found in Luke 16 of the Rich man and Lazarus. In conclusion, the teacher asked her students the question: "Now, which man would you rather be, Lazarus or the rich man?" One little boy’s hand shot up immediately and he said, "Well, while I’m alive I want to live like the rich man, but when I die I want to be like Lazarus."
One evening my family played the Game of Life by Milton Bradley. It is a board game where it simulates life like going to college, getting a job, getting married, having children, being fired and getting another job, going back to school for more education after being fired, etc. My wife Crystal won the game. The winner is the one who, after everyone has retired (in other words they have completed the trip around the board), has the highest money total, has the highest net worth. The theme of this board game seems to be to live comfortably and extravagantly and to have the highest net worth at the end. Many in our world believe this is the case. This is a winning life. After reading this teaching of Jesus we find that is not the case at all.
Many things to consider here and many questions
This is more than a parable unlike the ones we have considered. It is not introduced as a parable but it has some similarities to a parable. The concrete picture that Jesus is giving us here is a vision of the afterlife, a vision of Hades or Sheol. Two different areas to Hades. Pass out papers and look at the diagram. Not going to deal with this much tonight.
Is this rich man and Lazarus actual people or is this just an illustration of different walks of life in this world?
Is this conversation between Abraham, Lazarus, and the rich man an actual conversation that goes on in Hades or is this conversation given just to help us understand the situation in Hades? If this is an actual conversation then Abraham must be very busy answering all of these people in torment. Since there is a great chasm doesn’t this also rule out conversations between the two sides? If they can talk back and forth and see each other this would definitely cause the mood in paradise to not be very pleasant. Know more when we get there.
Now that we have answered all of the questions (Ha! Ha!) let consider how Luke 16:19-31 applies to stewardship, wealth, and treasures.
Thesis: Discussing riches and poverty from Luke 16:31
Notice how different worldly conditions are that God gives to different people
Jesus does not give any opinions on which is better, riches or poverty. He just describes the circumstances of each man. Both these men are living in the same land and subject to the same government but how different.
This vision is not teaching that all the rich go to torment and all the poor go to paradise. No, the conversation between this rich man and Abraham tells us this is not the case. Notice that Abraham, when he was alive, was one of the richest men and he appears to be an important person in Paradise. “So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. The LORD has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, menservants and maidservants, and camels and donkeys.” Genesis 24:34, 35, NIV.
Abraham also said that if they don’t listen and respect and honor Moses, the Prophets, and Jesus Christ, then there is no hope for this man’s 5 brothers. If the resurrection of Jesus Christ doesn’t cause them to respond to the gospel and follow Jesus Christ, then they will be with this rich man in torment.
We must be careful not to draw lessons from this that are not there. No political movement is going to eradicate poverty. In this life we see that: “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” Matthew 26:11, NIV.
The main problem here with some being super rich and others being super poor is sin. Sin is the cause of all of this and until sin is eliminated (New Heaven and New Earth) there will always be some super rich and some super poor. The rich man and Lazarus are examples of two classes that will always be in the world until the Lord returns.
A Person’s Worldly Economic state is no test of the state of their soul.
As far as the rich man, take away his money and comforts and he has nothing. With all of his riches he has no treasure laid up in heaven. The rich man really was very poor.