Summary: Do we even care? Or are we so busy accumulating wealth and looking for healing for ourselves, that we don't even see the destitute poor?
Are compassion and money incompatible?
Let’s learn how important God considers our care of the less fortunate.
Let’s discuss Luke 16:19-31, an unnamed rich man and a famous beggar, Lazarus. We will learn about the dangers of the hard-hearted, selfish use of money and God’s Great Reversal.
Luke 16:19 Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. 20 At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.
22 “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the heavenly banquet. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and he went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side. 24 “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’
25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’
27 “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’ 29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’ 30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’ 31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
1. Coveting Wealth (Luke 16:19-21)
National leaders should hate covetousness (Exodus 18:21) and government excess (1 Samuel 8:10-18). Don’t covet what covetous people steal (Micah 2:1-5); they are the losers (Luke 12:13-21). The Rich Man withheld help from poor Lazarus. Covetousness causes conflict (James 4:1-4), false religion (2 Peter 2) and can’t exist in God’s kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
b. Works Salvation
The social gospel is showing love towards our neighbor, our social responsibility towards others. The rich man was hard-hearted towards poor Lazarus. This passage does not teach works-based salvation. Rather, saving faith is evidenced by good works. Social responsibility towards others is seen among believers. It is a fruit of repentance that Jesus demanded of the Pharisees (Matthew 3:8-10).
c. Famous Homeless Man
Our passage is one of the most famous stories of a homeless man of all time. History usually immortalizes the brutal, the powerful and the wealthy. The destitute poor are usually anonymous. They come into this world in filth and squalor and depart leaving unmarked graves. Folklore names the rich man Dives, but the the rich man has no name in heaven.
d. Judgment Day for a Bully
Terrorists, overbearing governments, corporate cock-a-doodle-do’s and union tough guys can be bullies without compassion, using others to serve them. They may not serve others. Their leadership style is the opposite of Jesus’ sacrificial leadership. The rich man is a bully, who even in hell continued to bark orders. Without compassion on the weak, we too are no better than bullies.
e. Great Failure
By worldly standards Dives was probably a great success. He was a great failure in one of life’s most important areas, the care of those less fortunate. A life without compassion is a failure. Salvation is something we share, both physical salvation for this life and eternal salvation for the next. Lacking compassion, is one of life’s greatest ethical failures.
2. The Great Reversal (Luke 16:22-24)
a. The Last Shall Be First
Our story indicates consciousness after death, contradicting the soul-sleep theory. Jesus told the thief on the cross, that today he would be with him in paradise (Luke 23:43), absent from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8) departing this flesh (Philippians 1:21-24). Revelation 6:9-11 speaks of slain souls in heaven crying with a loud voice.
b. Hell & Wealth
Here Jesus used the pagan legends of Hades to explain the afterlife. Greek mythology closely linked wealth and hell. In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man Jesus also linked the two. Wealth and luxury deceive us into thinking that we have no responsibility towards the suffering. We build walls which shut them out. Walls cannot erase our guilt.