Summary: Use Jesus’ teaching to demonstrate God’s desire for us to reach out to the poor and lost and the eternal implications of a real place of torment called hell for those who do not worship (love) God as revealed through Jesus’ resurrection.
We continue today on our 40 day journey through the season of Lent as we walk with Jesus to the cross and to resurrection. During our Lenten journey we have been focusing on Jesus’ teachings on the way to the cross from Luke’s gospel. This is the section from Luke 9:50 until his arrest and death in Luke 22. As we have discovered many of these teachings of Jesus are difficult for us. Jesus taught on repentance, that we need to turn away from our sin to a new way of life in him. Jesus taught that following him was necessary but difficult, we must be willing to place him as our top priority, above all else including family, work, and possessions. We have looked at the father-like love God has for his children. God loves both his children who remain in the family as much as he loves the lost sons and daughters who have left him to follow their own path. His hearts desire is for all children to come home, receive forgiveness, and accept their inheritance as his children. Jesus came to seek and save all that are lost. I want you to remember this point as we move into Jesus’ next teaching.
Today’s teaching is a difficult one, because Jesus point blank indicates those who refuse to care for the poor and are concerned more with their own wealth are destined for hell. Jesus portrays hell as a very real place, of eternal torment.
1. Caring for the Poor
First of all this passage is not about heaven and hell. It is about how God’s people are expected to care for the poor and the lost, because God loves the poor and the lost, and we are God’s hands and feet in this world. God expects his children to love those whom God loves and use our God given resources to help these people. In the parable preceding this one Jesus made the point that we are to use our money to help those in need and to make friends with the lost so we can lead them to Jesus. He concluded by saying “you cannot serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Jesus was trying to get us to think seriously about how we use our resources, including our money, for his kingdom purposes. And two of God’s top kingdom priorities, according to Jesus, is caring for the poor and winning the lost.
In this story of the rich man and Lazarus Jesus continued his teaching on money and got more direct of what the result is of greed and the misuse of God’s resources. An unnamed rich man had everything and lived in luxury, while a poor beggar named Lazarus with sores all over his body lay at his gate longing for scraps from his table, meanwhile the dogs would come and lick his sores. In other words the rich man didn’t even give Lazarus table scraps. He hoarded it all for himself. Day after day the rich man passed by Lazarus until the point where he probably didn’t even notice that he existed. Lazarus was invisible. He was someone else’s problem to deal with.
Imagine how many people can become invisible to us. We may see them everyday, people who are poor, or hurting, or lost. A coworker going through a tough time, the waitress at the restaurant, the check out lady at the grocery store, the teller at the bank, the attendant at the gas station, people we see every day, but we don’t notice them or their needs. They are invisible. Their needs may not be as dramatic and obvious as a homeless person on the street with medical needs, but they have real needs. How often do we pass by someone whom God has placed before us to minister to their needs, but we are too wrapped up in ourselves and our busy schedules to even notice?
Jesus continued the story by giving a glimpse of what happened after these two died to drive home the point to his listeners that there are eternal implications of what we do, or don’t do here on earth. A person cannot worship both God and something else. Worship points to where our heart really is. Is our heart on our possessions, our house, our church, our toys, or is it on God? What we do with our resources (time, talent, treasure) is important and it reflects what is truly in our heart, what our real priorities are.
The rich man ignoring Lazarus indicated what was truly on his heart. Money was the where his heart was and so Jesus pictured him in hell because he did love God or love those whom God loved. The rich man didn’t go to hell just because he didn’t help Lazarus. He went to hell because his lack of giving was a reflection of his heart. His heart was sold out for money and possessions, not for God. By your fruits you shall know them, Jesus said. Jesus was giving an eternal warning to those whose hearts are in the wrong place.