Summary: Lesson from someone who ignored the opportunity to do what is right during his lifetime and ends up facing judgment upon death, and yet he still doesn’t seem to repent.
Please Read: Luke 16:19-31
There was a story about a rich man who was determined to take his wealth with him. He told his wife to get all his money together, put it in a sack, and then hang the sack from the rafters in the attic. He said, "When my spirit is caught up to heaven, I’ll grab the sack on my way." Well he eventually died, and the woman raced to the attic, only to find the money still there. She said, "I knew I should’ve put the sack in the basement." (Russell 88)
The scripture lesson for today talks about a rich man with no name, and a poor man named Lazarus. Both of them died and ended up in the opposite sides of the afterlife. Lazarus was carried away by the angles to be with Abraham and the rich man was just simply buried and ended up in a place where he was tormented. And the rest is a dialog between the two sides of Hades.
The context of the story tells us that Jesus was teaching people about the danger of falling in love with money. Verse 14 says, “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him.” Right before this passage, Jesus warned his followers that we cannot serve both God and mammon, meaning we cannot serve both God and wealth.
In last week’s parable Jesus talks about the dishonest manager who tried to correct his error at the last moment of his career, and we compared the parable with the story of John D. Rockefeller, who came to a similar realization in his deathbed and turned around to do what was right for the rest of his life.
However, in this week’s story, Jesus talks about someone who came to realization too late. This person completely ignored the opportunity to do what is right during his lifetime and ends up facing judgment upon death, and yet he still doesn’t seem to repent. Let us look at the important lessons that Jesus is trying to teach us using this parable. I picked three important points from this lesson and call it the three tips to eternity, or the three tips to timelessness.
The first tip is...
1 - Trust God for Help
In this story Jesus doesn’t literally say that Lazarus was his follower and the rich man was not his follower, but he implies it with their names. Normally, Jesus doesn’t name names when he tells a parable. But in this particular case the he uses the name Lazarus to describe the poor man. Lazarus means “God has helped,” which suggests that this poor man is someone who trusts God for help. On the other hand the rich man doesn’t have a name. In some versions of the story, his name is Dives, which simply means “rich.” So it means that this rich man relies on his wealth as his ultimate help and security.
Jesus is not suggesting that wealth is not good, he is saying that when wealth becomes our ultimate help and protection, we can easily ignore God’s message around us. The Bible says this man was dressed in purple and fine linen. This kind of purple dye was obtained from the purple fish, a species of mussel. It was very costly and was used for the upper garment by the wealthy and princes (royal purple).
You might remember, in Mark 15:17, when Jesus was being tortured, the Bible says, “And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him.” The purple cloak is a symbol of rich and royalty. That tells how rich this man is. He also feasts sumptuously every day. When someone is having a sumptuous feast everyday, he definitely didn’t have time to be aware of the reality out there.
The reality out there is a poor man lying at his gate. The Greek word used here for the ‘gate’ is the word used for a huge and grand gate, like that of a mansion. Lazarus must be a cripple and he was covered with sores and the dogs would come and lick his sores. Being licked by the dogs might even sound cute for the Americans, but not in that society; dogs were symbols of degradation, and it just depicts how sad his condition was. Someone must have left him here at the rich man’s gate hoping that he would bestow some compassion upon him, at least by feeding him with what fell from the table. However, he obviously had ignored him.
The rich man was absorbed in his luxury and failed to heed the message of God. What is the message here? Read Matthew 25, “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”