Summary: Parables for Seekers, Pt. 6
YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE (LUKE 16:19-31)
A Sunday school teacher told his class the story of the rich man and Lazarus. He explained that the wealthy man had wonderful clothes, lived in luxury and had all the food he could eat; but he had no compassion for the beggar, who longed for a few crumbs from the rich man’s table. The heartless man died and ended up in the flames of Hades. The sick and destitute believer, however, found God’s comfort in Paradise.
After finishing the story, the teacher asked his class, “Now, which would you rather be – the rich man or Lazarus?” One young fellow replied, “I’d want to be the rich man while I was living and Lazarus when I died.” (Daily Bread)
The target of Jesus’ parable is the self-righteousness and hypocritical Pharisees (Lk 16:14). This time, however, Jesus singled them out for a seldom- mentioned weakness: the Pharisees were covetous, or “lovers of money” in Greek.
Are material riches in the way of your salvation? If all you have in life is material, and not spiritual, you are in for a physical shock and emotional collapse. Are you ready for life after life? What preparations have you made for your soul?
You Cannot Salvage Things Once Life is Over; Share Things Now
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. (Luke 16:19-21)
George W. Truett, the well-known Texas preacher, was invited to dinner in the home of a very wealthy oilman. After the meal, the host led him to a place where they could get a good view of the surrounding area.
Pointing to the oil wells and punctuating the landscape, the oilman boasted, “Twenty-five years ago I had nothing. Now, as far as you can see, it’s all mine.” Looking in the opposite direction at his sprawling fields of grain, he said, “That’s all mine.” Turning east toward huge herds of cattle, he bragged, “They’re all mine.” Then pointing to the west and a beautiful forest, he exclaimed, “That too is all mine.”
The man paused, expecting Dr. Truett to compliment him on his great success. Truett, however, placing one hand on the man’s shoulder and pointing heavenward with the other, simply said, “How much do you have in that direction?” (Farewell Ave. Christian Church)
Covetous people’s bottom line is the mighty dollar and nothing else. They are likened to the rich man in the parable who lived in luxury. What distinguished his festive lifestyle from everyone else in the Bible was that he “lived in luxury every day,” or in Greek “he made merry every day sumptuously.” Verse 19 in Greek ends with the word “sumptuously,” which means luxuriously, or literally “brilliantly” – it was a glare in the eyes, a sore to the eyes and a flashbulb before the eyes. No one was as flamboyant, as excessive and as outlandish as the rich man.
Jesus used the word “celebrate” only six times altogether in the Bible, specifically found in three parables - once here (v 19), another in the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:19), and four times in the prodigal son story (Luke 15:23, 24, 29, 32). Jesus praised the prodigal son’s father for rightly celebrating the return of a lost soul, specifically his son’s (Lk 15:23), but derided the rich fool’s celebration over a bountiful harvest (Lk 12:19) and the rich man who celebrated in this parable for no other reason that he could. The rich fool in Luke 12 who celebrated his bountiful harvest and the rich man in this parable also had something in common: they celebrated or partied privately. They did not request any one and needed no one to share in their celebration. The father of the prodigal son, however, invited others to celebrate salvation. Every day was a private party for the rich man in his gated community on a private street in an exclusive neighborhood. It was overdone, distasteful and ludicrous. The prodigal’s father celebrated occasionally when souls were saved and the rich fool had the sense to celebrate seasonally during harvest time, but the rich man celebrated daily even for nothing specific.
However, the rich man was not condemned for any wrong he did or the money he had but for the right he did not do and the compassion he did not have; and he had been found guilty for a long time for being in a permanent state of denial. Outside his gate was a familiar figure he apparently knew by name (v 24). The Greek text gives us a clue as to why poor Lazarus was there. It says he was laid, cast or thrust there (v 20) – probably by well-wishers, onlookers or friends, people who were fittingly the rich man’s conscience. Unlike the rich man’s fancy clothes, sores were Lazarus’ garments, his features and lot in life. The longing of Lazarus (v 21) is the same Greek word for the longing of the prodigal to fill his stomach with pods (Luke 15:16). The rich man wore purple but the poor man was black and blue. Lazarus longed for anything that fell from the rich man’s table – bread crust, chicken bone, potato skin. He repeatedly looked in, constantly felt hungry, but was always empty come, empty go; the rich man didn’t even spare him a thought, let drop a morsel, leave behind a wrapper or offer him tap water. Every day, the poor man’s stomach growled, his mouth salivated and his body shivered, but he had to lick his lips, swallow his saliva and rub his stomach because every day the rich man closed his door, drew his drapes, and used another entrance. He didn’t even care to open and slam the door for show. The rich man knew the poor man’s name, but never greeted him by name in life - on the streets or at the door. Even stray dogs (v 21) were friendlier, kinder and classier.