October 23, 2019
Pastor John Hering
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day. A beggar named Lazarus had been laid at his gate. Lazarus was covered with sores and longed to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Besides this, the dogs also came and licked his sores. Eventually the beggar died, and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus at his side. He called out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me! Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in misery in this flame.’
“But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus received bad things. But now he is comforted here, and you are in misery. Besides all this, a great chasm has been set in place between us and you, so that those who want to cross from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
“He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s home, because I have five brothers—to warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“Abraham replied to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”Luke 16:19-31
I know the people I trust. So do you. You trust people that have your best interests in mind. You trust your boss because you’ve learned that he’s got your back. You trust your teammate to carry his share of the load resisting the urge to take more than his share of the credit. Who do you trust? This is an interesting question when we consider those who trusted in Jesus as they listened to his parables and lessons. They would learn more about God and get closer to him, and those who didn’t trust Jesus would get turned off. Trust can also be formed after viewing an event. Some will trust and some won’t. Apply this to God’s actions and we see his purposes being accomplished through his work. Was The Flood good or bad? It was bad for all the wicked who drowned, but it was good for Noah and his family and the preservation of God’s promise. Was Esau’s anger toward Jacob good or bad? It was bad because Jacob had to run away from home, but it was good in that it taught Jacob to trust in God rather than himself. Was the parting of the Red Sea good or bad? Good for the escape of the Israelites, but bad for Pharaoh’s army who drown. Today we have an account from Jesus about the Rich man and poor Lazarus. Did it make you feel uncomfortable? You see, I wouldn’t want to live like Lazarus—begging for handouts and having dogs lick my sores. I’d much rather live like the rich man. I don’t mean go to hell like the rich man, but I don’t want hell on earth either. Can’t I have both? Can’t I enjoy the nice stuff now and also go to heaven? Jesus gives us the answers to these questions in this account from Luke 16. Jesus teaches us that it’s all about trust.
It’s All About Trust
I realize that you probably don’t wake up in the morning worrying about your relationship with God. Or, how can I cope with the mess I’ve made? Or, where will I spend eternity? But, every once in a while stuff happens and you think about the answer to these big questions. To understand Jesus’ point we’ll take a look at the people. “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day. With just a few words Jesus shows us the image of a man who spent all his time and energy sitting in his mansion and wallowing in his luxury partying with his friends. I think we could say this man was living the good life. Please remember, there’s nothing wrong with living the good life. The problem comes when people ignore the warning that Paul wrote to Timothy, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim 6:10). The word he used for “love of money” means love, trust, dependence on. The rich man had a trust problem. He trusted in his money.
Scripture would label this as greed. Greed means one has a strong desire for wealth, food or other possessions, especially when denying the same to others. Such a desire turns money into an idol. Remember, an idol becomes our god when it takes first place in our hearts. God teaches us to use our blessings to care for ourselves, our families, our government and to support the kingdom work of God. Take a look at your budget and ask yourself which one of those—self, family, government or God receive the greatest portion of your time, talents and treasures? That will help you evaluate who or what is number one in your heart.
We will take this warning to heart, for the rich man trusted in his possessions for security and happiness. But then, “The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus at his side. He called out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me! Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in misery in this flame.’” I’ve been thirsty before. But, I can’t imagine the horrible thirst of this rich man. He wasn’t asking for a swimming pool, a bucket or even a glass of water. He just wanted one drop. But, this wasn’t his worst pain. The real pain was when he looked up and “he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus at his side.” The real pain was hearing Abraham say, “ ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus received bad things. But now he is comforted here, and you are in misery. Besides all this, a great chasm has been set in place between us and you, so that those who want to cross from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’” He once knew what it meant to live under God’s grace. Now, he was experiencing what it means to live apart from God’s love and only experience God’s wrath. But, it was too late. He trusted in the wrong thing. He ended up eternally poor.
There is the other main person in this account—Lazarus. Who would want to live like Lazarus? May I come to your house today and see if it’s you? Lazarus wasn’t just lacking money, he had nothing. A beggar was humbled, frightened, and probably willing to eat dog food. However, his name is significant. The Jewish listeners would have known the meaning of his name—“God is my helper.” This man trusted in God. Lazarus had nothing. But, he trusted in his God to give him what was best. He trusted that his God was the answer to the big questions of life. Even though it looked like Lazarus had nothing, he trusted that God would save him. He trusted that the promised Messiah would set him free from sin, pain, and suffering some day. Eventually the beggar died, and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. Lazarus ended up in heaven, keeping company with believers like Abraham. Lazarus trusted the right thing, Jesus. He ended up eternally rich!
Every person wants the answers to the big questions of life. Where did I come from? What is my purpose here on earth? What is going to happen to me when I die? And if there is a God out there (and we believe there is), how can I know my relationship with him is good? You can try to put these questions off in your life. You can make yourself so busy that you don’t think about it. Others medicate themselves. Others fill their lives with bananas and business, steaks and stocks, Facebook and family, skittles and schedules, feast and friends just like the rich man did. But, some day everyone will have to face the answer to these questions. Then what? In whom will you trust?
Money is magnificent. Possessions are great. Poverty is scary. Hunger hurts. But, looks are deceiving! The moment money and stuff get our attention more than God, we’ve lost the focus. The moment the lack of money and the lack of stuff gets our attention more than God, we’ve lost our focus. Yes, Satan likes to get us coming and going. Too much can distract us. Too little can distract us, too. He can make us think we’re so great, that we deserve to get into heaven, or that we’re so poor we will never get into heaven. Remember that time, talents and treasures are only tools. And you might have a tool, but improperly used can also be worthless. I might have a can opener, but that isn’t going to help me mow the lawn. Money is a great tool, but it doesn’t buy us into heaven and it won’t make God like you more either. But, if I had a can opener and my neighbor needed a can opened, I could help him out! Well, you and I have money. We can use our time, talents and treasures as a tool to serve God by serving the needs of his kingdom. And it goes without saying that the greatest use of our possessions is to share the gospel of Jesus with someone. For that will make an eternal difference for them. Listen! ““He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s home, because I have five brothers—to warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ “Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them listen to them.’ “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “Abraham replied to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Abraham teaches us that we have the answers to the big questions of life! In God’s Word we learn where we came from—God created us! And what our purpose is in life—to give honor, glory and praise to God. And what will happen to us when we die—Jesus lived by always using his possessions to bring the Gospel to people. He always perfectly managed his life. Then he took that perfect life and died to pay the penalty of all our sins. When he died he took the punish we deserved and in return he gave the perfect life we needed so we can have a perfect relationship with God through faith in Jesus. Lazarus learned what you know—It’s all about Jesus in whom we trust! It is all about Jesus who washed our sins away in our baptism and comes in the holy Supper today to assure you that you are forgiven.
Trust in Jesus. Trust in Jesus because he he’s got your back, he has your best interest in mind. We can’t deny that this account from Jesus is also about money. So, is money good or bad? Well, it’s bad if you’re trusting in money to save you. But it’s good if you’re using your money to serve the Lord your God who gave it all to you in the first place. You see? It’s all about trust. Trust in Jesus and show your trust by the way you use your possessions to God’s glory. Amen!