Rich or Poor

September 25, 2022

Pastor John Hering

Luke 16:19-31

Luke 16:19-31

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day. 20 A beggar named Lazarus had been laid at his gate. Lazarus was covered with sores and 21 longed to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Besides this, the dogs also came and licked his sores. 22 Eventually the beggar died, and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus at his side. 24 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.’

25 “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. 26 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.’

27 “He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s home, 28 because I have five brothers—to warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 “Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them listen to them.’

30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “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.’”

Last week I started the sermon by saying, “You know God.”  Then we learned how much we don’t know about God.  But God, in his wisdom, has told us who he is and what he has done to save us.  Today I want to say, “You know God is a God of love who deals with us in love.”  The question that comes up in Luke 16 is this: Do we pattern our love after the love God has shown to us, or do we let the world shape and mold our love?  We know the way of the world is to love those who love us.  The world says, “Do good to those who do good to you.” So, examine your heart and answer the question: Does your love conform to the pattern of the world or the pattern of God?

Today the Hard Truth deals with those things in our life which seem to help but fail us, and the things in our life that seem to fail us actually end up helping us.  So, when it comes to God’s love are we rich in love toward God and our neighbor, or are with poor in love toward the same and heading for some horrible consequences?  Therefore, may the Holy Spirit guide our thoughts as we consider Jesus’ account of a

Rich Man, Poor Man

A Poor Rich Man

Remember, Jesus told his parable about the shrewd manager and ended up with the thought that you can’t serve both God and money.  After that it says, The Pharisees, who loved money, also heard all these things and sneered at him” (Luke 16:14).  Jesus continues with today’s parable. 19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day.  This was a rich man, who, in reality, was a very poor man.  And, 20 A beggar named Lazarus had been laid at his gate. Lazarus was a poor man, who in reality, is a very rich man.  We learn this by the way Jesus unfolds the story of these two men.  The rich man had all the earthly comforts money could buy.  He had the best clothes hanging in his closet, and fine linen covering his table when he ate.   And every day was a feast at his table. The richest of foods and best wines graced his table.  Sometimes he would eat alone and enjoy the peace and quiet.  Other days he would invite his friends to come and enjoy the banquet with him.  His life consisted of all the pleasures his wealth could bring him.  That’s as good as it got for him.

Now realize, the fact that this man had great wealth was not in and of itself bad.  Riches of this world are a wonderful blessing from God and are intended for our good.  But, with great wealth comes great responsibility.  There is an even greater danger that wealth will tempt a person away from trusting in God.  You recall Jesus’ warning:

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Matthew 19:24

This truth is also evident in this rich man with a life of gold had no regard for God.  We see the evidence of no faith in the way he treated the poor man.  He had no godly love for the unfortunate man that was at his front door.  His lack of fruits of faith was testimony of his lack of faith in God that earned him a place of torment in hell.

Permanent Punishment:

23 In hell, where he was in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus at his side. 24 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.’” 

What a rude awakening! From this horrible place of permanent punishment he cries out for help.  We notice some things about his torment.  1) He has no concern for God in his life. He doesn’t call out to God for help, but to Abraham.  Such worthless thoughts consume the brain of someone who isn’t converted.  2) He still has not lost his concern for the physical—his bodily comfort is the thing that concerns him the most in this place of torment.  He wants Lazarus to go on an errand for him. Evidently beggars, or should we say former beggars, are only good enough for running errands.  He received no help in that regard.

25 “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. 26 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.’” 

Let’s be clear.  Abraham is not saying their actions alone give the reason for their being in hell and heaven, but is answering the once rich man who is now poor, with a polite, “No.”  Rather, God is being completely just by condemning the rich man to hell for his unbelief, and receiving Lazarus into heaven for through faith he received what Jesus had to offer.  Therefore, the rich man in hell will not be relieved, nor will the blessed state of Lazarus in heaven be interrupted even for a moment.  The picture of the great chasm assures that no traffic will travel between the places of eternal comfort and eternal torment.  The poor rich man’s punishment is permanent.

Hearing Produces Persuasion: This certainly caused the man in hell to reflect on his awful condition.  Then the full truth breaks open when he realizes that his five brothers who also have no regard for the Lord God will also end up in hell. 

27 “He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s home, 28 because I have five brothers—to warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’  

He cannot bear to think that his brothers would also end up in hell and wants to warn them because he dreads to see their pain!  The answer that Jesus puts into the mouth of Abraham gives us the clear reason why the rich man was in hell.  It also shows us the true and only way to heaven.

29 “Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them listen to them.’ 30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  31 “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.’” 

The rich man in torment now sees clearly the importance of God’s Word.  For faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).  Jesus also spoke of the importance of hearing (not just hearing to hear, but to understand and be led to faith).  Jesus reprimanded those who heard the Word but did not listen to the word: You search the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them. They testify about me!” (John 5:39).  If a person is not persuaded by the powerful Word of God then neither will they be persuaded even is someone is raised from the dead to speak God’s Word to them. A.k.a. Jesus!

What a poor rich man!  What seemed to help him in life, namely his riches, failed to help him in death.  And what seemed to fail him in life, the Word of God that points one to Christ, was rejected, and produced no fruit of faith in his life.  He took his pattern for love from the world and loved those who loved him.  He used his wealth to entertain those who could do the same for him.  He was truly a poor rich man!

Application: We are living in the richest country in the world. We enjoy a very high standard of living.  Our homes have rich comforts and conveniences that this rich man never dreamed about!  So, do you think there is a danger for us?  Have we ever sinned against God with our wealth by not using it to generously help those in need?  There is no need to be ashamed of our wealth if we have the love of God in our hearts to use it to love God and love our neighbor.  We can use our generous wealth to help others as we trust in God to provide for all our needs.  For God has taken care of our greatest need through the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross to take away our sins.  This wonderful fact takes us from the shadow of death and the fear of darkness and set us in God’s beautiful light.  This empowers us to change our love of wealth into love for God and our neighbor.   Don’t live like the poor rich man, but live like the

Rich Poor Man

Jesus speaks of him this way.

20 A beggar named Lazarus had been laid at his gate. Lazarus was covered with sores and 21 longed to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Besides this, the dogs also came and licked his sores.”

This beggar—no wait! We know his name! Lazarus! Had riches money can’t buy.  His wealth was faith in God and God knew him by name! In spite of his lowly condition while living in this world, he looked forward to the goal of his faith—to be in heaven with God.  As an Old Testament believer he was waiting for the day when the Messiah would come to save his people from their sins.  It is no mistake that Jesus gives him the name “Lazarus” which means, “God is my Helper.”  Lazarus depended on God and looked to him for his deliverance.

Poverty vs God’s Favor:  Here we want to be careful not to say more than the intent of Jesus’ words. Jesus is not saying that the more miserable we are, the greater it is that we’ll receive God’s favor.  Jesus preached a sermon on a mount once about this.  He said, Blessed are the poor in spirit, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3).  Lazarus was poor physically, but he was also poor “in spirit,” that is Lazarus kept God as his Helper in spite of his miserable earthly condition.  Lazarus was a Rich Poor Man. He hoped and waited for God’s time of deliverance.  And then the day came: Abraham far away and Lazarus at his side.

The hard truth of God’s Word.  In difficult times we may sometimes be tempted to feel forsaken by God.  We may be tempted to take matters into our own hands to settle the problem.  If we are sick, we go to the doctor for medicine, but it is God who heals.  If our finances are stretched, we go to work to make money, but it is God who prospers.  No matter what the situation, we learn from Lazarus to never lose our love for God.  Our situation may become desperate, but our hope is in God our Helper.  He will keep his promises.  He has redeemed us and made us his very own.  He has promised to take care of our every need and our final reward in heaven.  Therefore, let us keep our trust in what Seems to Fail in this life, but Helps in Death!

It’s Not Too Late:  We are not as poor as Lazarus.  We are rich physically!  The question for us all to wrestle with is this: Are we rich spiritually?  That is, are we rich in love toward God and our neighbor?  King David picks up this thought in Psalm 41:1 How blessed is the person who understands the plight of the weak! May the Lord deliver him in the day of trouble.”  The Lord has already delivered us from our greatest trouble—sin. Eternal life is prepared for us by Jesus.  We are set free to love God and our neighbor from thankful hearts.  This becomes very real for us during days of inflation and rising food costs.  Dear Children of God, we have two choices. Either we turn to God when he calls and become rich in Christ, or we turn away from God and earn for ourselves the fate of the rich man without Christ.

Our God is a God of love.  Our God is also a just God.  He will punish those who choose not to listen to his holy Word.  He will reward those who listen to his Word and put their trust in Jesus Christ.  May God, who is rich in mercy and loved us with his everlasting love in Christ, make us Rich Poor People.  God make us rich and conform our love toward the Lord and rich in love toward our neighbor, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

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