People are important. Yes, I know that sounds simple. We can say a collective, “Duh,” to that statement. We enjoy our friends, for whom else will we talk with when our families are driving us crazy? We enjoy our family, for who else will be there when our friends abandon us? We tolerate our co-workers, for we are with them only at work.
Who else is there? What other people are there in the world? Yes, I asked the question that particular way. There are people beyond our family, friends, and co-workers. Who are the people who are not our family, friends, and co-workers? They are strangers.
Yet, I don’t think Lazarus was a stranger to the rich man. Lazarus was laid at the rich man’s gate! There is more to this story than we realize with just one reading. I think there is more in this chapter of Luke’s gospel which helps us understand why Jesus told us this parable in the first place.
A. What is missing from our reading? (Luke 16:14-18)
1. Jesus had told his disciples about being faithful to God over being faithful to money
2. The Pharisees heard all of this
3. Jesus continues to correct them
4. “God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.”
a. The Law & the Prophets were in effect, now the Kingdom of God is working its way into this world
b. Heaven & earth pass away, but God’s word stands forever
c. For example, look at divorce & remarriage – God’s word opposes these ideas!
5. What do we prize that is an abomination to God? Yes, we hear about celebrities getting married, divorced, and remarried. We spend our time getting the low down on these situations when we keep on purchasing the grocery store tabloids! Yet, God makes a prize out of other things. Now we are beginning to see why Jesus told this parable.
B. Who do we meet in the parable? (Luke 1619-20)
1. The rich man had the finest clothes
2. The rich man had wonderful quantities of food every day
3. Someone laid Lazarus at the rich man’s gate (NIV)
4. Lazarus did not have the finest clothes or food
5. Lazarus had sores all over his body
6. The dogs were the only creature to pay attention to Lazarus
7. What a contrast of people! The rich man had all that he needed, and more. Lazarus had nothing and could have used more. But the rich man did not even acknowledge Lazarus was at his gate! Does it matter who is at our gate?
C. They both die (Luke 16:21)
1. Lazarus died and was carried to be with Abraham
2. The rich man died and was buried
3. Something is going on here. We see the description of Lazarus’ death and where he went. But with all that the rich man had, all we know is that he died and was buried. There is a twist to the parable which we may not have expected! We are not the only ones to notice the situation.
D. The rich man notices how things turned out (Luke 16:2-26)
1. The rich man is in Hades – the place of the dead
2. He is being tormented – the fire must be all around!
3. He speaks to Abraham – have Lazarus help me through this torment
4. Abraham replies – you had good in your life and Lazarus did not have good
– There is a chasm between the places Lazarus & the rich man go
– After death, neither can go to the other side
5. Wow! What a stark contrast in their situations now. We don’t read that Lazarus is rich. But we do read that Lazarus is comforted. The rich man doesn’t have all that he had before. In fact, the rich man has nothing. Finally, something clicks for the rich man. He begins to wonder about his family.
E. What about my brothers? (Luke 16:27-31)
1. My 5 brothers have to be warned so they don’t become tormented after death
2. Abraham tells the rich man that the 5 brothers need to listen to Moses & the prophets!
3. The rich man thinks someone returning from the dead might warn them to repent
4. Abraham confirms that as the 5 brothers don’t listen to the Bible, they won’t listen to someone who rises from the dead
5. What causes us to repent? What can get us to change our ways? God’s word has been given to us through Moses and the prophets. With Jesus’ arrival, we know that the kingdom of God is here. We repent of prizing what we do. We turn to what God prizes.
If we prize our stuff, then we miss out on what God prizes. For what God prizes, is not our riches or our feasting. It is the poor. Until we care for the poor, our faith in Jesus doesn’t mean much. We know who the poor are. Let’s feed them this week. Go as an individual Christian. It doesn’t have to be a big ministry that cares for the poor. For the Lazarus’s of our world need us to prize them, just like God does.