2017-07-02 – Luke 16:19–31– Parables of Jesus – A Rich Christian
The Rich Man and Lazarus
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
2017-07-02 – Luke 16:19–31– Parables of Jesus – A Rich Christian
Good morning everyone. I am so pleased that you chose to spend the morning with us here today..
We are continuing in the sermon series on The Parables of Jesus, Last week we went over the parable of “The Rich Fool” which was the first of three parables which touch on wealth and personal possessions. Today we will go over the parable called “The Rich Man and Lazarus” and next week “The Unjust Steward.” Jesus has something profound in each parables for us to learn from.
In last week’s message we summarized the message with the understanding that God wants us to be prudently frugal. Jesus warns us that no matter how much or how little we may have, we can easily become covetous by focusing too much on riches, and squeezing God out of our lives to where we stop trusting in Him, stop following Him, and stop living with the understanding that we are called to lay-up our treasures in heaven. We closed with a plea that we should all be wise with what God has blessed us with, knowing that it all comes from Him.
Turn in your Bibles to Luke 16:19–31, Page 79 of the New Testament, which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God. Let us Pray…
This Lazarus and the Rich Man parable makes a comparison between the lives of two men—one rich and affluent, and the other poor. As we’ll see today, the comparison extends beyond this life and into the next. First let’s take a look at how Jesus described the “rich man”.
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.
Not a lot is said in this brief introductory description, but the original listeners might have drawn some significant impressions from it. This man was not only rich but he made a point of showing off his riches by the clothes he wore. Dailey he dressed in purple cloth, which was something only the very wealthy could afford. Back then the common folk didn’t have much access to clothes in all the colors of the rainbow that we enjoy today.
This man wore royal purple which kind of reminded me that of the musical Artist formally known as Prince. Do you remember that guy? I saw Prince’s house a number years ago. A dear friend of mine that lives in Minneapolis gave us a tour around one of the lakes there. And I saw Princes pink house. I think it must have been painted before he claimed purple as his theme color. Prince even had a song and a movie called Purple Rain, do you remember? Yes, the color purple throughout history has been known to represent royalty. The rich man in our story today wore purple. Back then, the process of extracting purple dye from shellfish was very labor intensive, thus making purple cloth expensive. Royalty and those of high rank generally wore purple robes.
It also says here that the rich man also wore fine linen. The Greek word translated as “fine linen” means a delicate, soft, white, and very costly linen. Wearing white linen garments under purple robes was indicative of great wealth and prestige. On top of that, this verse shows that he “feasted sumptuously every day”, which might mean that he entertained guests daily or on a regular basis which would be very costly. The point being made, both here and later in the story, is that the man was very rich and self-indulgent. Verse 20 continues:
20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores.
The information about poor Lazarus is even more sparse. However, one outstanding point is that his name is given. As a matter of fact, this is the only one of Jesus’ parables in which proper names are used. Further on in this parable, Abraham, the father of the Jewish people is also named. The name Lazarus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Elazar, which means the one who God helps. Also take note that this Lazarus shouldn’t be confused with Jesus’s good friend Lazarus for whom Jesus raised from the dead.
In this parable, Lazarus is so poor that he must beg for food. He is also ill, covered with oozing sores and cannot walk. Either his legs are paralyzed or he is so weak and ill that he was probably laid at the rich man’s gate by others.
In first-century Palestine, there were no governmental services that provided care for the poor, so such care had to be given by the family or community.
Almsgiving is a term they frequently used in that day, which is the giving of money or food to those in need. It was the main way people like Lazarus survived. I have seen this myself all over the world. The most shocking was in Bangladesh where the poor and the invalid were even on the middle of the expressway begging for money or food; So sad indeed. And when you see them your heart hurts for them, and you more appreciate the comforts and social systems we have here in America. In our parable here, Lazarus depended on others to carry him daily to the rich man’s gate where he could beg, and where he hoped that he might receive some food which fell from the rich man’s table.
It was customary back then that when guests ate at feasts, they would break off a piece of bread and use it to scoop food from a big shared dish. They didn’t have silverware or place settings, so throughout the meal, when they wanted to wipe their hands they would break off a bit of bread, and use it to clean their hands, and then throw it under the table. It was this food that Lazarus would have been hoping to receive.
So daily Lazarus would sit at the gate of the rich man, knowing that daily feasts were being eaten there, knowing that his hunger could be satisfied if he were just given some of the food being tossed on the floor. Then the verse here says that the dogs would come by and lick Lazarus’ leaking sores. Most Bible commentators presume that the dogs were dirty, mangy street dogs. However one commentator expresses the possibility that these are the guard dogs of the rich man’s house, and that their licking would help the sores. In either case, having such sores and being licked by dogs made Lazarus ritually and literally unclean. If in fact the rich man had guard dogs, we can assume that the dogs were the ones being fed the table scraps thrown on the floor, rather than Lazarus.
Lazarus was in a miserable state—unable to walk, covered with sores, completely dependent on others for help to move from one place to another, and sitting day after day begging outside the gate of the rich man, who apparently ignored him. He was an unclean social outcast. The parable continues:
22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.
Remember this is before Jesus died for our sins on the cross and thus before anyone was offered salvation through Him. Being with Abraham, or at Abraham’s bosom as it’s sometimes translated, was an expression as the blessed state after death, and was compared to dining with the patriarchs. As seen in Matthew 8:11:
I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
After they died, Lazarus, who was never invited to the rich man’s feast, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table, is now reclining at a feast table in the place of honor next to Abraham, the father of Israel.
The rich man, meanwhile, experiences a very different fate. Verse 22 says:
The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’
So the unnamed rich man has died and been buried, undoubtedly with an expensive funeral. However, his situation is now very different from what it was in his time on earth. He who feasted daily with abundant food and wine is now the one in need and wanting on others for help.
He called out to Abraham, making sure to call him “father,” perhaps hoping that reminding Abraham of his Jewish heritage would in some way cause Abraham to help him.
At this point in the parable, the surprising discovery is that the rich man knew Lazarus’ name. He was apparently aware of Lazarus, who sat daily in front of his house in desperate need. However, he still shows no remorse about his neglect of Lazarus; instead he instructs Abraham to send Lazarus to perform a service for him. Author Kenneth Bailey expressed the situation well when he wrote:
The rich man’s first demand is unbelievable. When Lazarus was in pain, he was ignored by the rich man. Now the rich man is in pain and something must be done about it—immediately! After all, he is unaccustomed to such things. Instead of an apology he demands services, and from the very man he refused to help in spite of his great wealth! He wouldn’t even give Lazarus some of his “dog food.” He might as well have said, “Now that Lazarus is feeling better and is on his feet, I would like a few services. Given who I am, and he, being of the servant class, such service is expected. Send him down, Abraham—and hurry up about it. Unlike Lazarus, I am not accustomed to discomfort!”
There’s no sign of remorse, no asking for forgiveness, only continued self-concern and self-importance.
25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.
Note Abraham doesn’t answer harshly; rather he calls him “child.” He then instructs the rich man to think back on the life he led and all of the good things he received, as opposed to the bad things Lazarus experienced. Abraham reminds him that what he possessed wasn’t truly his; it was on loan from God, and he was meant to use it wisely. Now his earthly life is finished, and due to his actions in that life he is in anguish.
Lazarus, on the other hand, is now comforted. Having lived a difficult life, he is no longer in pain and torment. He is no longer neglected. He has been comforted after his death. Abraham then said:
26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’
Even if Lazarus compassionately wished to dip his finger in water and cool the rich man’s tongue, it would be impossible. Lazarus would have been well within his rights to point out how ridiculous it was for the rich man to ask that he be sent to help relieve his pain. Hadn’t Lazarus been in pain daily at the rich man’s doorstep and received nothing? Yet Lazarus says nothing, as is the case throughout the whole parable. The rich man then comes up with a new task idea:
27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’
Realizing that his predicament isn’t going to change, the rich man asks that Lazarus be sent on a mission to warn his brothers. He sees that the same fate awaits them, most likely because they lived in the same manner as he did, pursuing their own selfish pleasure with no concern for those in need.
29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’
Effectively Abraham states that they have the five books of Moses known as the Torah, as well as the writings of the prophets, which is much of what we have in the Old Testament today. Abraham is saying that the Scriptures, God’s written Word, is sufficient to instruct his brothers in righteous living and faith. If they will listen to those words, meaning to obey and follow them, they won’t end up as their dead rich brother has. However, this answer doesn’t sit well with the rich man. He’s used to people doing what he says. His response is argumentative.
30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
This is ironic given that the rich man himself is at that moment seeing someone “from the dead,” Lazarus, who is reclining at the table with Abraham, and the rich man still doesn’t show any sign of repentance. Yet he’s convinced that if Lazarus appears to his brothers, they will repent. Abraham corrects the rich man’s assumption:
31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
The rich man is seeking to send his five brothers a sign. He assumes that if Lazarus, who is dead and who his brothers know is dead, goes to them, they will believe. The rich man knows his brothers ignored Lazarus just as he did, and that their fate is going to be the same as his. He also knows they either don’t read or don’t believe God’s words. The rich man is asking effectively that a sign be given to his brothers. In Scripture, when someone requests for a sign, this indicates unbelief, as shown in John 6:30 and other verses where the people asked Jesus:
They said to Him, “Then what sign do You do, that we may see and believe You?”
We are no different, even last night I was talking to a young man who was effectively asking the same thing, what proof can I offer that there is a God. That turned into a log discourse, but effectively I told him to open his eyes..
It is clear is that the rich man knew his brothers weren’t living in obedience to what God’s Word taught, and that they were going to end up in the same state he was in if they didn’t receive a sign. But Abraham says that no sign would be given to them, as they had God’s Word available to them and that was sufficient. They knew enough from the Torah and the Scriptures, to know what God says about how to live righteously and also how they should be treating the poor.
So what was Jesus teaching with this parable?
Many of those Jesus was speaking to would have initially assumed that during his life the rich man was blessed by God and that Lazarus was being judged, as they believed that prosperity was God’s blessing and the lack of it was God’s judgment. Jesus was expressing that this wasn’t the case. Being rich isn’t necessarily a sign that one has received God’s blessing or that they are righteous; nor are those who have less, or who suffer illness or poverty, being judged by God.
Another point Jesus was making was that being of the lineage of Abraham wasn’t enough to keep the rich man from eternal torment. At a different time and place, Jesus expressed rather one had to live as Abraham lived, and Abraham was a faith champion. Remember how the Jews challenged Jesus in John chapter eight:
They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did …”
This parable also shows the wealthy how not to act. The rich man was aware of Lazarus and his needs but was indifferent toward him. There is no indication that he took any action to help Lazarus though he clearly had the means to do so.
It’s so easy to look away when one sees a beggar, especially when they are unsightly, as in this graphic example Jesus uses of Lazarus’ with oozing sores being licked by dogs. Instead of seeing a human being, one made in God’s image, one whom God loves, it’s easier to avoid them or to look away and not take notice, to be indifferent toward them. As Christians, as disciples, we are meant to respond with love and compassion when we see the condition of those in need.
While Jesus is using a wealthy man as a bad example in this parable, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being rich. Even Abraham was wealthy. There is, however, danger when riches wrongly affect one’s attitude. It has to do with the place of importance we give our possessions and how we use them.
Are we like the rich fool in Luke chapter 12, that we went over last week, who plans to store up his bumper crop and use it for himself? Do we serve our money and possessions or do we use them for God’s glory? Do we live self-indulgent lives like the rich man in this parable, or do we help others? Even if we don’t have enough to give much financially, do we do what we can to help those in need, perhaps by giving some of our time, attention, or in some way helping to meet their need? What is our attitude toward the poor and needy? Do we look down on them? Do we judge them because we feel they deserve to be in that situation? Or do we show compassion, care, and concern in our actions?
This parable also gives a warning about ignoring or rejecting God’s Word. The rich man either had no belief or a wrong belief. And he knew his brothers were in the same condition. He asked for a sign to be given to them, but Abraham said no sign would be given because they had God’s Word available. God held the rich man accountable because he had God’s Word available, yet didn’t live in alignment with it. Don’t ignore God’s Word as it has eternal implications.
We should be mindful of the choices we make, how we live, how we use our money and possessions, and how we treat those in need. The sum of our decisions, choices, and actions not only make us who we are today, but affect our future in the life after this one.
As Christians, as disciples, an additional point we should take away from this parable is that we are surrounded by many who, like the rich man, either don’t believe or realize that there is life after this life. They may not understand that believing God’s Word and receiving salvation through His Son Jesus will change their lives now and for eternity. Our job is to share our riches of spiritual truth with them. We shouldn’t be like the rich man in the parable, content with our spiritual riches, with the wealth of heaven we possess, and pass-by the “Lazaruses” of this world who are so in need, not just physically, but spiritually.
Whether or not we have much money or possessions to share with those in need, as Christians we each possess the most valuable thing anyone can have—eternal life and a personal relationship with the one who makes it possible, Jesus. There are multitudes from all walks of life around us who are in desperate need, and we have the spiritual riches of faith, of salvation, of God’s deep love to share with them. Let’s do the very best we can to bring them comfort and salvation.
The man of purple that we referred to at the start got it all wrong. He, and the other man in purple we refer to as Prince or the Artist are both now in their places in eternity. Prince believed in God, and once explained that Purple Rain’s symbolism was “end of the world”. Are you ready to face that? Will you take head of what Jesus taught us today in this parable, that there is life after life and that He wishes for you not to have the same demise as the rich man?
[Alter Call & Prayer] – Please Stand..