SEVENTH IN MY TEACHING SERIES ON THE PARABLES OF JESUS
The Parable Of The Rich Man and Lazarus
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘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.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Humbled To Be Exalted
Considering there are only about forty or so parables of Jesus recorded in the gospels, the theme that contrasts the man who believes himself to be righteous with the man who is humble and aware of his poverty must have been pretty important to Jesus. Again, in this parable, Jesus creates that very same conundrum for the reader: Self? or Die to self?
God (Abraham) told the rich man, “Remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.” Ouch! As a human being I love to hear the part about how Lazarus was blessed in heaven after having suffered so much on this earth. But, what about the rich man? He will spend eternity in torment, merely because he allowed his “richness” on this earth to keep him from humbling himself before God.
How Much Is Too Much?
I don’t believe it was the life consisting of “good things” that kept the rich man from experiencing the blessings Jesus speaks of in this parable. I think it is more that he had found his identity, worth, and value in those things at the expense of knowing Jesus.
Is there an amount of material wealth and possessions that would be too much, keeping us from an eternity with Jesus? My answer: any amount, large or small, that blocks our heart’s ability to acknowledge our inner poverty, sin, and shame, thus keeping us from desperately seeking Jesus as our hope and our savior.
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