Read: Luke 16:19-31
Reflect: Jesus was a great story teller and He used them to illustrate spiritual truths. One such story is the parable of “The Rich Man and Lazarus”. This is a story of great contrasts. The unnamed man had a sad end in which he died and went to Hades. In the New Testament, “Hades” was the abode of the unsaved dead before their resurrection and condemnation at the Great White Throne Judgment. The nameless man was condemned to Hades not because he was rich but because of the condition of his heart. We know about his bank account because we are told that he was clothed in purple and linen and that’s something only the rich could wear. The gentleman also feasted sumptuously every day. It’s okay to have great clothes and food, but there is tragedy when that is the direct reflection of the emptiness of one’s heart.
Lazarus, the other main character in the parable, was impoverished, diseased and despised. Notice, Lazarus is named, in contrast to the rich man. Lazarus had no food and no hope. His situation was so bad that dogs came and licked the sores on his body. You can’t get much lower than that.
The rich man knew about Lazarus and yet did nothing to help. Every day he saw poor Lazarus sitting at his gate. Imagine, passing by the same homeless person daily on your way to work. Likewise, every evening on your way home you pass by the same malnourished man who would love to just eat the scraps that might fall from your table. Day after day, you pass that person too ill to stop the dogs from licking the sores on his body. What would you do?
The rich man had everything and more, yet he did nothing. He was rich in material possessions but poor spiritually. There was no room in his heart for poor Lazarus and so he kept up the daily pretense of not seeing Lazarus. Unfortunately, after the rich man’s death, the roles were reversed. The rich man who only thought of himself was in a place of torment and Lazarus was now at Abraham’s side signifying a place of blessing and joy in the Kingdom of God.
The nameless man had made the wrong choice. He should have considered the plight of others, such as Lazarus, instead of living a self-centered existence without room for God. He should have given of himself instead of just giving to himself. Maybe he thought that he earned this wealth and that Lazarus didn’t deserve any of it, but that is a flawed outlook.
I don’t know of any homeless person who has ever started out in life with the goal of one day ending up on a street corner begging for food. If God blessed the rich man, then that same man should have had compassion on the less fortunate and blessed others with his wealth. This would have shown evidence of a changed heart that loved God and others more than oneself.
Apply: One other important point: it’s interesting to note that Jesus only shared the name of the poor man. This accentuates the fact that the Savior has a great deal of concern for those who are suffering. “Lazarus” was a common name in Bible times and was the equivalent of the Hebrew “Eleazar” which means “whom God has helped.” If you are suffering today, know that God hears your plight. Your situation won’t last forever. In contrast, if you are blessed with material possessions, then help those in need. Unlike the parable’s rich man, you will be able to discover the true riches of a life that is lived to please to God, rather than self.