Feasting with God #55
“The Rich Man and Lazarus”
Text: Luke 16:19-31
19“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—28for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise form the dead.’”
This is a concept that is found throughout Scripture’s teachings. Jesus said it also when he told the disciples: “I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:24). Paul likewise warned, “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world…. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Tim. 6:6-10). And Jesus also stated, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, / but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4).
Countless times throughout Scripture this concept is repeated. It is the concept of the man who sees his self-sufficiency and obtains what reward he can earn, and of the man who sees his need and obtains what reward is given freely. Scripture does not say that it is impossible for a rich man to enter heaven, but instead, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). This is what Abraham told the rich man in this account: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.”
Noticeably, the rich man does not like this answer, because he knows that his family will not accept this. They, like him, are probably rich, relying on their wealth and comfort. The rich man sees no need in himself. Therefore he sees no need to have faith in anyone but himself. The one who seeks his reward in earth will have his reward in earth, and nowhere else.
But the poor man, Lazarus, “who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table,” only the scraps, the most unworthy pieces, he sees how deep his own need is. It is a constant illustration in his own life that he cannot save himself. The Law has been and continues without stopping to be preached to his soul. This left him in terror of hell, worrying that the fires of torment would come upon him.
The irony of the story is that the one who was full of comfort in his position found himself in torment, while the one who was tormented in his position found himself in comfort. This can only be because, as Abraham says, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” The rich man did not heed the Word of God. Lazarus did—that is the impression we are left with.
Human nature seeks to build a god and confidence in anything—anything—other than the pure Word of God. It may be riches or wealth; it may be our own abilities; it may be our families, our love, our good feelings. But none of these grant the assurance of salvation. Instead, salvation is found most assuredly, certainly, without doubt, in Scripture, where we find one of these prophets pronouncing:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn. (Is. 61:1, 2).
To this, Jesus said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). He is the fulfillment of all Scripture, the source, the climax, the one in whom we rely. We could not save ourselves, but in hearing the Word of God, we see that he has already saved us.
Eternal God, our Savior Jesus Christ, give us grace to face temptations from all sides. Remind us that you have already overcome all things for me, and are even now preparing a place for me at your side. In your name we ask it. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.