Faithlife Sermons

If We Did Not Listen

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 1 view
Notes
Transcript
Sermon Tone Analysis
A
D
F
J
S
Emotion
A
C
T
Language
O
C
E
A
E
Social
View more →

If We Did Not Listen

The New Revised Standard Version The Rich Man and Lazarus

“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.’ ”

Prayer.
The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is tantalizing, because it is one of our favorite types of story: the one about the Guy who gets what’s coming to him. We love poetic justice, because we love to see people “get what they deserve.” The rich man lived comfortably, feasting on the richest foods, and dressed in designer clothes, all the while ignoring poor Lazarus, whose life was plagued by discomfort and hunger. The irony of fortunes reversed for these two men drips off the page. Lazarus had sores all over his body. The Hebrew word for sores is the root word for “burning.” But in the end, the rich man is the one who burns in Hell. Lazarus was constantly hungry, hoping for the tiniest morsel of food from the rich man’s table. But in the end, it was the rich man who begged for the tiniest drop of water from Lazarus’ hand. Wrapped up in all of this are issues of wealth, of justice, of what it means to be “blessed.” These issues all point to the role wealth plays in our faith. What does it mean for us to be wealthy and Christian? How do we navigate the challenges we face because of our wealth so that we can be faithful to God? These matters are what make this rather unique parable of Jesus relevant to us today, and definitely worthy of our careful attention.
First, we’ll consider the Parable itself: Who was the intended audience of the parable and how does the parable fit within Luke’s teaching on wealth?
Then, we’ll consider: What is the central teaching of Jesus in the parable?
Finally, we will consider some practical applications of Jesus’ teaching on wealth for our lives today.
So then, let’s take a closer look at the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. In his commentary on Luke, Fred Craddock highlighted the importance of considering: to whom was Jesus telling this story? In Luke, many parables of Jesus are recorded, especially in the section where Jesus begins his journey toward Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. He goes there, knowing he will die on a cross. Along the way, Jesus offered various teachings, each in a different setting, each to different groups. Sometimes we find Jesus teaching His disciples. Sometimes we find Jesus teaching the crowds. In the case of this parable, Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees, a group of leaders of the Jewish faith. Craddock points out that the Rich Man was a person of interest to the Pharisees because the Rich Man would have been, to them, the best example of what it means to be “blessed.” The Pharisees believed the rich man was an example of a godly man. His wealth was a sign of God’s favor, a just reward for a righteous life. The poor man, on the other hand, would also be of interest to the Pharisees, because the Pharisees believed suffering was a sign of God’s punishment. Lazarus had boils on his skin, which the Jewish leaders would have instantly linked to the 6th plague of the 10 plagues God inflicted on Egypt when God’s people were suffering slaves. They also would have approved of the rich man’s decision to leave Lazarus to his own devices. After all, who is the rich man to interfere with the punishment of God? It is clear that Jesus disagreed with their view of things. For one, while Jesus agreed the Bible teaches that righteousness leads to blessing, and wickedness leads to suffering, there was certainly more to it than that. I can hear Jesus asking: how is it righteous for the rich man to look upon the suffering of the poor man and do nothing? The Pharisees seem to have forgotten that the bible also teaches God’s people to be generous toward the poor and the foreigner. In , the Old Testament Book of the Law on which the book of Luke relies heavily, God gives this command: “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Throughout the book of Luke, Jesus consistently addresses the fact that the Jewish leaders of his day didn’t grasp the full truth when it comes to affluence. In chapter 3, Jesus challenges the notion that the Jews can claim God’s blessings simply because they’re Jewish. He said: “Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
In addition to challenging the Pharisee’s sense of entitlement because of their traditions, Jesus also challenged people who put their trust in their wealth. In Luke, Jesus offers beatitudes, like “blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” But, in addition to blessings, Jesus also offered curses. Curses for those who put their faith in their possessions and their prestige.
“...woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
“...woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.
for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.  
25 “Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Thirdly, in Luke, Jesus was willing to offer the full blessings of those who are saved to people who did nothing to “earn” it. Remember the thief up on the cross next to Jesus? He said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Thus the thief on the cross becomes the culminating act of God’s forgiveness in Christ, a reversal of fortune for the criminal, who by all rights should have been condemned with all the others. (pause)
Taken together, it seems to me it is a rather dangerous state of affairs for anyone to be wealthy and religious. (pause)
The wealthy religious tend to believe their religious traditions will save them, when the truth is, only faith in God’s will for their lives will save them.
The wealthy religious tend to believe their wealth is a sign of God’s favor, when the truth is, their wealth is a sign of God’s expectation.
The wealthy religious tend to complicate things, causing them to miss the point: the simple truth that God saves those who put their trust in Him.
The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, then, is Jesus’ way of illustrating the perils of wealthy religion.
After the rich man dies, he goes to a place of eternal torment. Even from the bottom of that miserable hell hole, he looks up and sees Father Abraham, pulling out a chair for Lazarus as he takes his seat at the banquet table of God. and he begs Abraham to send Lazarus to give him a drop of water to cool his burning tongue. Even now, the Rich Man cannot let go of the idea that he is somehow superior to Lazarus, that Lazarus ought to do this kindness to him because of who he is. But Abraham peers down into the hole and says: you got what you deserved buddy, this was your choice. What’s more, there is too much distance between you and Heaven. So it was that the Rich Man couldn’ stand the fire of hell, not because it was hot, but because he was so used to being comfortable during his time on earth.
The Rich man then makes his second request: well, if you can’t save me, then go and warn my brothers. They live just like I did, ignoring the poor and the suffering around them for the sake of their own sense of religious entitlement. To this, Abraham responded: they should listen to Moses and the Prophets, that is, the core teachings of the Bible. This is where the rubber meets the road for Jesus and for the Pharisees who are fuming as they listen to this story: If the man’s brother’s had accepted the whole teaching of God, and not cherry-picked the parts of the Bible that made them feel justified, then they wouldn’t be in the mess they are in. Abraham doesn’t need to warn them: the Word of God already did that. The brothers just had a different agenda.
So then, the Rich Man becomes desperate. He says: they will listen if you send Lazarus, for surely they would listen to someone who rises from the dead.
I can imagine Abraham stood there for a moment, thinking about what he should say next. He thinks:
They refused to see that God calls us to care for the poor, the widow, and the foreigner in our midst.
They refused to acknowledge the temporary nature of their wealthiness, seeking “treasure in heaven” instead.
So he says: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
even if someone rises from the dead. Because they have already made their choice, you see. It’s not that it’s too late for them. It’s never too late. It’s that they have chosen what they believe is right, and there is no intervention that could convince them otherwise.
What the parable teaches us, then, is that wealth is not the only, or even the most important, sign of faithfulness. To be sure, Jesus is NOT saying that being wealthy is evil. What Jesus is saying is that it is wrong to put wealth and status before the needs of others. I mean, that’s the real reason why the rich man, and the Pharisees too, wouldn’t share with the poor, isn’t it? Folks get messed up when they forget that there are things more important than their creature comforts. Communities of faith get messed up when they forget that there are more important things than getting enough money to keep the building from falling over and the lights on and the A/C running. You know what it all comes down to for Jesus is: are people going to value things that won’t last, things that are finite and temporary. Or, are they going to focus on what will last forever? Jesus’ interest is in challenging people to strive for the higher, more important things in life. After all, he was willing to go to Jerusalem and die for what he believed.
26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Wealth, church, is indeed a sign of God’s blessing, but it does not follow that wealthiness should lead us to ignore the poor in our midst. Poverty is a sign of the curse, but it does not follow that the poor should be left to their own devices. God’s word consistently from cover to cover of the bible, commands us to care for the poor. Therefore, our affluence becomes evil only when we assume we are wealthy because of our own righteousness and hard work. Affluence becomes evil when it causes us to believe that those who are poor deserve their plight. Not to mention the fact that over-reliance on wealth leads to greed for more wealth, and more consumption; which leads to anxiety as we try to manage all the stuff we accumulate.
Jesus is calling to us, saying: stop all this madness. Stop being consumed by your stuff. Stop condemning people around you who are suffering. Here the Good News: we can be people who accept the whole teaching of God, to achieve the blessed life through hard work and productivity, without forgetting God’s call to minister to the poor and the hurting. We don’t have to become like the rich man and his brothers who “did not listen” to the whole counsel of God.
Let’s be people who do listen to God’s command, for the sake of the Gospel.
I fear
Here at St. Paul, we feed our Lazarus’ twice a month through the Helping Hands Food Pantry. If you are currently or have ever volunteered in this ministry, please stand. God bless you my friends: you are ones who did listen to the word of God.
But there are other ways for us to apply this powerful teaching of Jesus to our lives today.
First, we need to recognize that our wealth can become an enemy to our faith. It is important for us to be mindful of the fact that God has given us everything we have. We may have worked hard for it, but even so our bodies and our souls are created by God. Therefore, even our best individual efforts are still the result of the creative work of our Heavenly Father. We can only give glory to God for what we have. A healthy response to this is to incorporate thanksgiving into every one of our prayers. Do you thank God every day for what you have? For your family, your friends, the provision for your basic needs? Some years ago, I made the decision to begin every prayer with the simple words “Thank you, Lord.” And it made all the difference.
Second, we need to recognize that our choices make us who we become. Ok, that’s a mouthful. In the parable, the rich man recognized, in hindsight, how the choices he made led him to this point. C.S. Lewis wrote in “The Great Divorce” “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.” The rich man was in hell because he made a deliberate choice NOT to do what God commanded him to do. And even though he regretted the choice in hindsight, he still had made the choice. Let’s say you have a big decision coming up: do you ever stop and pray, asking God to show you His will for you? Do you read the Bible in such a way that it shapes who you are so that you can say confidently to God “Thy will be done”? Our choices make us who we become.
Third, we need to pay attention to what is temporary and what is eternal. Kind of like the adage “use things, not people.” It’s so easy for us to forget this when we are pushing our own agenda. We want things to be a certain way so we manipulate others to try and get them to do what we think they should do. Or, we self-justify, like the rich man, who believed he was right to ignore the poor man, because obviously the poor man was wicked and he was righteous. The rich man was paying for the capital improvements on the synagogue. What contribution was Lazarus making that he should be recognized?? Friends, this is no way to live. We don’t treat people according to what they produce. We love them as individuals of sacred worth, created by God to love and be loved in this life. A wise preacher once gave me some powerful advice. He said: whenever you are about to enter into a conversation with someone else, ask yourself: What is my motive here? In other words, am I talking to them because I want to get my own way, or do I have their best interests at heart? We need to pay attention to what is temporary and what is eternal.
A wise preacher once gave me some powerful advice. He said: whenever you are about to enter into a conversation with someone else, ask yourself: What is my motive here? In other words, am I talking to them because I want to get my own way, or do I have their best interests at heart?
Friends, my hope for each of us today is that we will not be the type of people who, in the end, did not listen to the commands of God. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, had a mantra to help himself and others have a healthy, Christ-centered approach to wealth. He said: “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” Sit down and take stock of how you use your time: how much is for making, how much is for saving, how much is for giving. Do the same with your money. When we consider our time, our abilities, and our money, what are the contributions we can make to the people we see who are in need all around us?
Father. Son. Holy Spirit.
Related Media
Related Sermons