(The following notes are the gist of what I preached this last Sunday morning in our church service. The sermon video has been posted on our church youtube website = www.thewelllososos.com).
Before Joshua’s last two sermons in Luke 16, we spent three consecutive Sundays in Luke 15. In that chapter we saw the God of the Bible as a loving, compassionate Father, who welcomes us with open arms when we repent of our sins and turn to Him. We also saw that He pursues us relentlessly, and patiently reasons with us when we are blind to our need to repent and turn to Him; and even when we blame Him for our angst.
Before those sermons we worked through Luke 14 wherein we saw Jesus as Lord and master; and therefore One who expects His followers to live as self denying disciples.
Now in Luke 16 we are seeing God as the owner of all. We’re learning that the God of the Bible, the living God, is a God who owns everything in the Universe; and who loans or entrusts differing amounts of that stuff to each of us; and who therefore expects us to steward it properly since it is ultimately His, not ours; and ultimately it is for His glory, not ours.
For the last two weeks Joshua has been speaking to us about the call to stewardship. Stewarding God’s stuff well or faithfully to use the term Jesus uses in vs. 10-13 opens up to us greater and greater opportunities and influence, greater joy, greater favor and intimacy with God the owner, greater resources, and what Jesus calls “true riches”.
Not stewarding God’s stuff well or faithfully as believers lessens our opportunities and influence in His kingdom, diminishes our joy, hinders our favor and intimacy with God the owner, and at the extreme corrupts our character, and eventually makes us a slave to the love of money and the demons swirling all around it. And if we totally refuse to know and walk with Him as owner of all we have, the consequences are……... well that’s what we are going to learn about this morning.
While Luke chapter 16 started off with Jesus addressing His disciples; starting at vs. 15 we find Jesus addressing the Pharisees, though His disciples I’m sure were all ears in the wings - as yet another intense confrontation with these religious leaders was brewing.
These Pharisees – Luke tells us – were men who were known by Jesus for several things: First in vs. 14 we see they were lovers of money, which means they worshipped money and all they thought it could do for them. Second in vs. 14 they were scoffers of Jesus, whom they should have worshipped, since He was and is the creator, owner and distributor of money and wealth in all its forms. And Third, they were those in Jesus’s words in vs. 15 who routinely sought to “justify themselves in the sight of men”. That means they were most concerned in their daily lives about what men thought of them. Their words and deeds on any given day were primarily motivated by how to impress men, and how to be noticed and respected and appreciated by men. Sadly they were oblivious to the fact that unlike men, “God knows their hearts”, and that the things they valued and were pursuing were “detestable in His sight.”
This brings us to the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, where Jesus sought to wake these hard hearted Pharisees up to the seriousness of their choices and values. Perhaps some of us need to be awakened as well. Let’s read it and then see what we can learn from it. Luke 16:19-31 I’m going to read a verse or two at a time and then make a few comments.
Vs. 19 “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day.” Comment: This rich man is never named in the story, which tips us off that it was another one of those stories Jesus made up to capture people’s attention, and help them come at truth from a different angle. We know little about him. What we do know from this verse is he relished and displayed his riches for all to see, both in his clothing and in his living quarters or home decorations, and probably in every other conceivable way.
Vs. 20, 21 “And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.” : Comment: It appears that this poor man whom Jesus gave the name Lazarus, was so hungry, so poor and in such poor health that someone in his family had to transport him to this rich man’s gate and leave him laying there, hoping that the rich man or someone in his court would have pity and compassion on Lazarus. Another evidence of his pitiful condition is that he could not defend himself from the dogs that came and licked his oozing sores.
Vs. 22a “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom;….” Comment: This poor man was not saved and given eternal life merely because He was poor. While our God has great compassion towards the poor, they like all the rest of us must trust in our Savior, and what He has done for us on the cross to be saved from their sins. Jesus expects His listeners to connect all the dots from elsewhere in Scripture regarding how this man was saved. He just wants us in this story to know He was saved, and he did enter heaven or Paradise when he died.
So why did Jesus say Lazarus was carried to Abraham’s bosom or side by the angels rather than to heaven by the angels? Well part of the answer is because of His audience. If you remember the heated discussion Jesus in John chapter 8 had with the Jews and most likely the Pharisees, since they were mentioned earlier in the chapter, their main defense when Jesus was speaking to them about their slavery to sin, was that Abraham was their father. Abraham was greatly revered by the Jews, and they took great pride and misplaced comfort in being his descendants.
Vs. 22b “…and the rich man also died and was buried.” Comment: No angels, no comfort, and no enjoyment of Abraham’s fellowship in this short and sober obituary.
Vs. 23 “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.” Comment: The rich man immediately after his death found himself in the much dreaded Hades, wherein he experienced ongoing torment, and yet he was given some awareness of things. This term “Hades” as a destination in the N.T. is never used of the saved – only the lost by the way. The King James translates this “In Hell he lifted up his eyes…”. Somehow this rich man in his misery was able to see Abraham and Lazarus in their ecstasy, even though the distance between the two places was significant.
Vs. 24 “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ Comment: Interesting in this story that the rich man doesn’t cry out to God, only to Abraham. Perhaps Abraham and Lazarus were the only ones he was allowed to see. The rich man obviously did not know God from Adam. His hope for eternal bliss evidently was that he was a descendant of Abraham. So he cried out in desperation to Abraham for mercy. His misery was so great that the rich man felt even a drop of water from someone else’s finger tip would bring him some relief. Also in this verse we see evidence that the fires of Hell mentioned elsewhere in scripture for the lost were this man’s portion. And we see from this ongoing conversation that the rich man was not immediately annihilated or destroyed. Rather that his destruction was ongoing and unending.
Vs. 25 “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things, but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.” Comment: Abraham is not cynical nor hard as seen in his address of the rich man. But he reminds the rich man that in his earthly life he received and enjoyed the things he valued, which is why he emphasized “your good things”. Fancy clothes, opulent dwellings, decadent parties and feasts and exotic drink were his idols. Lazarus on the other hand very likely received suffering not of his own making in his earthly life since Jesus did not use the word “his bad things”, but only “bad things”. The rich man’s agony is again mentioned in contrast to Lazarus’s comfort, both of which will last for eternity.
Vs. 26 ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ Comment: Knowing what we know about Lazarus, he probably had compassion on this rich man, even though the rich man had no compassion or pity on him whatsoever in their earthly life. But the great chasm or God’s fixed order prevented him or anyone else who ever would enter heaven to express that compassion or pity on those in hell. And those in hell, while now aware of their folly and stupidity, were absolutely unable to obtain any help from those in heaven. Their eternal destinies were determined by their choices while on earth. And there were no more choices or chances left.
Vs. 27,28 “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.” Comment: This rich man knew how to barter and manipulate and cajole. To some degree while on earth that worked for him. Now he is begging and pleading, but to no avail.
While on earth is the time to fight for your family’s spiritual life and eternal destiny. Then you can have some influence. Now he had none. And its possible he was given the ability to watch his family members slide towards the same awful destiny that he was experiencing.
Vs. 29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ Comment: Abraham knew of these five brothers, and he knew they had access to the scriptures written by Moses and the Prophets. That access (in whatever form) was all they needed to avert the eternal damnation their rich brother was experiencing.
Abraham knew they could easily discover from Psalm 24:1 that God not us – is the owner of everything in the Universe, “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.” He knew they could discover from Deuteronomy 8 that it is God alone who enables us to make wealth, “But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth…” Moses said to the people of Israel. He knew they could learn from one of the wealthiest men who had ever lived that no amount of money or wealth will ever satisfy us, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.” wrote King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 5:10. He knew they could learn from Isaiah the prophet that all of us need to “seek the Lord while He may be found and call upon Him while He is near.” Isaiah 55:6 He knew they could learn from Isaiah 53 that a Savior was coming who would be pierced through for our transgressions and who would save us from our sins - if we placed our trust in Him.
Vs. 30 “But he (the rich man) said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ Comment: This rich man knew his brothers all to well in that he knew they would most likely not show any interest in Moses and the prophets. They probably never had up to this point. He mistakenly thought that while they had no interest in the truth of Scripture, they would somehow heed it by seeing a miracle.
Vs. 31 “But he (Abraham) said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.” Comment: Father Abraham, no longer seeing through a glass darkly, as we all do on earth - - saw clearly that these brothers’ hearts were hardened, just like their rich brother’s was, and thus even miracles would not turn them around.
I hope and pray that there is not one hardened heart in this room, or among those who will watch this video on Youtube or read it on Kingdomstreams. But this story and this chapter probably raised some questions in your minds, so I’m going to address a few before we close.
1. So can a rich person be pleasing to the Lord? I’m getting the feeling they can’t. Answer: Well the answer is yes. Let me give you first some principles and then some examples:
The prophet Samuel said in I Sam. 2:7 The Lord makes rich; Prov. 10:22 says “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.” The example in all of Scripture that we are to look to for what living a life of faith looks like – Abraham – was a very wealthy man. The example in all of Scripture that we are to look to for how to respond to suffering and affliction – Job – was a very wealthy man – especially after God restored all of his wealth to him and some. Joseph of Arimathea, who buried Jesus in his own tomb was a very wealthy man. Nicodemus, a Pharisee who helped Joseph bury Jesus was probably also a wealthy man. Zaccheus, Matthew, Lydia, Aquila and Prisca to name a few were all fairly wealthy folk in the New Testament. Barnabus might have been.
It all depends on how you respond to the Owner, and whether you as a rich person learn to walk with Him in obedience and faith, stewarding what He has entrusted to you faithfully, and giving Him the glory for all of His blessing on you.
2. Does God expect unbelieving or non Christian rich people to use their riches for righteous purposes? We know if they do not bow the knee to Jesus they will not be saved nor enter heaven when they die. But beyond that judgment, will they have to account for their greed and selfishness and lack of concern for the poor, etc.? Answer: Yes I believe He does, and yes I believe they will. For these reasons: 1. The Rich Man and Lazarus story comes at the end of Jesus’s instruction about stewarding the money and things God entrusts to each of us. I find it interesting that the main offense of the rich man in Jesus’s story is how he treated Lazarus the poor man. 2. We all know that the primary reason given in the book of Genesis for God destroying the cities – Sodom and Gomorrah was because of their unhinged sexual immorality. But in Ezekiel 16 another one of God’s grievances with them is declared and that is found in vs. 49, which reads, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.” If time allowed we could talk about James 5:1-6 and many other passages.
3. So in light of Luke 16 and the story at the end re: the rich man and Lazarus - - if a man or a woman of substance or wealth today, lives their life and handles their finances as if they themselves generated it all, and thus it is all theirs to do with as they will, and yet they say when they were a child or teenager – they asked Christ into their life – how should we feel about their eternal destiny? Answer: I would say whoever knows them should be greatly concerned about their eternal destiny. From what I know of scripture, their lifestyle in the present carries more weight than some decision they say they made 30 or 50 or 70 years ago. Martin Luther – the great reformer of the church in the 1500’s said once, “everyone needs a three fold conversion; that of his heart, his head, and his pocketbook.” In my mind, if the latter is in question, so are the first two.
If you and I have been truly born again by the Spirit of God, and He now dwells within us, I believe we will want to please Him as faithful stewards. It may take us a while to shed off the old man, and put on the new, but we will eventually do so.
4. Should we confront the lost with the reality of hell and eternal punishment in our witness (or even in our preaching from the pulpit)? Answer: Yes, but only when the Holy Spirit leads us to do so. Jesus dealt with every person differently and uniquely. His longest recorded conversation with a lost person (the Samaritan woman) did not have one reference to hell in it. But the Pharisees were warned a number of times of hell’s reality if they did not repent. In general – the most hard hearted got the “hell” talk.
CONCLUSION - - Jesus started off in Luke 16 addressing His disciples. I want to end by doing the same. You and I as disciples of Jesus Christ have untold potential to mark our world if we can learn to steward all that He has entrusted to us well. We have an amazing owner! He literally owns everything in the Universe. He distributes everything in the Universe. He is totally hands on. Never selfish, greedy, stingy, distracted, arrogant, unjust, negligent, or partial. Why wouldn’t we want to work for Him? Why wouldn’t we want to entrust everything to Him, and seek to steward His stuff well?
If there was any one man in Great Britain who was more responsible than any other in turning the slave trade around and making it illegal, it was William Wilberforce, who by the way was a very wealthy man and member of parliament. I leave you with his exhortation re: stewarding God’s stuff: “Get going. Be useful, generous, moderate and self-denying in your manner of life. Treat the lack of positive action on your part as sin. If God chooses to bless you with material prosperity, don’t use it on the absurd task of keeping up with the current trends and fads. By using your money modestly and without display, show that you are not a slave to fashion. Be an example of someone who uses his or her wealth for purposes that are more important than showing off or making a big impression. Demonstrate through the way you live that worldly things are not even close to the value of heavenly things.”
Closing Prayer Time