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Although it is set in hell, this tale is about the here and now.

Luke 16:19-31

The rich man and Lazarus is one of the most disturbing parables Jesus shares. Jesus does not mention hell very much, so when He mentions someone burning in hell for eternity, it merits our attention. And boy, does He have it! All we can think is I do not want that to be me. However, it is not this man’s situation, or his location, that Jesus intends to be our takeaway from this story. He has something greater in mind.

The Pharisees have been heckling Jesus for spending time with the sinners of society, namely tax collectors. So Jesus responds by making the case that children of God should, like the Father, have a heart for the lost, and that means using their resources to help them. He then mentions that money, to the unconverted, is like a taskmaster. God’s children must determine if they will serve it or God.  The Pharisees are incensed! They have a lot of money, and they love it dearly. But Jesus lets them know they need to choose. Luke 16:15: “Then he said to them, ‘You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God’ ” (NLT).* God will judge us, not by what we do or what we have, but by who we are.

Jesus illustrates it this way: A rich man, with fine clothing and a huge home, lived very well. Outside of his home was a beggar named Lazarus. He was so hungry that he would have gladly eaten with the dogs. Ironically, those dogs slowly ate him by licking his sores, a terrible picture.

But in Jesus’ story the wrong man has a name.

We use the phrase “making a name” to mean to develop a reputation for one’s self. The name a person makes may be good or bad, but it constitutes how that person is known. An affluent man would normally be the one who has made such a name. A poor beggar would likely be identified as nobody, if he were referred to at all. Surely the rich man’s neighbors were well acquainted with him and called his name often. They probably placed his name on invitations as well as awards and plaques. Yet Jesus does not mention his name.

As this rich and successful man goes nameless, the poor and homeless beggar is referred to by name. Jesus turns our human conventions on their heads. While the affluent and successful have a name many humans call, there is no such automatic recognition in heaven. In God’s eyes those obsessed with wealth and accomplishments have already made a name for themselves on the earth. However, those who belong to the kingdom of God have a name written in heaven.

The poor man’s name, Lazarus, means “God will help” or “assistance of God.” His only recourse is to depend upon the help of God. This is the reputation the poor man has made for himself in heaven. So God has a place of rest and comfort prepared for him.

The rich man spent his life depending on his own ingenuity and wealth. He had not thought to rely on God, because he was doing a great job on his own. So he became a servant of money, believing he could care for himself. While material wealth can help people establish cozy lives in the present, there is nothing money can do for us in the life to come. The poor man went to the place his “Help” prepared for him, and the rich man went to the place prepared for those who find their help elsewhere.

Jesus is not telling this parable in order to train our eyes on the hereafter, but to engage our hands and feet in the now. No doubt most of the Pharisees identified with the rich man in this parable, and saw themselves in the man doomed. Jesus’ intent is to invite them, and us, to abandon pride and the worship of wealth, and to love the people God loves. Rather than allow us to carry on with our lives in ignorance, Jesus shares this truth to offer us an opportunity for course correction.

While it is too late for the man in the story, the fact that we can hear and understand the parable means we still have a chance. Jesus wants to shed light on the true condition of our hearts so that we can depend on Him to make our poisonous hearts like His. The telling of this story is an act of grace. It means that God doesn’t want to see us experience the natural end that comes to those who do not depend on Him. He wants us to make a new start together. It is not too late.

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*Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Lola RENEE MOORE is a native of Elizabeth, New Jersey. She is a lover of music and literature, and enjoys extreme sports. She resides in northwest Florida, where she pastors the Maranatha and Emmanuel Seventh-day Adventist churches in Panama City and Greenwood, Florida, respectively.

They are everywhere. In the streets, buses, and gas stations. They frequent the highways and service streets. You can spot them among the crowds in a congested city. The churches are like magnets for them. Have you ever passed by someone who was homeless? I have. On my way to my climate-controlled, cushioned, comfortable accommodations I am guilty of not sparing much care for the needy. Maybe I have become numb to those who are in need of assistance or, specifically, I have been blinded by my own personal deposit of God’s blessings and have become oblivious. Is there any counsel on this? Let us look to a parable Jesus told about a man who needed help.

Day 1 -Read Luke 1:1-4

Read Luke 1:1-4.

We find this parable in the letter that Luke wrote to a man named Theophilus. Theophilus is believed to have been a wealthy ranking Roman official, and Luke is writing to him to show that Jesus is a friend to sinners and outcasts. If you were to skim the book/letter of Luke, you would notice that he, more than any other author, writes about Jesus’ interactions with women, Samaritans, and those who are unclean. Can you look at your life and honestly say that you are intentional about seeking out those who are categorized as outcasts? Do you see yourself as an outcast? We here at Message would like to hear your thoughts via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,  or
roundedtwitterbird Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.

Day 2 -Read Luke 16:19

Read Luke 16:19.

It had been awhile since I read this parable, and as soon as I read the first verse, my attention was arrested. In the time of Jesus, to get something such as purple clothes was a tall and expensive task. It continues by saying that he lived in luxury every day. He was not just getting by—he was living in grandeur. I was tempted to judge, but if we were to take an inventory of all that is around us, we might find that in reality we need for nothing. I challenge you to sit down and write out a list of all that you need at this very moment. After you’re finished, read Matthew 6:31-34 and see if you can identify what God’s absolute promise of provision is.

Day 3 -Read Luke 16:20

Read Luke 16:20.

While the rich man is in the midst of his plush lifestyle, Lazarus is outside suffering beyond belief. Not only is he poor, but he is in constant physical pain. I have had to ask myself a very specific question when I read this: Do I care about the pain of those who are poor? Many of us on many occasions have given change or food to those less fortunate. Have we been compassionate enough to inquire about the physical and emotional pains that they have gone through? This next directive is more involved than usual. Find another person who simply wants to help someone less fortunate and take them to get something to eat. Sit down and get to know them. I bet you’ll be amazed. We here at Message would like to hear about your experience via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, or
roundedtwitterbird Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.

Day 4 -Read Luke 16:21

Read Luke 16:21.

Did you know there is a high possibility you are living in excess? I do not know your personal situation, but I’ll bet there is some stuff that you do not use that someone would be ecstatic to have. Pray at this moment, and see if God leads you to give some of your possessions away. If so, we would like to hear about your experience via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, or
roundedtwitterbird Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.

Day 5 -Read Luke 16:22-25

Read Luke 16:22-25.

What catches God’s attention? What makes His heart flutter? We find that Lazarus is looking for relief, but Abraham says the rich man experienced his “good things” on earth. Is it possible that God is looking for people who are willing to forfeit their comfort now for an eternal comfort later? Read the story of the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-30. Focus on verses 29 and 30. We would like to hear about your experience via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, or
roundedtwitterbird Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.

Day 6 -Read Luke 16:27-31

Read Luke 16:27-31.

When the rich man realizes that there is no hope for him, he thinks about his family. Many have traveled the way the world has taught us as the way to a “good life.” Went to school, got a good education in order to get a good job, in order to get a good house, and to support a good family. There is nothing wrong with this picture. It is a gift of God. But has His blessing of shelter and security forged a strand of uninterest in helping those less fortunate? If the culture of love is not engrained early, it will be too late to change. I challenge you to sit your family down and talk to them about serving those less fortunate together. If you want help praying for your family, contact us here at Message. We will pray with you through this.

Day 7 - Wrap Up

Go to YouTube and listen to the Erica Campbell song “Help,” featuring Lecrae

 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is an associate pastor for youth at the Buckhead Fellowship chruch in Buckhead, Georgia.

 

 

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