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Home arrow Daniel arrow Luke 16:18-31: Do Not Ignore What Matters
Luke 16:18-31: Do Not Ignore What Matters Print E-mail
Sunday, 18 August 2013
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In all of the parables of Jesus, there is only one in which He names a character.  Normally those involved are left nameless, they are simply Ďa maní or Ďa rich maní or Ďa managerí or Ďa shepherd.í  Jesus does not give these individuals names.  Yet, in the parable found in Luke 16:19-31, Jesus names one of the characters.  As usual, He begins with There was a rich manÖYet, when He contrasts this rich man with a poor man, He names the poor man: Lazarus.  The name means ĎGod has helped.í  It could be that Jesus just chose to name this character for no particular reasons since Luke does not record an explanation.  Yet, it seems that Jesus does this intentionally for two reasons.  First, we cannot help but notice that the poor man is named and not the rich man.  Second, the actual name points to the truth that God will help those who are often ignored in this life.  In fact, I think the whole parable could be summed with this message: What you ignore in this life could greatly impact the life to come.  We cannot afford to ignore what matters.  Jesus has been teaching us about the danger of loving money and the fact that His coming has not made the Law and the Prophets void.  In this parable, we once again see Jesus teaching us about these issues by telling us what we should not ignore.  What does He say? 

Do not ignore the poor (v. 19-26)

We will pick up verse 18 in a moment, but for now, look at verses 19-21.  There could not be a much greater contrast than the one between these two individuals.  The rich man was clothed in purple and fine linen.  He had the best clothes, the finer things.  Purple was a color for royalty and was very expensive due to the process used to make it.  Likewise, he feasted sumptuously every day.  The man ate well.  He didnít just throw feasts on big occasions, he feasted at every meal.  He ate whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it.  Jesus gives us these details so that we can know just how rich the man is and so that we can contrast him with poor Lazarus, who did not have fancy clothes or rich food to eat.  In fact, Lazarus was barely making it.  He lived outside the rich manís gate, which meant that the man would have passed him every time he left his house.  But poor Lazarus was never invited inside.  Instead of being clothed with fine line, he was covered with sores.  Instead of feasting daily, he desired to be fed with what fell from the rich manís table.  He desired it, but seemingly never got it.  His situation was so bad that the dogs came and licked his sores.  This is true poverty.  He did not have what he need to survive.  And this is true contrast.  One man has more than enough while the other goes without.  This is how Jesus describes them in this life.

But then they both die and things change.  Their situation in life is now contrasted with their situation in death.  Look at what happens to Lazarus in verse 22a.  He was poor and broken and ignored in this life, but the Lord has helped him.  In the life to come, he is seated at Abrahamís side, indicating that he is in heaven and is greatly blessed.  To a Jewish crowd, it couldnít get much better than being with Abraham.  Yet, what about the rich man?  Look at what happens to him in verses 22b-23.  The luxury that he enjoyed in this life is not brought with him into the next.  The feasting is over.  Rather, he is in Hades and is in torment.  Death is the great equalizer.  And with these two men we see the great reversal in death that Jesus spoke of in Luke 6:20-26.  Jesus teaches that the poor will be blessed and will have great reward in heaven, while He offers woes to the rich for the difficulties that will come.  We see this played out in this parable.  And we should note, as we did when we taught that passage, that Jesus is not saying that all poor people will be saved and all rich people condemned.  Rather, he is speaking of the righteous poor and the wicked rich, as the emphasis on repentance in the parable will point out.  He is emphasizing the contrast between the righteous and wicked in this life and in the life to come.

The rich man goes on to ask Abraham for some help.  Look at verse 24.  The rich man cries out for mercy.  He longs for Lazarus to just dip his finger in water to relieve him.  How does Abraham respond?  Look at verses 25-26.  Abraham gives two reasons why the rich manís requests cannot be granted.  First, he reminds him of his own life.  He reminds him of the opportunities that he had to show Lazarus and others mercy.  He reminds him of his love of money and luxury.  In light of that, he will not be comforted in the life to come.  Not only that, but second, Abraham tells him that a chasm now separates him from Lazarus.  There is an un-crossable divide between heaven and hell.  Once a person dies and is sent to their eternal dwelling, there is no leaving or crossing.  Lazarus is not able to bring water to the rich man. 

What is interesting to me (and I donít want to make too much of it because it is an argument from silence) is that the rich man does not complain at this point.  He does not cry out, ĎUnfair, unfair.í  The truth is Godís judgments will be fair.  There will be no charges of injustice in the life to come, for God is just.  And in His justice, He will sentence men and women to eternal torment.  One of my commentatorís writes: ďHell has no exit.  So by the time an unbeliever gets there it will be too late to be saved, too late to hear the gospel, too late to believe in Jesus Christ, too late to beg for mercy, and too late to avoid the everlasting agony of eternity without God.Ē 1   This is a sobering truth, a hard truth.  You might think that what you do in this life is not that big of a deal, but this parable and the teaching of the New Testament does not agree.  We might ignore what Jesus teachers here about serving the poor, but we do so at our own peril.   

Do not ignore the Scriptures (v. 16-18, 27-31)

When Jesus is addressing the Pharisees in chapter 16, he tells them His coming has not made void the Law and the Prophets.  Look at verses 16-17.  He follows that with a statement about divorce and remarriage.  Look at verse 18.  Even with the coming of the Kingdom, Godís teaching on divorce is not voided.  There were those in Jesusí day who taught that a man could divorce his wife for no more than her burning his supper or if he found someone that he thought was better looking.  Obviously, this was a departure from Godís Word.  God hates divorce.  He does not want marriage to end in divorce.  And Jesus teaches us here that when a man divorces his wife to simply marry another one, then he commits adultery, and if a man marries a divorced woman then he commits adultery.  This is not all that Jesus says about divorce in the New Testament.  There are situations where divorce is allowed (see Matthew 5:32 and 1 Corinthians 7:15) but these do not mean that divorce is no big deal.  We cannot bend to cultural practices.  We must believe and teach and practice the sanctity of marriage.  Jesusí coming does not make void the Bibleís teaching on divorce.  It would be easier for heaven and earth to pass away that for the Law and Prophets to become void.

Jesus demonstrates the importance of listening to the Scriptures in the parable as well.  When nothing can be done to relieve the suffering of the rich man, he asks for Lazarus to do something else.  Look at verses 27-28.  The rich man understands that there is no hope for Lazarus to come to him, but perhaps he can go and warn his family about this place of torment.  He still seems to think that he can order Lazarus around, but at least this time it is for someone else.  Will Abraham grant this request?  Look at verse 29.  Abraham reminds the rich man that his brothers have the Scriptures.  The Law and the Prophets, as we saw this morning, make it plain that men should believe in and obey God by serving the poor and trusting in His promises.  In other words, the rich manís brothers have all they need to warn them.

Yet, the rich man is not satisfied with that response from Abraham.  He knows how his brothers will respond to the Scriptures because he knows how he responded.  He thinks they need more.  Look at verse 30.  The rich man reveals an excuse that many people use in this life.  He reasons: ĎThe Word is not enough, they need to see a sign, they need to see Lazarus returned from the dead.  The Scriptures will not convince them, but a resurrection will.í  Abraham responds to such thinking in verse 31.  Look at that with me.  If the Scriptures will not convince people, then neither will signs.  Such truth is evidenced in the resurrection of the other Lazarus.  Jesus raises him from the dead in John 11, but even so, some of the Pharisees still would not believe in Him (see John 11:45ff).  And of course, the greatest evidence of this truth is Jesusí own resurrection.  After living a perfect life, Jesus is crucified on a Roman cross.  Yet, after three days in the grave, Jesus is raised from the dead.  He appears to over 500 hundred witnesses according to Paul (1 Corinthians 15:3-6).  Yet, many still refused to believe in Him.  The book of Acts is full of those who are not convinced by this sign.  Abraham tells the rich man that even the sign of resurrection will not convince people if they have hardened themselves to Godís Word.

This parable teaches us that we should not ignore the poor in this life and that we should not ignore the Scriptures.  To do so is to risk eternity in hell, eternity in torment.  The reason why this is the case is because ignoring the poor is ignoring Christ.  If we can watch people suffer and truly be in need without a care in the world, then how can we claim to be follower of Jesus?  Jesus became poor for us.  He did not have a home.  He lived on the kindness of others and died an innocent criminal.  He commands us throughout His Word to care for and serve the poor.  He teaches us that whatever we do not do for them, we do not do for Him (Matthew 25:31ff).  Thus, if we ignore the poor like the rich man did in his life, why do we think that we are any different than him?  We must not ignore Jesus by ignoring the poor.

If we ignore the Scriptures, the Law and the Prophets and the teaching of the Apostles, then we are ignoring Christ.  Some people want proof.  They want evidence.  But Abraham makes it plain: if Scripture is not enough for us, then even the resurrection will not convince us.  When we ignore the Word, we ignore the One that the Word reveals.  You cannot follow Christ and ignore His Word.  So take up read.  Read the Law and the Prophets.  Meditate on the promises of God to send us a Messiah, a Savior.  Then read the Gospels, the life of Christ, and behold the Lamb of God who came to die for our sins at the cross.  Read Acts and the letters and Johnís revelation.  Read it and be convinced of the truth of the gospel.  Jesus has come to save us from greed and arrogance and lust and anger.  He has come to open our eyes to the truth that we can have eternal life through faith in Him.  We can be Lazarus, we can spend eternity at Abrahamís side, we can say together: ĎGod has helped us through Christ.í  Amen.  

1 Philip Graham Ryken, Luke, Vol. 2 REC (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2009), p. 203-04.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 26 September 2013 )

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