This summer we are jumping into the parables of Jesus. What is a parable? Very simply, it’s a story that has a spiritual principle you can learn. Why stories? Remember what Jesus said? He told stories because not everyone has a ready heart. Not everyone is able to see or understand spiritual things. That’s why Sam, the first week, stopped and prayed and we have been doing it ever since. I’d like to do the same today. Let’s stop and pray and ask God to open our spiritual eyes.
In the parable we jump into today, we need to understand the context and ask ourselves why Jesus told this parable. Jesus is teaching his disciples about money. And as Jesus is talking to His disciples, there are Pharisees around them. They are hearing what Jesus is saying to his disciples about money. Jesus talks about the shrewd manager and ends his talk about money and says the following.
13 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”
Now this comment would have offended the Pharisees. Why? Because they loved money. They believed there was a direct correlation between God’s blessing and their wealth. They believed, if you were in God’s favor, you were a good person, you were going to heaven, you would be wealthy. And they believed the opposite too. If you were poor, something was wrong with you. You were not going to heaven. You sinned and God was making you pay for it.
Imagine their response to what Jesus said? You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money. To the Pharisees, that made no sense. Loving God and money, was the goal. Jesus comes and blows that up. What happens? Let’s read the very next verse.
14 The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at him.
As Jesus is talking to His disciples, the Pharisees interrupt Jesus and openly scoff at Him. The Message Version says,
…they rolled their eyes, dismissing him as hopelessly out of touch.
Do you know anyone like that today? They are in church and hear scripture about money, giving, serving, the church being God’s body. Inside their hearts they quickly push back against Jesus’ words. They dismiss the words of Jesus and think, ‘That’s just church marketing. The pastor is trying to get more money.’ What happens? They leave church untouched by Jesus. Think about that. Just like the hard-hearted Pharisees who heard the words of God through Jesus and thought he was hopelessly out of touch.
Don’t you wonder, what does Jesus think about them rolling their eyes at Him? Next verse.
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.”
Jesus doesn’t apologize for what He said. Jesus doesn’t water it down. In fact, Jesus confronts them. It’s aggressive, isn’t it? Why? Jesus talking about money has nothing to do with marketing or trying to get more money. It’s about understanding the kingdom of God confronting the kingdom of this world. It’s about the heart.
Jesus confronts the Pharisees and says, you can’t love God and money and to be even more clear, the things this world honors is detestable to God. Do you see it, two kingdoms are clashing? One kingdom worships money and pursues it and the other kingdom worships God and pursues it.
Jesus then jumps into this parable. Now some believe this is a story that actually took place because Jesus refers to someone by name. Let’s read it.
19 Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. 20 At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.
22 “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the heavenly banquet. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and he went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side.
24 “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’
25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’
27 “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’
29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’
30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’
31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” NLT Luke 16:19-31
It sounds like Jesus shares this from His personal experience. He knows, He was there. Jesus understands the afterlife. Jesus understands this life. Jesus has had personal experience of it all.
This story would have shocked the Pharisees. It completely confronted everything they believed and everything they were living for. What is interesting is, the rich man in this story didn’t live an evil or violent life. On the outside, he looked like a good guy. He had it together. What was his crime? He was just self-absorbed. He saw pain and struggle and ignored it. He didn’t care about, didn’t think about, the poor man he had to walk by every day. And in this story, Jesus says, the rich man died and woke up in hell. The one who was supposed to be blessed is in hell. This would have been offensive to the Pharisees. Why? Remember, they believed God’s blessing means wealth and heaven.
FYI. Doesn’t this sound like some churches today? We call it the prosperity gospel.
To make matters worse, Lazarus dies and woke up beside Abraham. Abraham was the father to the Jewish people. Being next to Abraham is very place you want to be as a good Pharisee. The poor man has a place of honor, not the rich man. This would have been even more offensive.
What are the things we can learn from Jesus’ story?
The first thing I want to say is a big picture comment. Each parable should make you wrestle with your true spiritual heart condition.
You should read and reread it and just ask God what He might be teaching you through this story. You don’t need to learn Greek. You don’t even need to get your master’s degree in religion or apologetics. What you need to do is allow God to impact your heart.
So, before we move forward, think quickly. How would you respond if you heard a pastor repeat God’s words? “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”
Does that confront you? Does it bug you? Do you conclude, ‘Oh, that’s just marketing, the Pastor has to say that cause he wants a raise.’ Would your attitude inside your heart be similar to rolling your eyes and thinking, “Oh, church is so out of touch with my reality’? Would Jesus’ words lead you to reflect on your true spiritual condition? Would you process what Jesus said and conclude, ‘I want to live in a way where I want to pull away from the things that this world honors.’ Would you hear these words and make changes to your thoughts around how you live and how you tithe?
Second thing I want to say, there is a hell.
George Barna reports, 76 % of Americans believe in heaven, and 71 percent believe in hell. 32 % believe that hell is ‘an actual place of torment and suffering.’ 40% believe it is ‘a state of eternal separation from God’s presence.’ 64% believe that they will go to heaven.
How about you? Do you believe that there is a hell when you die? You may not like this reality. You may wish I would stop talking about hell. I won’t and I will tell you why. We are all born into sin. We all chose to sin at an early age. We all continued to live in our sin. And we are all going to hell unless we repent of our sins and ask Jesus to forgive us. That’s why what Jesus did was epic. He took your punishment so that if you believe in Him, your sins would not be held against you, and you would go to heaven.
We must be clear, when you pass away, you will stand before God and be held account for your life.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. NIV 2 Corinthians 5:10
That’s why the Bible is called the Good News. It is God’s message to you to save you. It’s good news.
Third, people in hell live in torment. In this story, Jesus says,
25 There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side. 24 “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’
Hell is a place of torment and anguish.
In the movie Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood said, “I’ll see you in hell.” Our culture is aware of hell and in general, they know it’s not a good place. Many church leaders over the years, however, have tried to explain that there is no hell. Others say there is a hell but it’s not really that bad. As I read through scripture, it’s clear, hell is a real place. And I don’t know any place in the Bible where it’s not a place of torment and anguish.
Fourth, after death, your soul has thought, and you can feel.
Jesus explains that the rich man was in pain and could see Lazarus who was in comfort. We die. Your body goes into the ground. Your soul goes to God.
Fifth, your choices today impact your eternity.
That means how you live out today impacts your life in eternity. Again, there are two kingdoms. There is a kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God and we must understand, as Christians, this world we live in is temporary. It’s not our home. Our home is heaven. We are just traveling through so we should not get caught up loving what this world honors.
Jesus explained this when He said, My kingdom is not of this world. NLT John 18:36
Jesus’ brother James wrote, You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. NLT James 4:4
Peter wrote, Dear brothers, you are only visitors here. Since your real home is in heaven, I beg you to keep away from the evil pleasures of this world; they are not for you, for they fight against your very souls. LB 1 Peter 2:11
What is being said? Your decisions on how you live today impacts your tomorrow. Lazarus didn’t get it did he? The Pharisees when Jesus taught about money didn’t get it, did they? They rolled their eyes and thought, ‘Oh, Jesus is hopelessly out of touch when it comes to this money talk.’ Let me ask you, do you get it?
Remember I said that Jesus was talking to His disciples about money? Jesus had just shared a story about a shrewd manager. It’s a story about how a man was fired from his job and he immediately cut deals with others to find a way to make a living. It’s a story about how a man prepared for the next part of his life. But in this story, the rich man did nothing to prepare for the next part of his life. The rich man only focused on today.
How about you? Have you thought about heaven? Really important question for you. Did you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and did that lead to radical life change? Did it change how you live out life? Do you live for today or do you recognize, my real home is heaven, and I want nothing to do with what this world honors?
Another big question. Did you accept Jesus but decided to treat Him like He’s your friend, your buddy? That means you like Jesus, but you have made no choices to live differently. Jesus is a buddy who you think allows you to get away with anything. You live almost like a Christian Atheist.
Paul explained that there are choices we make as disciples of Christ.
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. 7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. NLT Colossians 3:1-10
Sixth, I want you to think for a second. Who has gone before you and has begged God to send someone to talk to you?
They have begged God to warn you. They wanted desperately to save you from torment and anguish. And God said no. They have my scriptures. They have their preaches telling them, warning them, and inviting them to build My church. They have their worship songs. They have all the books. So no, if they don’t believe now, they have made their decision.
Your today impacts your tomorrow. What is Jesus asking of you right now, today?