By Ian Cotton, retired Creston pastor
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19ff, Christ shows that in this life we decide our eternal destiny. The grace of God is offered to all. But if we live for self we cut ourselves off from everlasting life. No other chance will be granted. By our own choice we fix our destiny.
This parable draws a contrast between the rich who are indifferent to God, and the poor who have made God their dependence.
“There was a certain rich man,” Christ said, “Clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And a beggar named Lazarus, who waited at his gate, full of sores, and wanting to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.”
The rich man was selfishly indifferent to his suffering. There were no hospitals, the suffering and needy were brought to the notice of the wealthy, so that they might receive help and sympathy. Thus, it was with the beggar and the rich man. Lazarus was in great need of help; he had no friends, or home, no money, no food.
God had made the rich man a steward of His means, and it was his duty to help the needy. The command had been given, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5); and “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Leviticus 19:18).
The rich man, engrossed in enjoyment, lost all sense of his responsibility to co-operate with God in His ministry of mercy. He had an opportunity to help the needy; but focused on pleasure, he forgot God.
The poor man suffered day by day, but patiently and quietly endured. He died and was buried. There was no one to mourn him; but by his patience in suffering he had endured the test of his faith, and at his death he is represented as being carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.
Lazarus represents the suffering poor who believe in Christ. When the trumpet sounds at Jesus’ return, all that are in the graves hear Christ’s voice and come forth, they will receive their reward; for their faith in God was not a mere theory, but a reality.
“The rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.”
The Saviour knew of their ideas, and He framed His parable so as to inculcate important truths through these preconceived opinions. He used the prevailing opinion to convey that no man is valued for his possessions; for all he has belongs to him only as lent by the Lord. A misuse of these gifts will place him below the poorest and most afflicted man who loves God and trusts in Him.
Christ desires His hearers to understand that it is impossible for men to secure salvation after death. This life is the only time given to man in which to prepare for eternity.
– Adapted from Christ Object Lessons