LESSONS FROM THE RICH MAN
---- LUKE SIXTEEN
A steward wasted his master's goods. He may have been careless in his duties or he might have simply made mistakes. The steward thought about his future. He was not able to do manual labor and he did not want to beg. He put forth a plan to have a future for himself. He called his master's debtors and discounted what they owed. He felt that they would be very grateful and would later help him. Jesus praised this steward for his actions. He was thinking about the future; that is something most people do not do. Christians must show deep concern when they think about the work of the Lord and about their own eternal life. Be responsible. If you have not been responsible with someone else's property, no one will trust you with true wealth. Let us be responsible so that God can then trust us to help meet the spiritual needs of other people. Can God trust you with true riches? You cannot be the servant of both God and money.
The Pharisees loved money so they laughed at Jesus. They believed that wealth was a reward for goodness. The Pharisees put on a good religious show but they were corrupt inside. They loved money more than they loved God. We also read, "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it." A new period of Bible history began with the death of Jesus. Some wanted to enter the kingdom and pressed into it. They were very different from the Pharisees. Jesus told them that the Law would be fulfilled to the smallest detail. Jesus used the illustration of marriage to show the Pharisees that they should respect God's Law and not just make their own laws as they had done about divorce.
The story of the rich man and Lazarus is a most sobering lesson. Looking from an earthy mind you would think the rich man had everything. He wore the most expensive cloths and enjoyed great luxury every day. In contrast the beggar named Lazarus had nothing but earthly misery. He was in deep poverty and covered with sores. He begged for crumbs to eat. On life's other side their roles were reversed. The rich man was tormented and Lazarus was blessed. The rich man realized that he should have served God but it was too late. He did not feel he had received sufficient warning so he wanted to be sure his brothers were properly taught about eternity. Sadly, they were already rejecting the teachings that they had. There is life after death and we must prepare for it.
The parable of the unjust steward -- Luke 16:1-13: The parable of the unjust steward is the most difficult parable in the gospels. The steward had wasted his Lord's money, either deliberately or accidentally. This action led to him being fired from his stewardship. Before leaving his position he did something that would assure that he could get a job with someone else. He could not do manual labor so he took other action. He discounted the debts people owed his master. It could have been an act whereby he dishonestly cheated his master. More likely, sense Jesus holds him up as an example; he simply discounted the interest owed to his master. He possibly deducted his own personal commission on the loans he had brokered for his master. Jesus commended the shrewdness of this man. Jesus did not approve of the steward squandering his master's money. However, He commended him for his wise use of this opportunity. As Christians what we do with our money and with our opportunities is also very important. We should use our money to help bring others to Jesus. We must generously support the work of our Lord. Let us never live for the temporary "mammon" of this world. Let us consider the future and uses our personal wealth to reap eternal benefits. As stewards of the Lord we must be faithful in whatever He commits to our hand. We must always be loyal to the Lord.
The Pharisees ridiculed Jesus -- Luke 16:14-18: The Pharisees who had been listening to Jesus professed to trust God. Sadly, these Pharisees really loved money. When they heard the things that Jesus taught they made fun of Him. They measured their life by wealth and possessions, not by their spirituality or relationship with God. They made themselves look good by saying that their wealth was a sign of God's approval. God saw what was in their heart. "The things that most people think are important are worthless as far as God is concerned." As Christians we must be careful that we do not honor God with our lips and then honor the world with our money. These Pharisees, who prided themselves in the Law of Moses, refused to accept the Savior and His kingdom of whom Moses had written. "Until the time of John the Baptist, people had to obey the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets. But since God's kingdom has been preached, everyone is trying hard to get in." This is true of everyone except the Pharisees. They were quite content living in their hypocrisy. Jesus used marriage and divorce to show the Pharisees how lax they had become when viewing God's Law. Jesus said, "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery." This is very different from what the Pharisees were teaching and practicing and what is taught and practiced among many Christians today.
The rich man's condition -- Luke 16:19-27: The Bible account of the rich man and Lazarus is both serious and sobering. In thirteen brief verses Luke shows God's "wrath to come" against those who know not God and those who fail to obey Him. (Luke 16:19-31) For a moment God lifts the curtain and allows us to see what will be the end in life's other world. Luke, by inspiration of God, allows us to view the condition of a wicked rich man and a godly poor man in this world and in the next. The rich man was alive and consciousness after death. (Luke 16:22-23) After physical death, the rich man knew who he was and where he was. He was in torment and he knew why he was there. Memory is very much alive on life's other side. The rich man was called on to remember. "But Abraham said, Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented." (Luke 16:25) The rich man remembered both God and the beggar named Lazarus. Many think they can take a gun, put it to their head and end it all. But immediately after they pull the trigger they find that they did not end it all. Another may take a hand full of pills trying to just "get out" but they find they "got in" instead of out.
Earthly life had brought misery to the beggar. But on life's other side Lazarus was comforted. He was in Paradise. The rich man was tormented in Hades. (Luke 16:24) On life's other side there are those who are rewarded in the presence of Christ and there are those who are tormented in terrible flames. There are two distinct worlds, salvation and condemnation that exists on life's other side. Some have everlasting life and some eternal punishment. (Matthew 25:46) When this world has ended you can be saved or you can be lost, the choice is yours. You may think you do not need God now, but, soon you will see the need. In Hades the rich man recognized a personal and pointed need for God. He begged God for a drop of water to cool his tongue. (Luke 16:24) Every person in hell will see the need for God. They will say, "I need God and it’s too late." Why not obey God now, before you appear before Him in judgment?
The rich man's concern -- Luke 16:27-31: The rich man begged God to send Lazarus to his father's house to warn his brothers. "Then he said, I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment." While the rich man was on earth he could have prayed and been heard but now he prays in vain. There is no indication the rich man ever cared for his own soul or the souls of his brothers while he lived on earth. But now he has deep concern. These brothers had the written word, God's powerful means of conviction and conversion. A message from the dead could say no more than what is said in Scripture. So Abraham concluded, "If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead." The Scripture is God's one and only way of making known His will to us. Those who desire salvation must hear and obey the law and testimony of God. (Isaiah 1:18-20) If you will not open your heart and obey the word of God you will not be saved. Jesus is God's Son and He, "Learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him." (Hebrews 5:8-9)
Heaven is comfort and Hell is torment; Heaven is joy, Hell is misery, weeping and pain. Through His word God and His Son Jesus are saying, "Please don't go to Hell." God desires that you learn His will (John 6:44-45), believe with all you heart (Acts 8:37), repent of every sin (Acts 17:30), confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10), be baptized to put on Christ (Galatians 3:26-27), and then always be "found faithful." (1 Corinthians 4:2) Learn from the rich man and do not go to Hell with him!
By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, 306 Walnut Street, Greenville, Alabama 36037 USA