A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on October 3, 2010 by Pastor Dale Raether The Parable of the Rich Man and Poor LazarusLuke 16:19-31You may remember the account of Jacob and Laban.  Jacob was Laban’s nephew and worked for him.  Laban loved money and was constantly tempted to rip Jacob off.  In fact he often gave into that temptation, but God took care of Jacob, and blessed him in spite of Laban.  Martin Luther once said about temptations, “You can’t keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”  Temptations are all around us, and sometimes come from within us.  But we can say, “no” to them; we can chase those birds away.  But what if our arms start getting tired?  What if that temptation whatever is all we think about, even though we’re praying not to think about it?  Whenever this happens, we may have a whole new flock of temptations to chase off like: “If God is holy and loving, why is He isn’t he taking these desires away?  Or, maybe the Bible is wrong when it said this is wrong or times have changed.  Or, since God wants me to be happy, maybe it’s His will I give in.”  Does any of this sound familiar?  I guessing it does, because the people in our text wrestled with these same thoughts.  The parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus is Jesus’ straight answer.  1.  The consequences of how we live are real.  2.  But the faith and strength God’s Word gives is also real.   We read, “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.”  The rich man in this parable represents some Pharisees who sneered at Jesus for saying, “You cannot serve both God and money.”  They believed you could.  In fact they thought it their right to serve both God and money, and here’s how they got there.  They started by insisting that they were righteous before God, because of their heritage.   They were descendents of Abraham.  This is like people today who think they have an “in” with God because their parents or grandparents were faithful Christians.  It doesn’t work that way.  When we stand before God, He’s not going to ask us what others did.  He’s going to ask us what we did.  Another reason these Pharisees insisted they were righteous was they knew the Bible and never committed the gross sins that many others in their day did.  But perhaps the main reason they insisted they were righteous before God was they were rich, or at least wanted to be, and in their thinking was that’s how God rewards His good children.  On the other hand if someone was poor, he must have had it coming.          We read on in our text, “At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.”  The parable doesn’t tell us why Lazarus couldn’t walk.  Maybe he was born that way, or was injured in an accident.  At any rate he couldn’t work, and neither could his family take care of him.  II Corinthians tells us what God would want to happen.  “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.  Then there will be equality, as it is written, ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little – II Corinthians 8:14-15.”  Those in need exercise their faith by praying and waiting on the Lord.  Those who are able to help exercise their faith by helping; and then sometimes God reverses the roles.  Anyway getting back to the parable, Lazarus continued to have too little, because the rich man refused to help him. We read on, “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried.  In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'”  Now remember, the rich man represents Pharisees who thought had a right to lots of money, even if it was at someone else’s expense.  What a shock!  This Lazarus, whom they would have looked down on because he was poor, goes to heaven, but the rich man wakes up in hell!  Even though this is a parable, I think a lot of what’s described is the way it really is.  It’s hard to be sure, because it’s hard to describe heaven and hell in human language.  Yet this point is clear.  Hell is a place of fire that’s completely void of God’s blessings, even a drop of water.  Hell is what all sin merits, and hell is where every sinner will go unless he/she is brought to faith in the Lord Jesus, because of the consequences of how we live are real. However, how can we be sure our faith is real?  Faith shows itself by what we do.  James writes, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead – James 2:15-17.”  Faith is believing Jesus was perfect for us and then suffered hell in our place.  Faith alone saves.  But faith compels us to love one another, and so we will help those in need and we will especially do everything we can so as many as possible will end up with Lazarus someday and as few as possible end up with the rich man.   Now all this is not saying it’s wrong to be rich or to enjoy some nice things.  If I may review a little from last week, Jesus’ guidelines for wise money management include the following: 1. Give generously, trusting that God will bless us in the future as He has in the past.  2.  Save wisely so if it’s God’s will we never have to be dependent on others.  3.  Care for our family but at a level that’s consistent with our giving and our saving and being able to pay cash.  But what if a person decides that he deserves a higher standard of living than that and so doesn’t help those in need and or spends on himself till others hopefully bail him?  If a person doesn’t listening to what Jesus says about love, where is his faith?  And if he has smothered his faith with greed, how will he not suffer the very real consequences for how he’s living?      We read on in our parable, “But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.  And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'  "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' ‘Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'" Again keep in mind the first hearers of this parable.  The Pharisees had heard God’s Word, but they loved the enjoyment and security money could buy.  And so, when Jesus told them that they could not serve God and money, they thought Jesus was being unrealistic.  And since they couldn’t beat their temptations to greed, they concluded greed is good.Actually God’s Word is sufficient for every temptation.  Lazarus was a case in point.  His name means “he who trusts in God.”  Lazarus trusted God’s promises for forgiveness and for daily care, even though he didn’t saw the fulfillment of God’s promises in this life.  Lazarus’ faith was a miracle.  His resisting the temptation to give up on God was a miracle.  But here’s how God worked that miracle in him, and will in us also.  Just as God created light by saying, “Let there be”, so whenever He proclaims that the consequences of sin are real, He is working repentance.  He is leading us to believe that sin is evil, that it makes peoples’ lives here a living hell, and that it causes His anger to burn.   However, recognizing our sin isn’t yet faith.  And so when the Word convicts us, let’s continue in the Word.  Let’s hear again and again how He has reconciled us to Himself, not counting our sins again us.  Yet God did not do this, so we can keep living for ourselves like the rich man in the parable.  He did this for us, that we may reflect His love to others with all our words and actions.  Unfortunately we all fall short of the perfect love God requires, and so every day we need God to keep working in us repentance and faith and strength to live our faith.  In fact these will become so important to us that how much money we have or how easy our life is will matter less and less.  And then even if our lives become as hard as Lazarus’, we will commend ourselves into His hands and continue to do good. But what if we’re not ready for that?  Then continue to watch out for looking to money for happiness or security.  Pray for a stronger faith.  Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Yet someone might say, “This isn’t working for me.  I want a better life than Lazarus had.”  Likewise someone struggling with other temptations might say that God’s Word isn’t taking away his evil desires, and so question if God’s word true?      In this life we will always, only, walk by faith and the end of our temptations won’t come until we’re in heaven.  And so, don’t give up on the Word.  We read, “'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'  He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”  Many would like to see proof that God’s Word is true or least experience here and now a total release from their demons.  Again, in heaven we will, but for now, this is the proof that God’s Word is true.  One did rise from the dead.  Because Jesus lives, we too shall awake in our bodies to live on the new earth in the new universe He will create.  Finally with this to look forward to, let’s feel sorry for anyone, whose only comfort is worldly wealth, which doesn’t last.  And so let’s use whatever time, energy and resources God allows us to proclaim Moses and the Prophets, Jesus and the Apostles, because the consequences of sin are real, and the faith and strength God’s Word gives is also real.  Amen.   

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