“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. – Luke 16:13-15

In the Gospel of Luke 16:13-15, the Pharisees, the religious leaders in Jerusalem, are described as lovers of money. God saw the greed of their hearts. Their service was not geared to glorify God and help their neighbors, but rather to enrich themselves. So, the Lord Jesus Christ gave the following parable in Luke 16:19–31 (broken down below).

Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus: This story has many important messages—about heaven and hell, death and judgment. However, there is another aspect to this story to consider – that people should practice self-examination so that we might check the spiritual condition of our heart. This parable is discussed in three segments.

A. First segment: two men (16:19–21):

    1. A certain rich man (16:19): His name is not given.

        a. His clothes: He wears the best (top-of-the-line).

        b. His lifestyle: He lives in total luxury every day.

    2. A beggar named Lazarus (16:20–21): The name means “God Is My Help”.

        a. His pain (16:20): He is a cripple and covered with sores.

        b. His poverty (16:21): He longs to eat what falls from the rich man’s table.

    3. From his mansion, the rich man saw Lazarus at his gate practically every day and felt absolutely            no pity in his heart.

B. Second segment: two places (16:22–23):

    1. Heaven (16:22a): The beggar dies and is carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom (a symbol for                heaven).

    2. Hades (16:22b-23): The rich man also died and was buried. His soul is being tormented in Hades,         a place for the wicked.

    3. From a spiritual view, what happened to these two guys?

        a. The Gospel of John 3:3: Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he                cannot see the kingdom of God.

    4. Born Again: This expression refers to the renewal of a person’s inner being by the work of the                 Holy Spirit.  When a person admits to God to being a sinner, accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and                Savior and, repents of his sin, then the Holy Spirit immediately gives him a new life in Christ                Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).

        a. We are not told that Lazarus is a born-again believer. However, Lazarus’ soul and spirit departed             this earth and arrived in heaven into a state of glorious comfort.

        b. We can see that in spite of the difficult personal life that Lazarus experienced, his relationship                with God was secure.

            i. Matthew 19:23: Jesus Christ said, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to                       enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Why is it so hard? Because the rich tend to rely on their own                   resources, and pride keeps them from trusting God’s provisions. So the problem with the rich                man was not his wealth, but his pride.

            ii. Revelation 21:8: But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral,                    sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and                        brimstone, which is the second death.”

    5. Again, it was his lifestyle that led to the rich man’s down fall. The punishment of a second death            is based solely on the judgement God places on an unbelieving soul. The second death separates           God from the soul and spirit of an unbeliever.  So the rich man died, but he went to Hades awaiting        the final destination which is called the lake of fire. Know that life there is also eternal.

C. Third segment: two prayer requests (16:24–31):

    1. The rich man wanted relief for his body.

        a. His first prayer request (16:24): Have Lazarus come over and help ease his agony from the fires             in Hades.

        b. God’s response (16:25-26): Request denied.

        c. The reason: A great difference caused the two men to be separated after life on earth.

            i. The rich man was instructed to, “ remember that in your lifetime you received your good                       things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented”.

           ii. The choices of this life determine our eternal destiny, and once death has taken place, that                       destiny is fixed. In this parable, a great chasm separated paradise and Hades so that no one                   could cross from one to the other.

    2. The rich man wanted redemption for his family (16:27–31):

        a. His second prayer request (16:27-28): He begs God to send Lazarus back to his father’s house               and warn his five evil brothers about this terrible place of torment so they can repent.

        b. God’s response (16:29-30): Request denied.

        c. The reason (16:31):

            i. In the Old Testament books of the Bible God did many wonders through Moses and the                           Prophets and spoke through them about the Messiah. God also warned His people about                       judgment coming from Him and admonished them to take care of the poor.

           ii. God said, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets”, that is if they are unwilling to listen                    and obey what Moses and the Prophets have written in the Bible, neither will they be                            convinced even if someone should rise from the dead, that is the resurrection of the Lord                        Jesus Christ.

Remember, Jesus directed this parable to the religious leaders living in Jerusalem. He was concerned about their behavior which demonstrated their own selfishness and their lack of compassion for others. This is behavior that so many continue to practice even today. We also know that we don’t have to be rich to be selfish.

Jesus’ main point in this story is urgency. The religious leaders needed their hearts to change. Today, the urgency is the decision to change the status of one’s relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ from unbeliever to believer.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. – John 3:16


Deacon William “Bill” Wright

Image Courtesy of ubdavid.org

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