Gospel Insights

by Michael Smith

 

Chapter Twenty Five

THE RICH MAN AND THE POOR MAN

Please read Luke 16:19-31

 

Jesus had been talking to the Jewish leaders about wealth, which in those days was sometimes seen as a blessing from God, and He told them the story of the rich man and the poor man, as subsequently recorded in Luke chapter 16.

The rich man in the story was indeed a very rich man.  He spent great sums on clothing: a priest's robe could cost 30-40, for example, at a time when the average daily wage amounted to approximately 5p, and he ate expensive gourmet food every day.  He was self-indulgent without regard for even the basic needs of others.  He must have passed by the beggar, Lazarus, many times as he went in and out of his house but his heart was hard and he gave Lazarus scant regard.  In today's language, the rich man 'couldn't care less'.  His sin wasn't that he was rich; he might have used his wealth to provide for the needs of those less fortunate.  His sin was one of neglect toward those in need of help, which broke the basic commandment to love his neighbour as himself.  He hadn't been deliberately violent or physically cruel to Lazarus; he simply ignored him as though he didn't exist.  The rich man lived a self-centred life; he cared only for himself.

Lazarus had nothing at all in the way of worldly goods.  He had no home; he lived on the street outside the rich man's gate.  His clothes were just rags and his body was covered in sores.  In those days without the kind of cutlery we use now, people wiped their hands on scraps of bread which were then thrown away.  This apparently was Lazarus' only food.  No wonder he had sores!

Here on earth there was a very great gulf between the lives of these two men and this gulf became fixed after death.  When Lazarus died he was carried safely by the angels into Abraham's bosom.  In terrible contrast the rich man went to hell where he was in torment awaiting judgement.

We must take serious note of what Jesus told His hearers concerning these two men after their deaths.  When we consider the lesson Jesus wanted to get across to those who heard this story at the time - and to us who read it today - we must remember that He never lied or bent the truth.  On the cross Jesus assured the thief dying next to Him that he would be with Him in paradise that very day.  This would be a meaningless statement if there is no experience after death.  And Paul reminded the Corinthians that the belief in life after death spent with their Lord is one of the basic foundation stones of the Christian faith.

So we notice from the passage that both men could still see, hear, feel, speak, recognise each other, and remember their earthly lives.  Death certainly hadn't ended their existence as some believe, and the great gulf that separated them in life carried on into death and beyond, into the afterlife.  But their situations were now reversed: Lazarus was in everlasting bliss and the rich man was in torment.  The tragic thing is that the gulf between them could have been bridged at any time before they died if the rich man had wanted to do so, but now it was too late.  Their situations were fixed for eternity because of the choices and decisions they made while on earth.

In his torment, the rich man at last shows some concern for others than himself and pleads with Abraham to warn his brothers of what awaits them.  But he is told that they have the Scriptures and wouldn't believe even if someone were to come back from the dead.

We can become so absorbed with our lives here on earth that we forget there are eternal consequences for us all beyond the grave.  Just as education is supposed to prepare a child for adult life and work, so life here is only temporary and is meant to be but a preparation for the next life which is eternal.  That is why God created us and why He has given us these years on earth.  It is in this life that we will decide where we go after death; the decision is ours alone.  What will we decide?  Do we believe what God tells us in His Word and take heed to the teachings of Jesus and His apostles, or do we choose rather to follow the ways of the world and the unbeliever?  Will we spend eternity with the poor man, or with the rich man?

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty Four   |   Chapter Twenty Six   |   Back to Contents

 

 

Michael Smith 2013