The Book of Luke, The Rich Man And Lazarus - Lesson 186
In Luke 16:15, our Lord Jesus Christ tells the Pharisees that: Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
This is the declaration of the Lord Jesus Christ that gives the reason for the story of the rich man and Lazarus.
For the rich man was highly esteemed by the Pharisees for they were covetous while the beggar was an abomination in their eyes.
They looked upon the rich man with their eyes and esteemed the rich man based only upon what they saw, that he was rich, that he was powerful and that he had much influence among men because of his riches.
The intention of Christ by telling the story of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, was to reveal to the Pharisees where God’s esteem was placed.
For it is easy to see that God did not share the same regard for the rich man as did the Pharisees nor did he share the same loathing of the beggar as did the Pharisees.
Our study in chapter 16 of Luke reveals to us that the Pharisees operated by the principle of living based upon the outward for they sought to win men’s approval and men’s approval is won by outward appearance for man cannot look upon the heart.
Jesus Christ also reminded them that they believed not the whole counsel of God for in lifting up the law as something to worship and as something they could attain they disregarded the prophets.
In doing this they exchanged the divine standard of righteousness for a human standard which was attainable by their system of belief.
They chose to set aside the whole revelation of God, which was given to man to open his heart to himself not to give him a religion in which to justify himself.
That is what religion does, it discards God’s standard of righteousness which can only point a man to Christ, in favor of a standard of its own making, a standard to which men can attain.
So the reason for this story is the desire of Jesus to turn their love of the outward, inward, inward to reveal their heart.
Luke 16:19‑31, 19There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24And 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. 25But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. 27Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
28For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
The first “jump to conclusions” that we should dispel is the notion that being rich brings God’s curse while being poor brings God’s blessing.
If this were true then we would be in the same boat as the Pharisees, the boat of judging by appearance.
The fact that the rich man ended up in hell and the poor man ended up in Abraham’s bosom has nothing to do with being rich or being poor.
I should acknowledge that being rich can be a great burden and a hindrance to spiritual things for our dependence can easily be on our riches rather than God.
The poor at least do not have this competition.
But Jesus Christ chose to discuss these two men because it fit the situation in which he found the Pharisees for they judged in a reverse manner, that of seeing the rich as automatically righteous and the poor as automatically sinners.
But the rich man was not condemned because he was rich, any more than the poor man was justified for being poor.
The riches or the poverty of these men is irrelevant to the eternal destiny of either.
A godly rich man would have used his wealth differently, but it was not his works that would have saved him.
There are many evil poor men who reject God’s word and will also end up in hell.
The real basis for justification or condemnation is to be found by believing the Scriptures, by believing God’s Word.
In the case of the Pharisees it was believing Moses and the Prophets.
It is not riches nor poverty which determines your destiny, but belief or unbelief in God’s word.
In verse 1 we were introduced to a rich man with an unjust steward and in verse 19 we meet another rich man who by the description given seems to have everything that he needs plus everything that he desires.
We would, by outward appearance, describe him as having it made.
Now what “it” is is never described but everyone who uses this description knows what “it” is.
But the important “it” is the “it” that Jesus describes and he described it in Luke 6 in the manner of woes upon the rich and it appears from this man’s destiny that these woes are fit for this man.
He was rich, he was full, he laughed and he was well spoken of by all men.
But this man’s destiny included hunger, it included mourning and weeping, and it included the time when no man would even speak of him let alone speak well of him.
His name does not flow off our lips for Jesus did not even mention it although he mentioned the name of the beggar, the name of Lazarus, which means the one God helps.
The rich man enjoyed all the benefits of his wealth for he was dressed in purple and fine linen and ate luxuriously every day.
From the outward, life was good to this man.
He would have stepped out on his porch in the morning and said to himself “Life is Good!”
When you say to yourself “Life is Good” instead of “God is Good” you are showing what the Bible calls Pride of Life.
Now pride of life is that which is esteemed by the world but is an abomination to God for it discounts God.
Life has no goodness in itself, only God the giver of life has goodness.
Now from the outward the rich man seemed to fit the description of the man of Deuteronomy 28 that was to be blessed by God in all physical ways.
Deuteronomy 28: 1-2, And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: 2And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.
Take note of the “ifs” of this covenant.
If thou shall hearken unto the voice of the Lord.
So the requirement for the blessings of God in accordance with Deuteronomy 28 is obedience to the word of God.
This is a heart issue not an appearance issue.
So appearances will be misleading and Jesus wished to teach this to the Pharisees for the Pharisees would have supposed, that the man of the story was a righteous man and because of this would surely go to heaven when he died.
But riches do not indicate a heart of obedience for riches can be gained in many ways.
Now in contrast to the rich man the appearance of Lazarus was the exact opposite of the rich man.
For he was the poorest of the poor and because of this he was a beggar.
We are told that he was laid at the gate of the rich man’s house.
One thing you can be sure of is that the needs of others will be brought to the attention of those who can satisfy those needs.
Those who can satisfy those needs will be given a test as to what they will do to help.
Will they step over the man or stoop to help the man?
What you do when a need is expressed reveals your heart.
This is a heart issue and God will face those who have, with those who have not to reveal their heart.
Apparently the rich man stepped over the man in disobedience to God’s word for God’s word is filled with admonitions regarding the right treatment of the poor.
There was no need to describe the clothing of Lazarus for most likely he did not have much to cover his body.
His food was whatever scraps he might get from the rich man’s garbage — fighting off the dogs to beat them to the food.
He had sores which the dogs licked and this was probably the only comfort that he received for his pain.
If he would have gone to the doctor the doctor’s prescription would have been three licks by dogs per wound per day for that is all he could afford.
From the Pharisees’ perspective Lazarus was the embodiment of the kind of person that they would brand as a sinner who was fully worthy of any hell that God would prescribe.
But in God’s economy for Israel there should not have been any poor people reduced to begging in the land for His economy included the care and undertaking for those in need.
But Lazarus was laid at the rich man’s gate to provide the rich man opportunity to do right by the man.
He was fit for help and approved by God for help for he could not help himself.
He could not walk, he was full of sores and no one would deny that he could do anything for himself.
No doubt Lazarus watched the many people coming and going to the rich man’s house.
He could hear the activity going on, he could smell the aroma of the gourmet meals being prepared in the kitchen.
He knew what he was missing every day.
But in likewise manner the rich man also knew the troubles of Lazarus for Lazarus was laid at his gate each day, where all who came and went, were confronted with the beggar’s appeals for alms.
The rich man would have had to walk past Lazarus every time he left or entered his house.
This means that he would have had to have consciously chosen to ignore his need.
The rich man only used his wealth to comfort himself, but not to minister to the needy.
This was a clear violation of the Old Testament standard of righteousness.
Deuteronomy 15:7-8, If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: 8But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.
The Pharisees were guilty of selective Bible reading and belief.
They had taken certain parts of the law which seemed to support their desire to justify themselves before men but neglected the weightier parts.
They neglected those parts which required them to extend themselves in the behalf of others, others whom they thought of as great sinners, and outside the blessings of God.
So in this case, judging by appearance alone, they would have justified the rich man and condemned the beggar Lazarus.