In my mind I play with the picture of my meeting with the Lord this morning. Am I being called to a sort of conference? In my mind I see myself at someone like a headmaster’s desk as he frowningly peers down at me, having called me to give account of myself and answer for my attitudes and actions and to receive instructions for the day. “Its not like that at all” says the Lord, “I invite you – I invite you into a fellowship bubble – a circle – and as we meet, the circle is complete – it is where I can share My love and thoughts with you. But I don’t hold you down in the circle – I encourage you to fly – you are free to go – just know My love is like a magnet drawing you back to me – and even in your freedom I am with you – guiding, strengthening, leading and opening new ways – yes and if you want to go your own way away from Me, I will let you, but my invitation stays – there is danger there though – there are traps and ways that appear delightful, drawing you in – into bondage again – but when you are ready, I will liberate you. While you are there though, you will be separated from Me and My fellowship -but never, never from My love. The ultimate goal remains and I will win the battle for your soul – against the evil one, the world and the flesh – and you will return to this circle of fellowship”.
Yesterday my reading was in Luke 16:14-31. But last night something unusual happened. I kept thinking of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, every time I woke up. So I felt I should revisit this passage again this morning. Why don’t you read it through and jot down what you see in it. Remember the context is the teaching on money. What do you see as the bigger picture which climaxes in the teaching of the parable?
Here are some key thoughts: The teaching was obviously aimed at the Pharisees who are described in vs 14 “who loved money”. They are further described as having hard hearts and trying to justify themselves, with totally wrong values. What a mouthful! Then comes an interesting two vv-16,17. The Pharisees were obviously embedded in the OT trying to live by the Law, and actually thinking they were doing pretty well. Jesus warns them though, that since John’s ministry a new era has begun. An era where the kingdom is breaking in and it is being introduced by the preaching of the “Good News” (the gospel). The Good News was not setting the (moral) law aside at all, but it was introducing a new era, personified by the story of the rich man and Lazarus and set in motion by Jesus’ fulfilling the predictions of the Law and Prophets and to be launched at His resurrection (vs 31).
Why don’t you take a few moments to read the story of the rich man and Lazarus again and see in what way it is demonstrating the new values and order of the kingdom.
OK so this story shows that the values of the kingdom are completely opposite to those of the world. Remember back in 15:2 Jesus was accused of welcoming sinners, which offended the worldly Pharisees. Jesus Himself said He had not come to be served but to serve; Mark 10:45,and showed it by washing His disciple’s feet (John 13). Elsewhere in Luke, He proclaims “blessed are you who are poor, for you shall see the kingdom of God” Luke 6:21. Now stop and think. There is no merit in Lazarus, in fact the picture of dogs licking his sores makes him unclean as well as poor. There is no merit in poverty. as such, but the fact is that the poor are far more likely to perceive their need of salvation than the rich. Like those described as “sinners”, not people that were more sinful than others but people who realized their sinfulness. The rich are so busy building their own empires and believing they can take care of all their needs with their money they are not interested in salvation. (They will harden their hearts even against the overwhelming evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. v 31).
Interestingly this is the only one of Jesus’ stories like this, that actually names a person. This suggests to me that Lazarus was “known” by God, which points to his salvation? cf John 16:3 “Now this is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ….” Whatever the details, this whole story is used to introduce us to the new values of the Kingdom, which will be developed as Luke goes along.
For me: this is a timely reminder that the great command to “love” encompasses all the the laws. I must be prepared to love rich and poor alike. But also recognizing loving the wealthy often has far less of a reward than loving the poor.