I am continuing to share my own study notes that helped me to prepare for my sermon on the Rich Man and Lazarus. We move today to ask what it was that the rich man did wrong.
Jesus’ teaching, and much of the NT is so pro-poor and anti-rich we have to ask ourselves the question, was the problem just that he was rich? Which are we? Important question as the truth is we are unbelievably rich in world terms. We all like to think of ourselves as spiritually rich but physically poor, maybe the opposite is the case
Does Jesus teach that if we endure poverty, we are blessed, and if we possess riches, we are cursed? On the one hand, we answer this question in the affirmative. If we set our heart on earthly riches, our desires cause us to promote our ruin and destruction (I Tim. 6:9). Luke stresses poverty instead of earthly riches. In the song of Mary we read that God “has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:53). Jesus teaches a beatitude on the poor and, by contrast, a curse on the rich (Luke 6:20, 24). And he portrays poor Lazarus at the side of Abraham in heaven and the rich man agonizing in hell (Luke 16:19–31).
On the other hand, the gospel is for all people: the rich and the poor alike. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both prosperous, were among Jesus’ followers. Well-to-do tax collectors, Matthew and Zaccheus, were converted (Luke 5:27–29; 19:1–9), for Jesus came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. With the parable of the two debtors, he characterized Simon the Pharisee and the sinful woman as being indebted to God (Luke 7:36–50). Both the rich and the poor must accept Jesus Christ in repentance and faith and submit themselves to him in lifelong obedience.[i]
Fortunately, 1 Corinthians 1 tells us not many were from the rich classes.
So, the real problem was that the rich man failed to be Christ-like, he was the opposite of the Samaritan, he had no compassion.
Living with this parable for a few weeks now has made me realize how selfish I still am and how much work God still has to do on my heart:
Toilet unblocking story – I tried to pretend I hadn’t noticed, hoping my wife would resolve the problem, shame on me!
Self-centered life vs other-centered life
So,“The rich man and Lazarus do not stand as examples of all rich and poor, but those rich who have a selfish attitude concerning their wealth and those poor who have an obedient relationship with God.” [ii]
“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” Proverbs 19:17
“Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered”. Proverbs 21:13
Be careful if you don’t care for the poor…thank God that we do send money, but the parables seem to be less about what we do corporately for the poor and more about what I do. Is my life self-absorbed or am I pre-occupied with loving and serving others?
The biggest sin of the Rich man is he has forgotten that it is only because of God’s favor he is what he is:
1 Samuel 2:6-8 The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol (OR the Grave) and raises up.
7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.
8 He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
Understanding the grace we have received should make us gracious to others
Jesus says that since we have Freely received, we should freely give (Matthew 10:8)
[i]Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953-2001). Vol. 19: New Testament commentary : Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. New Testament Commentary (283). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
[ii]Review and Expositor. (1997; 2004). Review and Expositor Volume 94 (vnp.94.2.277). Review and Expositor.