St Paul's UMC
September 25, 2022
  • Blessed Assurance
  • Victory In Jesus
  • Doxology
      • Psalm 146NIV2011

      • Luke 16:19–31NIV2011

  • Who is the rich man?
    That is the question we must ask. In this parable, Jesus is offering a critique and a warning of what he sees in this world and it is pretty biting. The destiny of the rich man is one any sane person would want to avoid, so I think it is important to know who this man is.
    Who is the rich man?
    We do not know his name. The poor man we know is named Lazarus. In fact, even though the poor man has absolutely nothing in his earthly life…Jesus gives us his name. He is somebody and he has worth.
    Conversely, the rich man has everything he could want but remains nameless…in spite of his great wealth and status. I’m sure he thought his name was important, but Jesus does not mention it.
    Who is the rich man?
    Maybe there is a clue in the text proceeding this passage. We are working through this string of parables that we started a few weeks ago with the parable of the lost sheep and lost coin.
    If we go to last week’s parable of the shrewd manager, which proceeds this one, we find that Jesus had been teaching his disciples, and the sinners and tax collectors, about the use and misuse of worldly wealth. There is also a crowd listening in and the Pharisees are within earshot. Remember what we heard Jesus say last week in Luke 16:10-13
    Luke 16:10–13 ESV
    “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
    There is a choice to be made in this life, now. Who are you going to serve?
    These parables are part of a larger discourse which actually begins in chapter 14. In this discourse, Jesus is teaching what faithfulness to God looks like, and by extension, what the Kingdom of God looks like.
    Jesus contrasts the coming Kingdom of God with the present status quo. What is the status quo? It is how things are done; it is the way the world operates now in this age.
    In this age in which we live, we have this entity that many worship called wealth – which makes it an idol. An idol is anything we dedicate our focus, desire, longing for, more than God.
    Money was developed by man to facilitate trade, so I could obtain from you something I need and you could obtain from me something you need. It did not take long to realize that there is power, influence and comfort to be had by accumulating wealth. Of course, with limited resources, one person’s gain was someone else’s loss. This in turn creates socials structures, the upper class and the lower class. The haves and the have nots. With wealth comes temptation, both for those who have it and those who do not. Those that have work hard to keep it, sometimes by unethical means. Corruption, bribery, or simply establishing rules that protect those with wealth and make it harder for others to obtain it.
    For those who do not have, some are tempted to obtain it by force or by foolishness, by robbery, blackmail, or gambling. The worship of the idol called wealth has resulted in lots of problems in this age.
    This is why Jesus refers to all wealth as “dishonest wealth” – because the whole system is inherently dishonest and destructive. Remember his words “If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?”
    Since we do live in this age, how are those who are faithful to God supposed to use dishonest wealth?
    As we heard last week, the obvious answer is that we are to use “dishonest wealth” for good. We are to use it for the redeeming purposes of God’s coming Kingdom. If you recall the beatitudes that Christ taught early on in his ministry, he said,
    Luke 6:20 ESV
    And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
    One of the best ways we can use dishonest wealth for good is to bless the poor. Throughout the scriptures, Jesus is inviting the poor and the oppressed to his table, to eat and to join in fellowship with God.
    Salvation in the Gospel of Luke is often presented as a complete reversal of the world order – of the status quo. There is the human way of doing things – and then there is God’s way. The Kingdom of God operates God’s way.
    · There the poor will be exalted and the rich will be humbled.
    · Those who forgive will be forgiven, while those who withhold forgiveness and seek retribution will be judged and condemned of their own wrongdoing.
    · In the Kingdom of God, sharing and giving replaces profiting and accumulating.
    · The pure of heart, those who care about what God cares about will be blessed, while those who think only of themselves and preserving what they have will lose it all and be in torment.
    As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to be pursuing God’s way now. We are to be salt and light in our way of life, not in line with world economics, but Kingdom economics.
    Judging people by their social standing, their influence, what they can do for you – that is indicative of world economics.
    Carving out your own little kingdom and keeping others in their proper places – that is world economics.
    Loving others regardless of who they are, giving without any expectation of return, withholding judgment and reaching out in friendship – that is Kingdom economics.
    If you take time to contemplate what Jesus is teaching and how radical it is to the status quo – you will see that it challenges everything. It disrupts the whole world system.
    After Jesus says “You cannot serve God and wealth”, Luke tells us the following:
    Luke 16:14-15
    Luke 16:14–15 ESV
    The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
    For what is exalted among men (wealth and all that comes with it: social status, privilege, accumulation of possessions) is an abomination in the sight of God.
    Now we see that Jesus’ rebuke is aimed at the Pharisees. Luke calls them “lovers of money”, which has a deeper connotation that one may pick up right away. He is not talking about the size of their bank account. Pharisees were not wealthy, although they were better off than the peasant class. But they had bought into the whole world system – the social structures of this age. They maintained friendships and influence among those who had wealth, while distancing themselves from the outsiders, the poor and the sinners. The very people Jesus spent time with.
    Then Jesus, turning to his disciples, tells the parable we are studying today of the rich man and Lazarus.
    Who is the rich man?
    The rich man in this immediate context represents the Pharisees. But before we get too relaxed and think this warning is not for us – please note that a parable always speaks to a wider audience. The rich man represents anyone who holds the same disposition as the Pharisees – has the same inclinations, shares the same behavior. Anyone who is a lover of money and neglects the poor.
    The parable begins by contrasting the clothes, food and property of the rich man to that of the poor man. Clothes, food and property – the prize of worshipping Wealth.
    The rich man is clothed in the finest garments, the poor man is clothed in sores. The rich man eats sumptuous banquet every day, the poor man wishes he could at least have the crumbs that fall to the floor. The rich man lives in an estate with a gate out front, the poor man lays by that very gate – begging for help.
    But then the tables are turned. The poor man dies and is carried by angels to be with Abraham – the father of the Jewish people, a man known for his great hospitality and his faithfulness to God. We don’t even know if the poor man even gets a proper burial, but we know that he is now being comforted.
    The rich man dies, we are told that he is given a burial – he is likely honored by his family and friends, but his destination is different. He ends up in Hades where he is tormented.
    Yet even in his new hellish environment, he still thinks he is entitled to special favor. He tells Abraham “send Lazarus to go dip his finger in cool water and put it on my tongue.” Even in torment, he sees Lazarus as being below him – nothing but a servant.
    Instead, Abraham points out to him, and to us, that there is a great divide. A separation in the realm of the afterlife. On earth, the separation was created by the behavior of the rich man. Now the separation is by the hand of God.
    The rich man then tells Abraham to go send Lazarus back to earth to warn the man’s family of where they are heading. The key teaching in this parable is found in Abraham’s response. “They have Moses and prophets; they should listen to them.”
    This is directed at the Pharisees and anyone else who is a lover of money.
    God’s law already instructs us how to live. Throughout the scriptures, before Jesus ever came in the flesh, the message has always been “love your neighbor” and “love God”.
    The Pharisees had missed this. They thought being holy meant separating yourself from those who were lost, the sinners, the poor, and the sick. They must be poor for a reason – probably their own fault, must be some reason God has not blessed them. They must be sick for a reason – maybe God is punishing them.
    The Pharisees had obtained power and influence in their standing in society. They enjoyed the benefits of being respected, educated, and considered holy.
    But God knew their hearts.
    And He knows our hearts.
    Who is the rich man?
    I know many times, I am the rich man. The more I meditate on this book of Luke and on the Kingdom of God that Jesus is proclaiming – the more I realize how radically different it would be for me to always walk in the way Christ calls me to walk.
    These are questions that I must ask myself and be honest in answering – and they are questions you may want to mull over as well:
    How far would I go to preserve my standing in society?
    Do I put my own wants before the needs of my neighbor?
    Do I back away from speaking boldly in matters of justice, especially when it comes to the poor and oppressed, because I don’t want to offend anyone I know – and possibly lose approval among people?
    This much I do know, the Kingdom of God is dramatically different than the way of world. I look about and see how crazy the world is:
    · The intentional sowing of division from the media
    · the mockery of true justice that so often found in our justice system.
    · the hateful rhetoric that flows from our political system.
    · The corporate greed that destroys our environment
    · The spread of fear throughout our society by blaming one group over another for our problems – the hate that is directed against “them”, those who are not “us”.
    The rich man thrived in this world system. A world of insiders and outsiders, us vs. them. Yet after death, as he is tormented, separated from paradise, you can hear the irony of the “us vs. them” mentality when Abraham tells him:
    “between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.”
    The “us” who are blessed in eternity are the outsiders, the poor, the neglected. With salvation comes a complete reversal.
    So I ask again.
    Who is the rich man?
    Could it be you? And if so, what do you need to allow Jesus to change?
    God is inspecting your heart. He is not waiting for you to fail; he is inviting you to receive forgiveness and to truly live as children of His Kingdom.
    Let us pray.
      • Luke 16:10–13NIV2011

      • Luke 6:20NIV2011

      • Luke 16:14–15NIV2011

  • How Great Is Our God
      • 2 Corinthians 13:14NIV2011

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