Two of Jesus’ favorite topics to preach on were the danger of riches and the reality of hell. The story of “The Rich Man and Lazarus” hits on both of them. It is one of the scariest, most sobering stories in the entire Bible. But Jesus taught it as if it were absolutely true, because it is, and He taught it because He loves people and wants them to escape from the terrible future that awaits them if they never wake up and see their need for God. I (Mr. Reel) preached this story to the sixth grade during our small group time yesterday and praise God, many hearts were moved and changed.
In the story, a rich man enjoys a life of comfort and pleasure every day, dressing nicely and eating well. If there were electronics back then, I’m sure he would have had a big screen television, iPhone X, and multiple tablets. Probably also a big car, maybe a boat, a second house…you get the idea. But outside the rich man’s door lay a poor, diseased beggar named Lazarus. He lays there suffering each day, probably eating out of the rich man’s garbage, and letting dogs lick his open sores. The original audience would have heard this and thought to themselves, “The rich man was hardworking and just enjoying the fruits of his labors, while this poor fellow must have been some kind of lazy sinner.”
But then Jesus flips the script in verses 22-23, when we find out that the poor man went to heaven while the rich man went to hell. Now, Jesus does not mean that being poor automatically earns you a trip to heaven and being rich guarantees you a destiny in hell. But what we see is that the poor man was named “Lazarus,” which meant “God is my helper.” He had apparently called out for the mercy of God and found it. After all, where else did he have to turn as no one on earth would help him? But the rich man ignored poor Lazarus every day as he walked past him where he lay dying on his doorstep and then did nothing. The rich man went to hell because he lived his whole life for himself and never realized his need for God. So he died and entered an eternity of suffering without God. And what was worse still, the rich man saw Lazarus in heaven with father Abaraham but could not get to him. There was a great chasm or canyon between the saved and the lost that could not be crossed.
The rich man tried to blame God by basically telling Abraham that he had not been warned about the terrible fate that awaited him. But Abraham (i.e. God) reminds him that his punishment is fair because: 1) The rich man got to enjoy a lifetime of comfort and pleasure while Lazarus suffered and 2) The rich man had known the law of God which had told him that he should love his neighbor as himself. For us listening today, we also have the testimony of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead (verse 31). Yet some still will not soften their hearts, turn from living for themselves and their sin, and find salvation in Christ. Don’t be like the countless rich and poor men who die without Christ. Cross the chasm today while you let live and can still do so. Follow Jesus now and find life forever. There will be a time when it is too late.
The Text (Luke 16:19-31)
19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 “Then 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.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’
27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”
Questions to Think About
- Does your church ever teach about the danger of riches and the reality of hell? Have you ever heard the story of “The Rich Man and Lazarus” preached before?
- Why do you think that having a lot of money and stuff is often a barrier that keeps people from loving God and others?
- As a Christian, how should a story like this affect your treatment of other people and your passion for witnessing and prayer?