Friday, October 4, 2013


Luke 16:19-31
16:19 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.

16:20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,

16:21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores.

16:22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

16:23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.

16:24 He called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.'

16:25 But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.

16:26 Besides all this, 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.'

16:27 He said, 'Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house--

16:28 for I have five brothers--that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.'

16:29 Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.'

16:30 He said, 'No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'

16:31 He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"

We've been looking closer at the Lukan parables, finding depths that we never supposed were there before.  This popular parable is no different.  It seems to be another parable espousing the social gospel.  It seems to have a Marxian context: rich v. poor.  We even can remember other things that Jesus has said elsewhere: it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Yes, it seems as if Jesus is saying here that the poor of the world are blessed and the rich are damned.

But something Abraham says in this parable reveals depth greater than that of shallow Marxism:

16:25 But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.

This goes beyond rich versus poor.  This is a comparison of one having received good things on earth versus having received evil things (or "bad" things).  Now, many times these receivings DO fall along the lines of rich and poor, but there are also many times that the financially rich may receive evil things and the financially poor may receive good things.  Think of our luxurious country.  Many of the poor have good things: food, shelter, a TV, hundreds of DVDs (usually horror movies), a car, liberty to do as one pleases.  Worldwide, American poor is in the top 4% of the wealthy. Am I saying that the poor don't have it tough?  No, a lot of the time they do, but we need to look at another criterion for deciding who is blessed and who isn't.  "Blessed are the poor" is in the sermon on the mount, so let's look at that:

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5)
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the poor IN SPIRIT.  What does that mean?  Well, read the other beatitudes.  They describe someone who is poor in spirit.  Someone who mourns.  Someone who hungers for righteousness.  Someone who is merciful.  These aren't separate people Jesus is describing.  This is one blessed person.  Now, who are the people that the bible describes as in the most need of comfort?  Who are the people that, over and over again, the people of Israel are asked to take care of?  And Israel continually fails to look after these persons.  Who are they?

Widows and orphans.  Why?  Well, we tell ourselves, they just represent "the poor."  That is what we call them now.  So, we're back to socialism again.  But the bible goes deeper than that.  Being a widow or an orphan didn't necessarily mean that you were financially poor, then as well as now. Why widows and orphans?  What to they have in common?

Loss.  The orphan has lost his or her parents.  The parents are God's authoritative representatives on earth to the child.  Obeying parents is one of the commandments.  Parents are to be the source of Godly wisdom to the child.  Parents are the source of Godly love.  Without Godly parents, the orphan is at a HUGE disadvantage in life.  That is poor in spirit.  We aren't looking at monetary worth now.  We are looking INSIDE.  Same with the widow.  His or her partner in life is gone.  The one who gave her authority, Godly wisdom, and love, or the one who gave him (the widower) respect, love, companionship, and Godly help.  Gone, and there is a terrible loss there. 

Widows and orphans are the best tangible examples of those who are poor in spirit.  To have such a loss is to live through the beatitudes.  As Abraham says in the parable, it is to receive evil things on earth.  It is a form of martyrdom.  To be a financial martyr is not deep enough.  We talked about last week how in general money is unrighteous mammon.  Loss of it is NOT a loss of wisdom or Godly authority.  In fact to lose wealth is to be in a blessed state on earth.  You are actually receiving a good thing to lose wealth.

Ask someone who has lost a loved one, and he or she will tell you that there are times, when all is quiet, when all is peaceful, that the widow or widower or orphan has a sense that the lost loved one is still with him or her on earth.  There's that quick sense of disorientation and forgetfulness that the loved one is gone, and one may even cry out the lost one's name, but then the realization comes that the loved one is truly gone, and the loss rushes back, and it is deeper than ever.  The spirit gets poorer.

Living the Christian life is difficult, I'm discovering, because we don't have that sense of loss when it comes to Christ.  We know that Christ is alive--he is risen--but we do not have the experience of his incarnation, like the apostles did.  We don't have that sense of loss that the apostles had when Jesus died, and after the resurrection when he ascended.  He is alive, yes.  He has given us the comforter, the Holy Spirit, to live with us, yes.  But do we really have the sense that Christ is alive and working in our lives right this minute through the Holy Spirit?

Have you ever read a book or series of books by someone, like Dickens or CS Lewis, and wished that the person were still alive, so you could interact with them or hear what they are saying today?  That is the feeling we SHOULD have with Christ.  We should read the Gospels and have that overwhelming sense of loss and the desire to hear him speak today.  We should have that sudden awareness of his presence that the widow and the orphan have with their lost loved ones.  We cannot seem to have that awareness of his presence in our lives until we first experience the loss.

When we feel Christ's loss, the Holy Spirit, the comforter, fulfills his duty to us, the reason he is here.  He comforts us in our loss, reminds us that Christ is alive, reveals him to us in the scriptures, reveals his presence in our lives today, this very minute.  Pray for God to make us poor in spirit, so that we will know that sense of loss and then can know our savior's presence.  Lord give us that sense of loss, so that we may find him with us.