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November 18, 2015
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.’” Luke Chapter 16
This story does not give us a lot of details about Lazarus. All we know from the story is that Lazarus was suffering from some kind of disease which made him unable to earn a living so he had to resort to begging just to eat. He was covered with sores making him repulsive to society. He would have been happy to get just a few crumbs from the rich man's table.
The culture of that day believed that a man who was poor and suffering bad health was cursed by God. Even the disciples of Jesus had that mindset until Jesus taught them better. The Bible does teach that all suffering is because of sin and sin plagues all of mankind.
We tend to judge others by outward appearances without knowing the real story. If Lazarus lived in our world and one of us saw him begging, we would probably get the impression that he was a drug addict or an alcoholic. We would probably assume that Lazarus had brought this misery on himself by his own bad choices. The sad fact is that there are many homeless people today because of circumstances that were beyond their control. Our society loves good looking people, but these same people could harbor the most evil desires in their hearts. Society should judge us by what we do and not how we appear. There is an old saying, "Never judge a book by its cover." It is what is on the inside that counts and our heavenly Father can see into our hearts.
Lazarus does not fit the profile of the prosperity gospel, which is so prevalent in the western world. This false gospel does not know what to do with the sufferings of Lazarus or Paul or Job. The prosperity gospel teaches that if you bribe God by sending your money into their ministry, God will multiply your money and eliminate your debt. This gospel teaches that it does you no good to invest your money (through tithes and offerings) into your local church. The wolves who preach this gospel want your money in their pocket and really have no concern about your spiritual well being. The prosperity gospel is based on the premise that God can be bribed. God cares about how you use your wealth because it shows Him if you are selfish or unselfish. If the prosperity gospel were true, then Christians who lived in impoverished countries would be able to bribe their way into prosperity.
Was Lazarus a man of good standing in the community until he contracted a disease? Did he have children or a wife? Did he have wealth at some point in his life? These are all possibilities but the Bible simply does not tell us. We do know that Lazarus was a man of God because he ended up in Paradise after his death.
Our world considers being poor a curse but that can be a blessing. Poor people are not distracted by the material things of this world. They can focus more on God and His word. They eagerly look forward to being in heaven. They don't have the mindset that says, "I want to go to heaven, but let me go to Disneyland first." They know this present world's sufferings will end one day.
The rich man was honored by the world during his funeral. He probably had an elaborate funeral procession with many people attending the funeral. Lazarus probably only had a handful of people at his funeral if he even had a funeral. To the world, Lazarus was a nobody. He was not wealthy and had no influence in society. The world cared nothing for Lazarus. Yet, when Lazarus died, he was carried by angels into Abraham's bosom. God loved Lazarus so much that he sent angels to carry him home.
Have you ever had times in your life when you have thought that nobody cares? This story should serve as a reminder to us that even when things are at their very worst in our lives, we have a God in heaven who loves us and cares for us. He cares for us so much that He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to pay our sin debt by dying on the cross so we could spend an eternity in heaven with God and all the riches that come with heaven. Lazarus knew God. The rich man rejected God and only lived for himself.
The false gods of other religions cannot offer this comfort. There is no true hope for a better life in the religions that deny Jesus Christ. There is no assurance of salvation in Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism. There is only doubt and the false hope that a person's good works will outweigh their bad.
Lazarus may have had material possessions in this life when he was healthy and able to work. If he did, at some point Lazarus got sick and lost it all. He had to resort to begging just to eat but he never lost his faith in God. Isn't' that our lot also? Do we not lose everything that is material in the end? Eventually, we all get sick and die. We cannot avoid this. Every material thing we own goes to someone else when we pass on.
Lazarus had the hope of something better in his future. He trusted God and trusted the word of God. In God's eyes, Lazarus was blessed and highly favored. From the world's point of view, Lazarus was cursed and out of favor with God. Appearances were wrong. The Bible teaches that anyone who trusts God and His word is blessed and highly favored. The scripture states, "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3:36. The majority of the population fails to trust God and the provision for sin He made with His Son. They trust in themselves or they trust in money or they trust in false gods and the wrath abides on them even after death. The rich man in this parable found this out the hard way. Lazarus did just the opposite.
After Lazarus had passed away, he found himself being comforted in Abraham's bosom. Lazarus was in Paradise. His health had been restored. Lazarus will never taste death or disease ever again. Lazarus will not suffer or sorrow ever again. Even though we may suffer in this life, if we have Lazarus's faith, we will also end up in Paradise with him.
Copyright 2015 by Gary Goodworth
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