“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Jesus reaffirmed this Old Testament truth by repeating it, living it and gaining victory over the devil with God’s Word. Today we will hear Him speaking words in parables. I am reading from Luke 16:19-31.
“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. When the beggar died, he was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 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.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things. 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.’ Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, Father, that you would send him to my father’s house for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 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.’”
Parables. Jesus told hundreds of them. It was one of His favorite means of teaching the people. Children know that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. It was a way Jesus, who was the Word of God, could bring God’s Word to us. Luke 15 and 16 record many of the most famous words, including “the lost sheep,” “the Prodigal Son,” and the parable we have just read.
This story of the rich man and Lazarus is an earthly story we see re-enacted far too often in our century. In many countries there are contrasting extremes of wealth and poverty. Those extremes are heightened when we contrast the wealth of our western world with the poverty of much of the third world. That reminds us that Jesus said caring for the needy of the world is the same as caring for Him. We can read all of His Word in Matthew 25:31- 46. The gap between the rich man and Lazarus, like the incredible gap within our world, is the early story we all understand.
Then comes the heavenly meaning. Jesus does not want to point out only the gap between rich and poor. Rather Jesus wants to illustrate another gap that is even greater — the gap between heaven and hell. Lazarus went to heaven because he believed the “Word became flesh.” And the rich man went to hell because he trusted in his own ability — evidence of which was seen in his great wealth. His arrogance and insensitivity are seen by the fact that driving by the beggar, Lazarus, every day, he never one time really “saw” the man. And missing the man, he missed his opportunity to “see” the man’s savior, Jesus Christ. Now the chasm between the two is greater than it ever was — and it is immovably fixed.
I wonder — what do we see on various corners of the Golden Triangle when we encounter a man, woman, child or sometimes a combination of these? They are holding a sign which reads “homeless, jobless, need help.”
Dear God, we confess the sin-gaps that spoil our world. Yet we know the sin of rejecting You forms the damning gap. Help us to share our faith and our abundance. Amen and amen.
The Rev. Delmar Dabney was a spiritual inspiration in Southeast Texas for many years before his death in 1994. This and other messages from his daily television show, “Coffee with Pastor Dabney,” are featured here regularly.