WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
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THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS
(Reaping GOD’s justice)
In Luke chapter 16, verses 19-31, JESUS relates the parable of an unnamed rich man, and a poor man named Lazarus. Because JESUS does not normally use personal names in HIS parables, many scholars tend to believe that this story relates to an actual event. The New Testament tells us of many people who were forced to result to begging due to indigence caused mostly by a debilitating sickness or physical condition.
Most Christians wholeheartedly agree that giving of their time, money, and skills to those who are destitute and in need, is a good and meritorious thing to do, in the eyes of GOD, and man. However, the rich man in this parable refuses to render any help whatsoever to the needy Lazarus, and as a result of his mistreatment of those in need, he died and woke up, and found himself on the wrong side of the “great chasm” (in Hell) (v.26).
Here in this passage we see that the rich man is portrayed as being fully conscious and aware of his surroundings while he sat suffering in the fires of Hell. We see that he is able to “see”, “hear”, “feel”, and “remember” very clearly, and besides, there is no biblical basis to support the notion that death is an unconscious state anyway. In fact, this parable clearly suggests that human personally, fully conscious and aware, does persist, even after physical death has occurred.
JESUS tells us that the rich man, who was in much torment, could see Lazarus, the man he denied help to in the physical life, at a distance in Heaven, in the company of Abraham, the great Jewish patriarch. The rich man, who was now anguishing in the flames of Hell, shouted to Abraham, begging him for mercy. He asks Abraham to send Lazarus over with just a drop of water so that he could cool his tongue.
Abraham said to the man, “Son, remember that during your lifetime, you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. Anyone who wanted to cross over to you from here is stopped at its edge, and no one there can cross over to us” (Vs.25-26 - NLT).
Then the man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to his father’s home to warn his five brothers about Hell, so that they won’t have to go there when they die. However, Abraham responded, “Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read their writings anytime they want to” (v.29). The man then said, “No father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will turn from their sins” (v.30). Abraham replied, “If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead” (v.31).
Perhaps JESUS relates this parable to us to help show us that “being rich” has nothing to do with “being righteous”, and in fact, “riches” and “righteousness”, much more often than not, manifests themselves as being polar opposites in the real world. One, like the rich man in this story, lives in complete luxury, perhaps desiring to interact only with his peers, while the other man, Lazarus, lives with abject poverty, hunger, and poor health as his daily challenge. Such a person is much more likely to turn to help from GOD, by way of the mercy and grace of their fellowman.
None of us were put here, as “a man alone on an island”, who, can depend only on himself for survival. GOD put us here to survive by depending on each other, and interacting with other, and from the enlightment that we receive from closely associating with each other, we can readily react to each other’s needs in a positive way, sometimes without being asked, or told. When we show that we care for each other, we show that we love GOD, WHO made us in HIS OWN “spiritual image” (Genesis 1:26).
In the biblical Greek, the name “Lazarus” means “GOD the Helper” and so maybe JESUS chose this name, not because of one of HIS best friends (Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, whom JESUS would later raise from the dead), but rather, because the character HE was trying to depict (who very well may have been a real person whom JESUS had met) was a poor man who had decided to depend on GOD for his daily provisions, even unto his death.
Ultimately, and, ironically, the rich man’s “walls of his house” became the “great chasm” that helped prevent Lazarus from receiving “physical salvation”, and he himself, from receiving “spiritual salvation”. I say this because, here, Scripture says that Lazarus lay, quite literally, at the rich man’s front door (v.20), perhaps on his front porch even, and the rich man never tried shooing him away, asking him in, or sending him something out to eat. Instead, he just simply must have stepped over, or walked around him day by day, either just ignoring what his eyes had seen, or taking enjoyment, or mocking, at “Lazarus’ inferior position in life”, all the way up until the time he died and was carried away by angels of GOD.
After the rich man met his physical demise, he found himself in a place called “Hell” (“Sheol” in the Hebrew, “Hades” in the Greek”), in “total conscience torment”, in “his spiritual life” after death. He was residing directly across “a great chasm” that “separated” himself from Lazarus, the man whom he had daily refused to give alms to on his own front porch.
Lazarus, on the other hand, was now residing in the comforts of Heaven at Abraham’s side. He was enjoying a “spiritual life” after death that is prepared by GOD, only for those who are obedient to, and dependant on HIM, in their “physical” lifetimes. Just think of how many people, who could have gone to Heaven, who have actually “read” or “heard” the “Word of GOD” since JESUS was raised from the dead, but have chosen instead, to go to Hell.
In the Gospels of Matthew (7:24-29) and Luke (6:46-49) JESUS concludes HIS, now famous, “Sermon on the Mount” with this warning for us to build our foundations on the “Most High Faith” (Christianity). There we see JESUS demanding two things. First HE demands that we “hear” (receive the Word of GOD into our heart spiritually), and then HE demands that we “do” (live the Word of GOD with our physical bodies). Knowledge does not become relevant until it is, first, “put into action”. In GOD, “knowledge must become action”, “theory must become practice”, and then “theology can become life”.
In Matthew 25, verses 31-46, JESUS gives us the answers to how, we “as human beings” can be “successful” under GOD. There we see that it is very different from the world’s view of what “success” is. There, JESUS tells us that when HE returns to judge us, HE will base HIS decision upon “how we reacted to human need in our lifetime”.
So remember, while we do need to be “shrewd managers” of what GOD has blessed us with, we must also strive to balance that “shrewdness”, with the “compassion” that HE has also blessed us with. In addition, that compassion, which governs GOD’s OWN nature that is embodied in each of us, was demonstrated to us, quite vividly, and, quite thoroughly, by CHRIST JESUS in HIS lifetime, here on earth. And so, here in the so-called “Church Age”, all we need to do is, “follow HIM”.
A Sunday school by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website