We are continuing our meditation on the passage in Luke 16, where Jesus taught about the eternal state of two individuals, a rich man and a man called Lazarus, and where they went when they died. The rich man was surprised to find himself in Hell. That begs the question: Is it a sin to be rich? And does a poor person go to heaven because they are poor? If not, then what sin sent the rich man to Hell?
There are many sins that the rich man may have committed, but his primary sin was that he was inwardly content without God. His life was one in which he had no need and only focused on his pleasure and comfort. It could be that he never noticed or cared about Lazarus, which would have increased his condemnation. He was able to help Lazarus, but instead, he left him to suffer and die. He seems to have believed that it was expected that Lazarus would wallow in pain while he lived in luxury. He looked at a fellow man, hungry and in pain, and did nothing about it. Lazarus was discontent on Earth without God and sought Him out in his need and found Him merciful and gracious. The name Lazarus means, "God is my help." The rich man had not felt any need at all.
During our lifetime on Earth, God sends us opportunities and prompts us to respond to His call and search out a path to His home. To find Christ is the universal need of every person on this planet. After death, God will honor the choices we have made in life. If we choose to live without God on Earth, He will grant our wishes for eternity. If you live your life without a second thought of God or eternity, call out to Him now while you can still experience His grace. Why wait for another second? Undoubtedly, your spiritual enemy, the devil, will seek to have you put off this message for another day, but Christ waits for you with open arms.
When the rich man found out that his position was fixed for eternity and that no one could come to help him, he replied to Abraham:
27"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' 29"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' 30"'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' 31"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead' (Luke 16:27-31).
Why was the ex-rich man so concerned about his brothers still on Earth? He prayed twice while in Hell. The first prayer was for water; the second was for his brothers on Earth. Both prayers were refused. He was unfaithful in caring for those around him, especially his brothers. He gave them an example of the most corrupting thing on Earth—the example of a man content without God. Now that he was in Hell, he remembered that his brothers were living according to the model he had given them, i.e., a contented life without God. As we have said elsewhere, every one of us influences others for good or worse. Let us commit ourselves to be faithful to those who model their lives after us: our brothers, our sisters, our sons, daughters, and close relatives. We must live wholeheartedly for Christ. Other lives depend on it.
On what basis were the rich man's brothers refused a messenger? The ex-rich man was told they had the Word of God (at that time, they had the writings of Moses and the prophets). The Scriptures were all the witnesses they needed. God's written Word is the most critical evidence one can examine to prepare for life in eternity, evidence that is ignored at great danger to one's eternal life beyond the grave.
What are the main take-home lessons this passage in Luke 16 teaches us?
1) The first lesson is that the time to seek the Lord is now and not put it off.
2) Secondly, there are consequences to our actions that are not always felt on Earth but follow us into eternity.
3) The third lesson from this passage is that we influence others more than we realize on Earth.
4) Fourth, God's Word is the most critical evidence to prepare us for eternal life.
5) No matter our economic position in this world, if we don't have Christ, we don't have life as God intended (1 John 5:12). Keith Thomas