The Beggar Named Lazarus
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ But Abraham replied ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ‘No, Father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
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 16:19–31)
In life, Lazarus received bad things, while the rich man received what was good. Yet in death, Lazarus was comforted, while the rich man ended his life in torment. This rich man referred to Abraham as Father, while Abraham referred to him as Son.
He was one of God’s own, a Jew, whose inheritance should have been with Abraham. So what went wrong? He could also represent many ‘Christians’ today.
Many Will Say “Lord, Lord”
Jesus warns His disciples to watch out for false prophets, who come to them in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ferocious wolves.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them. Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!”.(Matthew 7:15–23)
In this passage Jesus states that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear what is good. Those who do not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So what is this good fruit we should be producing?
Jesus said it is doing the will of His Father in heaven. The people Jesus said He never knew were those who omitted to do God’s will. He called them evil doers ~ strong words!
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God”.(Micah 6:8)
- Prophets (and all others) will be known by their fruit.
- We are not to do our own will, but the will of our Father in heaven.
- Even those who profess to be prophets AND those who cast out demons and perform many miracles will not be exempt.
‘Faith’ Without Deeds
The love of God is very practical in its outworking in our lives. If we see the needs of others and we have the ability to help, but do nothing, God’s love is not operating through us.
It is the practical outworking of God’s love through us that draws others to Christ.
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”.(James 2:14–17)
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins (James 4:17).
God describes the fast that He has chosen as acceptable, as not just one that shows an outward display of religious activity, but one that has a practical outworking and comes from the heart.
He also instructs us to seek justice for others and to defend those who cannot defend themselves.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”.(Isaiah 58:6–7)
“Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of My sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow”.(Isaiah 1:16–17)
Caring for the Least of These
God calls us to minister to the ‘least of these’ ~ this includes feeding the hungry; giving the thirsty a drink; inviting in the stranger; clothing the poor; looking after the sick and visiting those in prison.
God calls those who do this, righteous.
- Loving others by meeting their needs is God’s heart!!
- Righteous faith must produce righteous fruit!
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me. Then He will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help You?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life”.(Matthew 25:34–46)
What/Who Do You Value?
While the rich man lived in luxury, Lazarus the beggar lived at his very gate. He was hungry and covered in sores. What would it have cost the rich man to give him some food, a warm garment, and salve for his wounds? What price did the rich man pay for his self–interest? He forfeited his eternity with God!
Do you value your finances?
Jesus said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21).
Do you value your reputation?
Jesus said: “Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. But whoever disowns Me before men, I will disown him before My Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32–33).
Do you value forgiveness?
Jesus said: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14–15).
Do you value others?
The prophet Isaiah said: “If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun–scorched land, and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well–watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isaiah 58:10–11).
Taking Up Your Cross
Jesus says we are to take up our cross daily. That means, whatever He asks us to do, we do!
“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it”.(Luke 9:23–24)
Taking up our cross means we deny ourselves something to obtain something of eternal value. When people choose to serve only themselves, they lose something precious of eternal value; sometimes even to the extent of their souls.
“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”.(Matthew 16:26)
God wants us to love others, not just with good intentions or our words, but by doing what we say we will do, or by practising what we preach.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth”.(1 John 3:16–18)
Taking up our cross does not mean we do not exercise wisdom, or that we give to everyone who asks.
Paul, Silas and Timothy instruct us, we are to help the weak, or those who cannot help themselves.
“And we urge you brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone” .(1 Thessalonians 5:14)
The Compassion Of Those By Abraham’s Side
The compassion of those by Abraham’s side is such, that even in death they would leave their place of comfort if they could; and cross over to ease the pain of those who are suffering in hell.
“And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go to you from here to you cannot”.(Luke 16:26)
- Does that describe me?
- Does that describe you?
There is something about the compassion of God working in us that drives us to do what we would not normally do.
There is something about the compassion of God working in us that causes us to step over our fears.
We need to allow God’s compassion to flow through us more and more in practical ways, so we become vessels of His love to others.
Sometimes Love Confronts
In life we have the opportunity to warn others. And sometimes love confronts. Some years ago I had a friend who was professing to be a Christian, whilst living a sexually immoral life. She stated that God’s grace covered it all, while she openly flaunted her sin. Concerned for her eternity, I cautioned her. Not out of self–righteous judgment, but out of a desire to see her life restored to God. She was a difficult person to confront and after showing no desire to change, we went our separate ways. My hope and prayer is that one day she will return to Him. This is a hard message that is not often preached today. Replacing the Spirit of grace is a spirit of ‘softness,’ that gives licence to sin.
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?…..When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?…..But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat”.(1 Corinthians 5:1–11)
Shortly after our discussion, and still grieved by my friend’s response, I lit our fire and went away to do other things. Returning later, as I bent down I saw a small bird which was trapped, sitting right in front of the flames. I re–acted immediately, reached my hand in and swept it out of the reach of the flames. God spoke to me that day, that although I had to let go of our friendship, that act of confronting my friend was prompted by Him.
“Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh”.(Jude v22–23)
God asks us to gently and in humility help and restore those who are caught, while watching ourselves that we do not end up in the same situation.
“Brothers if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted”.(Galatians 6:1)
Will You Be By Abraham’s Side?
If we want to be those at Abraham’s side, we must be prepared to give up what the world calls good, for what Christ describes as the most excellent way.
“And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self–seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away”.(1 Corinthians 12:31 to 1 Corinthians 13:8)
This Message is a Challenge to Me; It is a Challenge to You!
- We are to meet the needs of others.
- We are to help those who are in sin.
- We are to snatch some from the flames.
There will be a day when it is too late to reach the ‘least of these’ ~ and our time is running short!
Jesus said: “As long as it is day we must do the work of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world (in us), I am the light of the world”. (John 9:4–5)