As the pastor of a church, it can be a challenge sometimes to motivate people to choose God over money beyond the corporate gathering. It isn’t difficult to get people to understand and even agree with the principles, but something gets lost in translation to everyday life. God warned the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 6 not to forget him after they received everything they had been wanting. Jesus echoed that warning in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, where being rich in heart was the most important take-away.
When you read the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, it is easy for us to label the rich man as the bad guy and poor Lazarus as the good guy. We see the evil rich guy land in hell while poor Lazarus recieves eternal blessing in heaven. The conclusion we often draw is that if we just hang in there we will get ours, and the bad guys will get theirs, but that is not what Jesus’ original audience would have heard…and it’s not what we should bank on either.
Lazarus is escorted to heaven, not because he was poor, but because he trusted God. In spite of all his lack and suffering, he looked to God for grace and mercy. We know this because of his eternal destination. Had he done what so many do nowadays Lazarus would have blamed God for his suffering, judged God’s heart and just tried to make the best of his miserable situation on his own. Lazarus longed for scraps, not riches.
He didn’t covet the rich man’s life, he just longed for some scraps to get by: his daily bread. You don’t have to be rich to be rich in heart. A rich heart is the one who longs for the things of the world, for temporal happiness, and for comfort and ease. A rich heart operates on a sense of entitlement – which when satisfied leads to complacency.
The rich man in the parable obviously loved his riches more than God. There is no doubt that the man was a faithful Jew who brought his offerings to the temple, attended synagogue, and tithed even his mint and cumin. The people of Jesus’ day saw material wealth and blessing as indication of God’s favor, while poverty and affliction as God’s judgment for sin. Jesus’ audience would have been utterly shocked when he described the rich man’s torment in hell.
No escort for him, just death. Even in torment, he does not ask for relief, but comfort requesting that Lazarus serve him water to cool his tongue. The rich man had all he felt he was entitled to in life. He was comfortable and totally disconnected from God. His god was what the Lord could give him, like the younger, prodigal son in another parable found in Luke. And he is a picture of the church today.
Just as we can be disconnected from any sense of urgency or even responsibility to actually obey Jesus’ command to go and make disciples, the rich man was oblivious to the great need right outside his own front door. The rich man had all he felt he was entitled to, and he was content, but the command was to “love your neighbor as yourself,” not to love yourself to the neglect of your neighbor.
How many needs are right outside your own front door everyday that go unnoticed and therefore unmet because you are either worried about your needs, rights, and entitlements, or because you are so content that any sense of urgency is lost? Big in the headlines today is the Occupy movement. Basically this is a group of people demanding by way of public demonstration what they feel they are entitled to.
This desire – though wrong – drives them to action with a certain sense of urgency. We have all we want, and so the urgency fades away; we grow content and complacent, and disobediently inactive. We are rich in heart: so focused on what we have that we are blind to our purpose and the needs around us, or so concerned about what we don’t have that miss all we have been given and neglect gratitude. In either case, we are inert and lost.
Repentance for the rich heart does not always mean “get rid of everything.” But it does mean that we must put everything in its proper place, grab a proper Christ-centered perspective and focus on him instead of his stuff. To follow Jesus, your eyes must be on him; your desire must be for him.
As he told the church in Laodicea, “You say, ‘I am rich and do not need a thing.’ But you are pitiful, wretched, poor, blind, and naked.” He stands at the door and knocks. That is not a verse to the unsaved. He is speaking to his church…Jesus is outside his church! Listen for his voice, and let him in.
Need more inspiration and godly wisdom ? You might also enjoy A False Humility
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