Lazarus and the Rich Man part one

Luke 16:19-21

“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.”

Lazarus and the Rich Man part one

This is a parable of extremes. For this was not just a rich man this was a very rich man who lived a life of excess. Observe his clothing made of the finest cloth and colored purple, the most expensive dye to use. It was extracted from thousands upon thousand of snails by boiling them in lead vats. So wearing purple as his daily clothing indicates a man of great wealth and also great vanity, such as those Scribes that Jesus condemned in Luke 20:46-47 where he said, “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.”

This man ate each day like it was a feast day, which demonstrates that he had food in excess that was not shared but consumed by him alone.

He also had a gate to his residence which suggests that his property was walled around to protect those things that he had gathered to himself and to isolate himself. We also know that, though Lazarus begged at his gate every day, he never opened the gate to him.

Lazarus was not only a poor man; this was a man who lived a painful, pitiful life every day. His body was covered in open seeping sores. He was lame or at least too weak to walk as evidenced by the fact that he was laid at the gate. This also suggests that, even in such a dreadful state, he had friends who cared enough to bring him daily to the rich man’s gate. He was so weak that he couldn’t even stop the dogs from licking his wounds. On top of this, he was starving to death. He was to the point of asking to eat the same crumbs that the dogs ate from the floor beneath the table.

What a gulf there was between these two men’s standing in society. One was respected, possibly feared, because of his great wealth. He would have had the best seats at banquets and the synagogue. He would have had servants or slaves to do his every bidding. No doubt he was the envy of many in the town.

Lazarus, on the other had was shunned and shut out of most of society. Though he starved, he was not invited to anyones feast. Under the Law of Moses he would be considered unclean and untouchable. He was not only expelled from society but also physically expelled from the village.

Remember that I said he had friends that would daily bring him to the rich man’s gate? Hear these words from Numbers 19:22. “Whatever the unclean person touches shall be unclean, and anyone who touches it shall be unclean until evening.” His helpers, by helping him would also become ritually unclean for that day. Even if they never touched him but only carried him on a may or blanket … by touching what he touched, they made themselves also untouchable until sundown.

There is much more to this parabel. However I want to stop here and ask an important question, “With whom do you identify in this story?”

  • Are you Lazarus? Are you ill or confirm? Are you an outcast in society? Are you at the poverty level or below? Are you unable to supply your basic needs? If this is you please contact your pastor.
  • Are you the rich man? Do you have more than your basic needs met?  Do you own your own home or property? Are you highly thought of in your community? Do you have a reliable income? Do you have discretionary income? If you have income beyond your basic needs do you spend it on yourself or to assist those in need? If this is you, and this devotion causes you to rethink how your discretionary income is spent, contact your pastor.
  • Are you the friends of the beggar? Are you the primary caregiver of someone else? Do you provide physical or financial aid to those in need? Are you willing to give up your social standing to help someone in need? Are you willing to risk your own health to assist someone in need? If this is you, first of all, thank you. Now, if you would like to expand your outreach or missionary work, contact your pastor.”

Take a moment and consider how you would answer Lord Jesus, if he were to ask these questions.

Father, I admit that I have not always been a good steward with the resources you have given me. Forgive me. Open my eyes and my heart that i might see where my abundance might be used to further your kingdom. Guide me into being a better servant for you. Amen.

All content (except quotations) ©2019 Thomas E. WilliamsOriginally published September 14, 2019

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