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Posts Tagged ‘Sermon on Luke 16:19-31’

'Rila Monastery' photo (c) 2009, Dvemp - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Here is a sermon on Luke 16:10-31.  The issue is especially poignant in the wake of the recent U.S. House vote to cut funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as “food stamps.”

The Five Brothers

A Sermon on Luke 16:10-31

A few of Jesus’ parables, like the ones we heard last week about the lost sheep and lost coin, seem relatively tame.  But not this one.  This parable is a tough one.  It deals with a sensitive subject: wealth.  And it has a big stinger.

In Jesus’ day people loved to hear stories of people getting what they deserve in the hereafter.  Jesus took one of these popular tales that was circulating at the time, changed some of the details, and aimed it straight at the religious authorities of Judea.

Jesus was tough on them.  He made no attempt to handle them with kid gloves. Jesus had just gotten through pointing out that you can’t serve both God and wealth, only one can be the most important to you, and that the things humans value are an abomination in God’s sight.

The religious leaders scoffed at Jesus.  Why?  They refused to see the serious spiritual problems that money and affluence pose.  They insisted that possessions were a sign that God was pleased with you, that God was blessing you.  Poverty was a sign that God was cursing you. They came by this view honestly.  They drew it from scripture.    Check out Deuteronomy 28.  That’s just one example.  There Moses says that “if you obey the LORD your God, by diligently observing all his commandments, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth; all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the LORD your God.”  Then there’s a long list of blessings of every kind, from victory in battle to strong, healthy livestock, to highly productive fields, to many healthy children, to rain just when you need it. If you obey, you’ll be blessed.  If you don’t, you won’t.

But Jesus saw the flaws in their too-neat system of rewards and punishments.  For all their intense study of scripture, these particular leaders, anyway, had skipped over the deep and powerful message of Moses and the prophets giving the people of God solemn responsibilities towards all people in need.

There were two men, Jesus said.  One was the richest of the rich.  He ate gourmet meals every day.  He dressed in the finest clothes right down to his linen underwear.  His clothes were purple, the color of royalty, power, and authority.  He had it all.

Just outside the rich man’s gate lay a man who was the poorest of the poor.  He had nothing.  No food, no home, inadequate clothing.  Like Job, he was clothed in sores.  He was sick.  He couldn’t walk any more.  How he longed for the rich man’s table scraps.

Now note: Jesus makes no moral judgments here.  There’s no explanation of how the rich man got his wealth, no hint of any dirty doings.  Plus, there’s no explanation of how Lazarus got in the fix he was in either, and no hint that he was particularly righteous.

Scene 2: Both men died.  Now everything is exactly reversed.  Lazarus was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom.  The picture here is of the way people reclined at banquets in Jesus’ day.  Lazarus reclined next to Abraham at the heavenly banquet.

Far, far away the rich man found himself in Hades with nothing but pain.  If only he could just get one drop of water.  He begged Abraham to send Lazarus over with just one drop of water.

“Sorry, my child.  Not possible,” Abraham replied.  The rich man and Lazarus never connected in life.  Now they can’t connect in death.

Now why did things turn out this way?  (more…)

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