The Sin of the Rich Man

We are continuing from yesterday (scroll down for other meditations) our meditation on the passage in Luke 16, where Jesus teaches about 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 person that is poor go to heaven because he or she is poor? If not, then what was the sin that sent the rich man to Hell? There are many sins that the rich man may have committed, but his main sin was that he was quite content without God. His life was one in which he had no need. He paid no heed to anything but his own pleasure and comfort. It could be that he never noticed or cared about Lazarus, which certainly would have increased his condemnation. He had been in a position to help Lazarus, but instead he left him to suffer and die. He seems to have had the notion that it was perfectly normal and natural that Lazarus should wallow in pain while he basked in a life of luxury. He looked at a fellow man, hungry and in pain, and did nothing about it. Lazarus was discontent on earth without God and had sought Him out in his need, and he found Him to be merciful and gracious.In fact, the name Lazarus means, “God is my help”. The rich man had not really felt any need at all. Both had been born into the world in the same situation as you and I. Paul the apostle, in his letter to the Church at Ephesus, describes every person’s situation in this way:

Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12).

During our lifetime on Earth, God sends opportunities our way to search out a path to His home. This is the universal need of every person on this planet—to find God. 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 are living 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? Surely, 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 him 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 had been unfaithful to his responsibility. His responsibility was toward those around him, but especially to his brothers. He had set as a pattern before them the most corrupting thing on Earth—an example of a man who was content without God. Now that he was in Hell, he remembered that his brothers were living according to the model that he had given them, i.e. a contented life without God. The one thing that can add agony to a person in Hell is to be shut up forever with those you have helped to bring there. As we have said elsewhere, every one of us influences others for good or for worse. Let us commit ourselves to be faithful to those who model their lives after us: our brothers, our sisters, our sons, daughters and our close relatives. We must live whole-heartedly for Christ. Other lives depend on it.

On what basis was the rich man’s brothers refused a messenger? The ex-rich man is told that they have the Word of God (at that particular time they had the writings of Moses and the prophets). That is all the witness that they need. It is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18), so if they do not believe God’s Words, they will not believe even if one should return from the dead. God’s written Word is the most important evidence that one can examine to prepare us for life in eternity. It is ignored at great danger to one’s eternal life beyond the grave.

What are the chief take-home lessons that this passage in Luke 16 teaches us?

  • That the time to seek the Lord is now and not to put it off.
  • That there are consequences to our actions that are not always felt on earth but follow us into eternity.
  • We influence others more than we realize on earth.
  • God’s Word is the most important evidence for us to prepare for life eternal.
  • That, no matter what our economic position in this world, if we don’t have Christ, we don’t have life (1 John 5:12).

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

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