The Gospel of Luke - Part 71:
Use Money to Pursue True Righteousness — Luke 16:19-31

January 7, 2007
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)

Review:

Before the holidays, we got most of the way through Luke Chapter 16 where Jesus uses three parables to teach us about money.  The bottom line is that we need to see money from God’s perspective. Jesus spends this entire chapter focusing on issues related to our use of money. The question is:

What does your use of money say about your commitment to the Lord?

Luke Chapter 16 can be organized as:
   A.     Use Money To Prepare For Eternity
   B.     Use Money To Please The Lord
   C.     Use Money To Pursue True Righteousness

Using money to prepare for eternity is about realizing that when we use our money for things that don’t matter in the long run, in eternity, things that don’t matter in God’s economy, we are making a very short term decision and a short sighted one. We need to ask our selves if our decision is the right one; one that we would not regret in eternity.

Using money to please God is about trying to see money the way God sees it. It is about not being so concerned about pleasing other people, acting holy but not having pure intent in what we do; about doing what we do for the right reason.

Remember that Solomon and Mother Teresa both told us that if we are using money to fulfill ourselves or to please others, it can’t be done. Human nature is to want more, no matter how much we have. Personal fulfillment cannot come from money, only from a relationship with Jesus. We all have problems with wanting more, with greed. Remember that in the last lesson we talked about three keys to avoiding, or at least minimizing greed. They are to focus on God instead of ourselves, maintain an attitude of gratitude for what God provides to you and to be generous in your giving, be a joyful giver.

We dealt with those two sections of Luke 16. This morning we will deal with the third section, using money to pursue true righteousness. Remember that Jesus is addressing the Pharisees in this section of Luke. This section started with:

Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. And He said to them... —Luke 16:14-15
Today: We pick up this morning with verse 19.
“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house — for I have five brothers — in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ ” —Luke 16:19-31
What do you notice about the rich man in this story?

Jesus continues talking to the Pharisees by telling them a story (parable) just as He told one to His disciples earlier. One misconception the Pharisees had was that riches equaled righteousness. They saw wealth as a blessing God gave as a reward for godliness. Jesus taught that wealth was no measure of spirituality; in fact, it could even be a hindrance to our spiritual lives

And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” —Matthew 19:23-24
Notice how this parable in Luke illustrates the truths that Jesus was just stating back in verses 14-18, that the Pharisees were money lovers without a true heart for God. In today’s story, the rich man clearly loved money and apparently had no heart for God. In contrast, Lazarus (whose name means "God, the Helper") apparently trusted in God though he had no material possessions.

There are a number of truths that we can take to heart from this passage:

1.   We need to care for the poor;

Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. —Luke 16:19-21
How did the rich man spend his money? He spent it on himself. He spent his money on fine clothes and luxurious living.

How many American Christians spend more money on brand name clothing than they give to helping the poor?

Even though this man was very wealthy and lived in luxury, he did nothing to help the poor, suffering man who begged by the gate of his house. The rich man was completely insensitive to the needs of those around him.

Are we so different? How many of us drive by impoverished neighborhoods without doing anything to help those who live there? We have talked about this before. What factors can cause us to become de-sensitized to people in need? Over and over again, God emphasizes the importance of helping others, doing what we can with what we have:

If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. —Deuteronomy 15:7-8
James tells us:
If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. —James 2;15-17
John writes:
But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. —1 John 3:17-18
Concern for the poor is a mark of any follower of Jesus. But if for a moment we were to imagine it to be God’s only measuring stick of our spiritual maturity, how would we measure up?

Perhaps we would see more clearly the nearly 1.4 billion people — more than one-fifth of the world’s population — who live in absolute poverty and face an unending struggle to obtain food, clothing, and shelter for survival.

Some say things will only get worse. According to some projections, the world’s population will increase six times in the next one hundred years, which means that by the year 2100 more than 30 billion people — including billions of poor — will inhabit our increasingly crowded planet.

You don’t have to go around the world to see the effects of poverty. Even in America, which is still one of the most prosperous countries in the world, 32.5 million Americans lived at or below the poverty level in 1987, which was defined as $9,890 for a family of three, or $12,675 for a family of four.

Paul Thigpen writes in Discipleship Journal:

In Miami or Moscow, New York or Nairobi, Denver or Dublin, in the First century or the 21st, whatever may change, some things remain the same: spiritual need, material need; empty hearts, empty hands. Could God’s heart be any clearer? Could His call be any louder? Think of it: Our Lord weeps for our community, for those who surround us every day. The waitress we snub, the boss we complain about, the driver we cut off in traffic, the child next door whom we scold for playing in our pansies. He weeps as well for those who surround us at a distance, invisible to us but all too visible to Him. The unwed teenaged mother, the crack addict, the patient and the prisoner, the disabled orphan awaiting a foster home, the forgotten great-grandmother alone in her room. Can we afford to turn away from His tears? (Paul Thigpen, Discipleship Journal)
What are some practical ways that we can be involved in helping the poor in our city?

2.   We need to recognize the realities of eternity:

What are some things we learn about life after death from Jesus’ story?

There is a heaven and a hell.

“Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ —Luke 16:22-26
Both the rich man and Lazarus die; it is implied that both are judged by God; both go to an eternal reward. Lazarus went to a place of eternal comfort and the rich man went to a place of eternal torment. Notice, too, that there is no second chance — the choices we make in this life determine our eternal destiny.

It’s been said that for many death will result in a dramatic reversal of fortunes. The “rich man” was materially wealthy but spiritually impoverished. In contrast, Lazarus was materially impoverished but apparently spiritually wealthy!

The Bible is God's primary tool to lead people to repentance and faith

“And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house — for I have five brothers — in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ ” —Luke 16:27-31
The rich man thinks that if Lazarus were to rise from the dead, that his five brothers would repent. But Abraham tells him that if they refuse to believe the Scriptures, then they wouldn't believe even if someone came back from the dead.

Jesus' own resurrection proves what He says here. Even though Jesus rose from the dead, people then and people now still refuse to believe. Despite the miracles that Jesus did of raising people from the dead the Pharisees refused to repent and believe.

Faith involves an act of the will. People refuse to believe, not because of a lack of evidence, but because they are unwilling. They don't really have a heart to know, to please God.

We are offended by the hard-heartedness of this rich man, but how different are we from him?

David Livingstone, famous missionary to Africa, once said,

“I will place no value on anything I may possess except in relation to the kingdom of Christ.”

He said he would use all his possessions to “promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes in time and eternity.”

Whatever we possess must be viewed in relation to eternity and to whether it is helping influence people to become disciples of Jesus Christ.  Doesn’t it excite you to realize that everything you have can be used for such a purpose!

Next week: we will start into Luke Chapter 17 where Jesus teaches the Disciples and us about the Kingdom of God. I recommend that you not miss what He has to say.