Showing Compassion for the Poor
SS Lesson for 01/26/2014
Devotional Scripture: Isa 58:6-7
The lesson teaches how we as Christians always be found Showing Compassion for the Poor. The study's aim is to show that decisions have eternal consequences and that to whom much is given, much is also expected. The study's application is to create an awareness of the stewardship that comes with the grace of God and about caring for the poor and the lost, especially what the Church is doing to address the needs of the poor and the lost.
31 But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.' "
Jesus then told the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus to show that being rich should not be equated with being righteous. The rich man had everything he wanted. Purple referred to clothes dyed that color, and fine linen was worn for underclothes; both were expensive. A poor man, a crippled beggar named Lazarus, had nothing. One lived in luxury for himself, the other in abject poverty with hunger and poor health (sores). Perhaps Jesus picked the name Lazarus because it is the Greek form of the Hebrew name which means “God, the Helper.” Lazarus was righteous not because he was poor but because he depended on God. In the course of time both men died. Lazarus went to Abraham’s side while the rich man... was buried and was in hell, a place of conscious torment (vv. 24, 28). Hadēs, the Greek word often translated “hell,” is used 11 times in the New Testament. The Septuagint used hadēs to translate the Hebrew šeʾôl (the place of the dead) on 61 occasions. Here hadēs refers to the abode of the unsaved dead prior to the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). “Abraham’s side” apparently refers to a place of paradise for Old Testament believers at the time of death (cf. Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:4). The rich man was able to converse with Abraham. He first begged to have Lazarus sent over to give him some water. Abraham replied that that was not possible and that he should remember that during life he had everything he wanted while Lazarus had had nothing. Even so, the rich man had never helped Lazarus during the course of his life. Furthermore, a great chasm separated paradise and hades so that no one could cross from one to the other. The rich man next begged that Lazarus be sent to earth to warn his brothers. It was his contention that if one came back from the dead then his brothers would listen (v. 30). Abraham replied that if they refused to listen to the Scriptures (Moses and the Prophets represent all the OT; cf. v. 16), then they would refuse to listen to one who came back from the dead. Jesus was obviously suggesting that the rich man symbolized the Pharisees. They wanted signs—signs so clear that they would compel people to believe. But since they refused to believe the Scriptures, they would not believe any sign no matter how great. Just a short time later Jesus did raise a man from the dead, another man named Lazarus (John 11:38-44). The result was that the religious leaders began to plot more earnestly to kill both Jesus and Lazarus (John 11:45-53; 12:10-11).
The rich man reasons that if Lazarus were sent to his family, then they certainly would listen to him because he had come back from the dead. This dramatic return would surely cause the brothers to repent of their evil ways! It is interesting that the rich man does not beg that he himself be the one to return and warn his brothers. In his mind, this is a job for Lazarus, who is obviously favored by God. Abraham may or may not have the authority to send Lazarus back. We are not told, and it doesn't matter, for the parable's zinger is now delivered. We now understand that this parable is not just a powerful illustration of the fate of the hard-hearted rich. It is a parable about Jesus himself, a foreshadowing of what is to come. Remember that the Gospel of Luke is "volume one" of a two-volume set. In the second volume, the book of Acts, we find the fulfillment of this parable's prophecy: Even though someone does rise from the dead (Jesus), many family members (the Jews of Jesus' day) still do not believe (see Acts 4:1, 2; 28:23-27).
The outline of the lesson came NIV Standard Lesson Commentary and from the points revealed by the study of the Scriptural text.
There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate
Contrast of the Rich and Poor
So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Contrast of Paradise and Torment
Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment
Seeking Redemption and Rescue
Today's lesson is set in the time of Jesus, but the contrast between a selfish rich man and a suffering poor man is timeless. It is a story that should cause us to reflect on our own participation in relief efforts, of both physical and spiritual natures, large and small. This week's lesson comes from a section of Luke that is heavy on parables. Luke 15 offers three parables involving issues of "lost and found," and Luke 16 begins with the parable of the unjust steward. This parable is followed by a brief dialog between Jesus and his opponents (vv. 13-15) and some additional teachings (vv. 16-18). Next comes the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, today's text. We should pause at this point to acknowledge that some Bible students do not view this story as a parable, but as a real situation describing real people. A primary reason for this conclusion is that Jesus' use of a personal name (Lazarus) breaks the pattern of how he presents parables. Proceeding on the assumption that this is indeed a parable will make us more cautious in the conclusions we draw along the way. As with all of Jesus' teaching, we should be on the alert for special literary techniques. Two in particular will catch our attention in this parable: hyperbole and foreshadowing. Hyperbole is deliberate exaggeration for effect. If I say, "Bob never stops talking," I don't mean that Bob talks every minute of every hour without ceasing, which is obviously impossible. Rather, I would be using hyperbole to create the impression that Bob talks much more than the average person. We want to read the Bible literally, but we must be careful to recognize hyperbole. The parable in today's lesson features two "larger than life" figures that Jesus used to drive home his point. Foreshadowing, for its part, is an exciting technique where a hint of the future plot is revealed to engage our interest and make us think. The foreshadowing in the parable comes in the last verse, and it is a great one. Since today's lesson involves a contrast between rich and poor, we should consider what it meant to be classified as poor in Bible times. The Bible speaks often of three groups who seem most susceptible to falling into poverty: widows, the fatherless (orphans), and foreigners (or "aliens" in the 1984 edition of the NIV; compare Deuteronomy 24:21; Psalm 146:9). We also know from the Gospels that Jesus encountered persons whose disabilities rendered them unable to work and therefore reduced them to begging. This may be the situation with Lazarus, a character in today's lesson.
19 "There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.
20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate,
21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
16 And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' 18 "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." ' 20 "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?
31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
7 "Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: 8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. 9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
17 You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.
24 "If I have put my trust in gold or said to pure gold, 'You are my security,' 25 if I have rejoiced over my great wealth, the fortune my hands had gained, 26 if I have regarded the sun in its radiance or the moon moving in splendor, 27 so that my heart was secretly enticed and my hand offered them a kiss of homage, 28 then these also would be sins to be judged, for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.
6 When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.
15 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor.
10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest — 11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.
23 All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on."
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.
23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 "Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.'
25 But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.
26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.'
17 I thought in my heart, "God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed." 18 I also thought, "As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless.
27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,
7 No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him — 8 the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough — 9 that he should live on forever and not see decay. 10 For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others.
16 And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' 18 "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." ' 20 "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' 21 "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."
7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 41 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
10 Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
15 If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
27 "Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house,
28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.'
29 Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.'
30 And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'
31 But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'"
7 From the time I brought your forefathers up from Egypt until today, I warned them again and again, saying, "Obey me." 8 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts. So I brought on them all the curses of the covenant I had commanded them to follow but that they did not keep.'"
3 For twenty-three years — from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah until this very day — the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened.4 And though the Lord has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention.
37 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
33 "Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. 35 "The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son,' he said. 38 "But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
From the series: Luke: The Gospel of the Gentiles
The Pharisees rejected Jesus for two principle reasons. First, they sought to win men’s approval, based upon outward appearances, rather than God’s, based upon the heart. Second, in so doing they had rejected the Old Testament Scriptures, the “Law and the Prophets,” exchanging the divine standard of righteousness for a human standard. The story of the rich man and Lazarus dramatically illustrates these two errors. Based upon appearances, it would seem that the rich man would be pronounced righteous and enter into God’s kingdom, and Lazarus would be rejected and condemned. The outcome after these two men died was just the reverse. Appearances, Jesus proved, were deceptive. Men would “highly esteem” the rich man, but God rejected him. Men would despise Lazarus, but God justified him. What, then, was the basis of the rejection of the rich man and the justification of the beggar, Lazarus? We are immediately tempted to suppose that the answer is an external one—something we can judge by appearances. We are inclined to suppose that God judged these two men on appearances, only He did so with a reversed system of values. God condemned the rich man and justified the poor man. God must save the poor and send the rich to heaven. This conclusion would be the same kind of error that the Pharisees practiced, with a reversed system of external values. The story of the rich man and Lazarus concludes in such a way as to indicate what really justifies a man. The rich man was not condemned because he was rich, any more than the poor man was justified for being poor. These outward conditions (riches and poverty) were fundamentally irrelevant to the eternal destiny of these men. A godly rich man would have used his wealth differently, but it was not his works that would have saved him. The real basis for justification or condemnation is to be found in the context of the rich man’s concern for his lost brothers. The issue was whether or not these men were rich or poor, but whether or not these men believed the Scriptures, Moses and the Prophets. It is not riches nor poverty which determines one’s destiny, but belief or unbelief. Thus, the last portion of the parable illustrates the second charge of our Lord against the Pharisees—that they had exchanged the eternal, unchanging standards of the Law and the Prophets for the ever-changing standards of their society. The Pharisees, who saw themselves as the custodians, the guardians of the Law, were really its corrupters. In so-doing, they sealed their own fate. While they may appear to be righteous on the outside, while men may consider them to be righteous, their fate would be the same as the rich man, unless they believed and repented. Belief and repentance was what the Old Testament revelation was given to produce. These Scriptures were not given to provide an external standard of righteousness which men, if they worked hard enough, could achieve. The Scriptures were given to convince all men that they were sinners, miserably and hopelessly lost. But these same Scriptures provided a temporary means of escape—the sacrificial system. Sins could thereby be put off for a time, like one might receive an extension on an unpaid debt. These same Scriptures spoke of an ultimate salvation which God would accomplish, based upon a new covenant, and upon the sacrificial death of Messiah, who would bear the penalty for a man’s sins, and on the basis of whose righteousness men could be declared righteous as well. Note Paul’s summation of all this as found in Romans chapter three (Romans 3:19-26).
What an incentive our text is to unsaved men to turn to Christ and to be saved. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus teaches us several facts about hell which should be the source of great consternation to the lost:
(1) Hell is a real place. It comes after death, but it is a certainty.
(2) Hell is a real place, even though it seems fanciful now.
(3) Hell is the place which justice requires, for it is there and there only that the evils of life are made right. I often hear people protesting against hell, insisting that a loving God could not sent anyone to such a place. But God is also a just God, who cannot overlook evil. The love of God sent Jesus to the cross of Calvary, to bear God’s wrath on sin, to those who reject the love of God in Christ must bear the wrath of God in hell.
(4) Hell is that place where men suffer torment. That torment seems to include physical pain (the heat of the flames in our parable), as well as the mental anguish resulting from seeing the joy of heaven, but being removed from it, and the anguish of worrying about loved ones still living, who will share the same fate.
(5) Hell, once entered, is an irreversible fate. There was no passage possible between heaven and hell. Once a person is in hell, he or she is there forever.
(6) Hell is that place to which many go, thinking that they were going to heaven. The Bible teaches that there is a way which seems right to a man, but its ends are the ways of death. The self-righteous Pharisees never dreamed they would populate hell.
(7) Hell is that place to which men go because their hearts are not pure before God, and who have not believed the Scriptures, either regarding their sin, or God’s salvation in Christ.
There is certainly a strong message in this parable to those who may feel religious, but who are not really saved. Such was the case with the Pharisees. But there is a very grave danger of the errors of the Pharisees creeping into genuine Christianity. We, like the Pharisees, are in danger of using external criteria by which to judge spirituality, both in ourselves and in others. When we do so, we, like the Pharisees, will place too great a value on money. We will, like them, become lovers of money. The “prosperity gospel” of recent times equates spirituality and prosperity. This is a most serious error, for in such cases, money becomes our master. As Jesus said above, man cannot serve two masters. When God is our Master, money becomes a means of serving Him. But when our god is money, God becomes the means of making money, of making us prosperous. The prosperity gospel has made God the means to riches, not riches a means of serving God. There are many other ways in which we falsely measure spirituality by external standards appearances. Some, as I have indicated, measure spirituality by one’s wealth. Others change the labels, and equate spirituality with poverty. Others, with a particular spiritual gift, or a particular form of ministry (usually public, popular, and “successful”). Some measure spirituality by the way one’s children turn out, or by the number of days and nights one spends at the church, or in church-related activities. This error of externalism is much more serious than we may initially recognize. I fear that the motivation for much that we do, or do not do, is a desire to win men’s approval, or to avoid their disapproval. Divorce, for example, was something which few Christians would have considered as an option, just a few years ago. Now it would seem that many Christians are not only considering it, but doing it. Why the change? I do not think it is because men’s understanding of the Scriptures have changed all that much, but because our culture (even our Christian culture the value system of the church and of our fellow Christians) has changed. Men and women may have refused to divorce in the past, not because it was displeasing to God (God hates it, you will recall Malachi 2:16), but because society would look down upon them for divorcing. Now, when society approves, Christians feel free to divorce. We see in this that we, too, are more eager for man’s approval, than for God’s. And we do these things, all the while maintaining that we are biblicists. We believe that the Bible is inspired and inerrant, and applicable to our lives. We would oppose those who would say otherwise. But in the nitty gritty practice of the Word of God, we, like the Pharisees, often put God’s standards aside when they conflict with those of our culture. Let us seriously consider whom we are striving to please. The New Testament, like the old, has plenty to say about pleasing men (cf. Romans 2:29; 12:17; 14:18; 1 Corinthians 10:33; Galatians 1:10; Ephesians 6:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:4). We would do well, I believe, to explore those things which our culture highly esteems, and then to consider whether or not these things are well pleasing in the sight of God. I fear that the values of our culture those values which may be an abomination to God have been adopted into our Christian culture without thought. Our secular culture, for example, highly values “a good self image,” which is dangerously close to, if not identical with, self love. Our culture values aggressiveness and assertiveness. God esteems meekness and humility. He teaches us to submit ourselves one to another. Let us carefully evaluate our values, and to consider the condition of our hearts. Only the Word of God can and will expose this (Hebrews 4:1213), so let us turn to the Scriptures, and not to our society, even as our Lord has taught.
From URL: https://bible.org/seriespage/rich-man-and-lazarus-luke-1614-31
Since ancient times, some have wanted to use the details of today's parable as a source of information for details about the afterlife. While it is possible that Jesus is revealing some information in that regard, we should be cautious. To provide such descriptions is not the purpose of this parable, as we have seen. The fact that Jesus predicted his death, died as he had predicted, then rose from the dead should mean that everyone believes in him. That, in turn, should result in changed behavior toward "the Lazaruses" of the world. But the fact that that is often not the result should not surprise us, since Jesus predicted such an outcome. But perhaps there is a further application of this parable. The rich man wanted his relatives to be saved, but only after it was too late for him to do anything about it himself. Do you want your brothers and sisters to be saved? Do you want your sons and daughters to be saved? Do you have a passion not to let one precious lamb of your family be lost? We may be so wrapped up in world evangelism, in national ministries, and in citywide crusades that we neglect those who are dearest to us—our own family members. Ask yourself this question: if you were to die tonight, would you be certain that you had done all you could to convince your closest family members of their need for Jesus? After you die, it is too late for you to witness to them personally. Let's finish this lesson by writing a prayer that will express our desire to see all of our family members become believers in Christ. Pray for them, name by name; then be resolved to speak to them about Jesus if they are not believers. Don't wait.
1. Regardless of whether they are rich or poor, people have a tendency to rely on their own resources (Luke 16:19; cf. 18:24-25)
2. Only those who humble themselves will receive the Lord's mercy that brings eternal life (16:20-22)
3. Heaven is a real place where God's comfort and peace are always present
4. Hell is a literal place where there is continuous torment for the unbeliever (vss. 23-26)
5. Those who deliberately reject the Word of God set themselves on a course that is very difficult to leave (vss. 27-31)