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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

9/15/10 Luke 16:19-31 A Parable of Rewards and Punishments

19 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' 25 "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.' 27 "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for 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.' "

(Rich Man and Lazarus-Unknown artist French 17th cent.)

Thoughts: The key point of this parable is not just that the poor should be helped and the selfishly rich should be punished.  The key point is that there are both rewards and punishments.  How do we have any idea what heaven or hell exists except from someone who has some experience of the other spiritual life- as Jesus did? 
The secondary- yet also important point is the nature of these rewards and punishments.  Jesus speaks of a spiritual side- with angels carrying us when we die to the presence of the saints who have gone before.  It appears those in torment can see heaven but for the most part those in heaven cannot see those in torment (so those in heaven are not pained by the torment of their loved ones who didn't make it).  The warning we have in life is not from the  ghosts of the dead, but the scriptures (Moses and
the Prophets), and the resurrection of Christ.  We are all warned to not be selfish or inconsiderate of the poor. 
Americans today are giving less to the poor and charity and more to savings accounts.  It is not only in times of bounty that we are called to care for the needy.  The parable of the sheep and goats (Mt. 25:31-46) also associates care for the needy and eternal life.  One of the signs of true Christian faith- is not just a profession, but a real love for neighbor- especially the ones in obvious need.

Prayer: Give me eyes to see the poor, O Lord.  Give me also hope of your justice and award.

John Calvin Commentary abridged: Christ confirms his last discourse here. He points out the punishment that awaits those who neglect the poor in order to indulge themselves.  These are people who indulge themselves in drunkeness while their neighbors pine away in hunger- even who kill with famine while they are gluttons.  It is easy to love new clothes and sumptious food without any moderation.  But this rich man is condemned for allowing Lazarus to suffer right outside his gate without his care.  To be carried by the angels to Abraham's side is more desirous than many kingdoms; but the torments the rich man suffered was worth avoiding in a hundred lives.

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