The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 20, 2019
Consider the Consequences!
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 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.’ 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. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 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.’” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Look both ways before crossing the street. Wait thirty minutes after you eat before going back into the water. The term paper is due Friday— not the following Monday. The workday starts promptly at 8:00 AM. Yes, you can cash in that CD three months early— if you want to.
Ever since we were young we have learned that there are consequences that we need to factor into the decisions that we make. If you hand in your homework late you shouldn’t be surprised if your grade is lowered. If you consistently show up late for work you shouldn’t be surprised if you lose your job. Most of us have learned— sometimes the hard way— that we do indeed need to consider the consequences before we make a decision and before we take any action.
As I was studying this very familiar portion of Scripture I couldn’t help but think of how relevant these words are to our lives and to our society today. In my opinion— and yes, it is just my opinion— in my opinion there are many people today who simply go about living their life however they so choose without considering the consequences of the decisions that they make. Here in Luke chapter 16 the Lord Christ gives us an opportunity to examine two very important truths by placing before us a simple yet powerful picture of why it is so important for all people— including us— to: Consider the Consequences! There are two things we want to consider this morning. First, let’s consider the consequences of how we live our life. Then let’s consider the consequences of either believing or rejecting the gift of God’s Word.
Our text for today focuses our attention on two men whose lives could not have been more different from each other. The first man is described as a “rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.” It is certainly not difficult for us to picture what this man’s life was like. We can probably think of the names of a number of people who have more money than they could ever possibly use. They wear the finest clothes, live in the big houses, drive the fancy cars and do pretty much whatever they want whenever they want because they can afford to do so. Sometimes we might even look at people like this and wish our life was like that! But, no matter how rich a person may be, no matter how luxurious their life may be, there is one thing that they will always have in common with even the poorest person on the face of this planet: one day their life will come to an end. So also with the first man here in our text for today.
Jesus doesn’t give us any details concerning the rich man’s death. The Lord very simply says, “The rich man also died and was buried.” We can imagine, however, that the rich man was given a huge fancy funeral. People probably came from all over to pay their last respects— famous people, important people, powerful people. Little did they realize that even as they gathered for the rich man’s funeral the rich man was already enduring the consequences of how he had lived his life. Jesus explains, “The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 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.’”
Regardless of what people might think or say or hope— there is a very real place called hell. Hell is total and complete separation from the Triune God and from His amazing grace. It is a place of “torment.” It is a place of “agony.” It is a place where even the tiniest drop of water would be a welcome relief. It is a place from which there is no escape— ever! As Abraham told the rich man, “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. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”
The rich man is an example of what happens to a person who lives their life focused on the philosophy, “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19). Anyone who spends their life focused on enjoying all the things this world has to offer without ever considering the consequences of where that life is leading them will regret it— forever.
Do we need to take this warning to heart, my friends? That’s a question that we can only answer when looking in a mirror. If we look at our own life and see that it does indeed revolve around our wants and our desires then at the very least we need to stop and consider the consequences of how we are living our life. Where is our life leading us? If our life were to come to a very abrupt and a very unexpected end where will it have left us? Those are questions we do indeed need to address as we consider the consequences of how we are living our lives.
Consider now the life of the second man here in our text. Jesus describes this man’s life in this way, “At his gate (the rich man’s gate) was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.” Lazarus certainly did not have a life that any of us would envy. Day after day he depended on either the kindness or the pity of others just to have something to eat. Day after day the only “relief” (if you can even call it that) the only “relief” he got was when the dogs came and “licked his sores.” When Lazarus died there was probably no elaborate funeral. There was probably no crowd of people to mourn his passing. He was probably just carried off and buried in the potter’s field. What no one could see, however, were the consequences of Lazarus’ life. Jesus says, “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.” The instant Lazarus’ physical body died his soul was carried to heaven where he enjoyed all the rich blessings of living in his heavenly Father’s Home.
Do we need to take this example to heart, my friends? Again, that’s a question that we can answer only when looking in a mirror. When you look at your own life do you see one struggle after another? Does it seem like as soon as you recover from one “disaster” you find yourself facing yet another “disaster”? Do you ever find yourself pretending to be happy when you are around other people, but deep inside you are saying to yourself, “If only they knew!”? If so— then remember the example of Lazarus here in our text! If so— then remember what Paul reveals to us in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” If so— then remember that no matter how difficult your life here on this earth might be, when the good Lord decides it is time for your life here to end, He will send His holy angels to carry your soul Home to heaven!
What made the difference, my friends? Why did the rich man end up suffering in the eternal fires of hell while poor Lazarus ended up enjoying the eternal blessings of heaven? Does this portion of Scripture actually teach us that if you have money, live in a big house, and have closets filled with nice clothes that you better be worried about your eternity, but if your life is a “living hell” now you can be sure of a good life— or at least a better life— after you die? Is that really how it works? Not at all! Look at verses 27-31 of our text. When the rich man found out that once a person is condemned to hell they stay there forever he begged Father Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn the rich man’s brothers so that they didn’t end up in hell too. How did Father Abraham respond? He said, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.”
The good Lord has given to us the gift of His holy revealed Word. What will we hear when we “listen” to the gift of God’s Word? When we “listen” to what God reveals to us in the Bible we will indeed be convicted of our sin. We will indeed be shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that we deserve God’s punishment both now and in eternity— just as we confessed earlier this morning. At the same time, when we “listen” to what God reveals to us in the Bible we will indeed be comforted with the message of full and free forgiveness through faith in what our Savior secured for us on the cross. “It is finished,” Jesus says to us here in His Word! (John 19:30) In fact, my friends, you and I have been given even more than what Jesus highlights here in our text. Not only do we have the complete revelation of God’s holy Word— both the Old Testament Scriptures plus the New Testament Scriptures— but we also have the unparalleled privilege of approaching the Lord’s altar to receive His true body and blood in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. What does Jesus Himself say to you when you come to His altar with a repentant heart? Here in His Word He says, “This is my body given for you…This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 22:19; Matthew 26:28) That’s what we hear when we “listen” to the gift of God’s holy Word!
Take a moment to consider the consequences of either believing or rejecting what God reveals to you in the gift of His holy Word. If a person rejects what God reveals to us in the Bible and concentrates their life on enjoying the things of this world then this life is as good as it gets. Then like the rich man here in our text they will spend eternity in the “torment” and “agony” of hell. On the other hand, when by the grace of God we believe what God has revealed to us in the gift of His Word then no matter how horrible our sins might be, no matter how difficult our life might be we have God’s personal promise that one day He will indeed send His holy angels to carry us Home.
Consider the Consequences, my friends. Far more important than looking both ways before we cross the street is considering the consequences of how we are living our life. Far more important than getting to work on time so that we don’t get fired is considering the consequences that come with either rejecting or believing what God Himself has revealed to us in the gift of His Word.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.” May God grant that these are the words that will ring true for each and every one of us.
To God be the glory!