19 "There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Laz'arus, full of sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Laz'arus in his bosom. 24 And he called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Laz'arus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.' 25 But Abraham said, `Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Laz'arus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' 27 And he said, `Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house, 28 for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29 But Abraham said, `They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' 30 And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31 He said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'"
Old Testament Reading: Jeremiah 17:5-10
5 Thus says the LORD: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6 He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7 "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? 10 "I the LORD search the mind and try the heart, to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings."
What sustains you when trials and affliction come your way? Jeremiah tells us that whoever relies on God will not be disappointed or be in want when everything around them dries up or disappears.
God will not only be their consolation, but their inexhaustible source of joy as well. Jesus' parable about the afflictions of the poor man Lazarus brings home a similar point.
In this story Jesus paints a dramatic scene of contrasts – riches and poverty, heaven and hell, compassion and indifference, inclusion and exclusion. We also see an abrupt and dramatic reversal of fortune. Lazarus was not only poor, but sick and unable to lift himself.
He was “laid” at the gates of the rich man’s house. The dogs which licked his sores probably also stole the little bread he got for himself.
Dogs in the ancient world symbolized contempt. Enduring the torment of these savage dogs only added to the poor man’s miseries and sufferings. The rich man treated the beggar with contempt and indifference, until he found his fortunes reversed at the end of his life! In God's economy, those who hold on possessively to what they have, lose it all in the end, while those who share generously receive back many times more than they gave way.
The name Lazarus means God is my help. Despite a life of misfortune and suffering, Lazarus did not lose hope in God. His eyes were set on a treasure stored up for him in heaven.
The rich man, however, could not see beyond his material wealth and possessions. He not only had every thing he needed, he selfishly spent all he had on himself. He was too absorbed in what he possessed to notice the needs of those around him.
He lost sight of God and the treasure of heaven because he was preoccupied with seeking happiness in material things.
He served wealth rather than God.
In the end the rich man became a beggar!
Do you know the joy and freedom of possessing God as your true and lasting treasure?
Those who put their hope and security in heaven will not be disappointed (see Hebrews 6:19)?