Saturday, August 30, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (13) Lazarus and the Rich Man

Jesus expanded on the dangers of unrighteous wealth in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Most Christians see this parable as teaching about heaven and evil, but this misses the point of the parable because it follows on from the parable of the Shrewd Manager, in which Jesus articulated the concept of unrighteous wealth. The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus continues this theme. Jesus was warning that the soul of the person who owns unrighteous wealth is in serious danger. It is almost impossible for them to get into the kingdom.

The rich man lived in luxury, but thought that he was okay. He assumed he was inheriting the blessing of Abraham. He ignored Lazarus because he assumed that he was cursed because he was such a poor man. He thought Lazarus was a bludger.

Like many poor people, Lazarus would have enjoyed a few scraps of food from the rich man’s rubbish bin, but he was shut out from that too. No trickle down from this table. Only the dogs licked his sores, but there was little comfort in their attention.

When the two men died, the rich man discovered the was wrong. He had received his good things, but now he was in agony.

Why did this man end up on the wrong side of the great divide? Jesus does not say explicitly, but his listeners would have understood the reason. The rich man wore a robe of purple, which pointed to an establishment role linked to the privilege of the Roman Empire. His wealth was unrighteous wealth

The rich man asked that Lazarus would come and dip his finger in water and cool his tongue. He had done nothing to comfort Lazarus, and he still thought of himself.

The rich man asked Abraham to send someone to his brothers to warn them. Abraham said that the law and the prophets had warned them and that should be enough. The instructions for economic life contained in the Law of Moses defined the nature of unrighteous wealth very clearly. The prophets explained and confirmed the nature of unrighteous wealth. The law and the prophets contained everything that the rich man’s brothers needed to know.

The rich man had ignored the teaching of the law and the prophets and got on with becoming rich. He thought that he was inheriting the promise of Abraham, but he was ignoring God’s standard for righteous wealth. This left him on the wrong side of the eternal divide.

Lazarus had experienced the bad things condemned by the law, so he arrived at a place of blessed. He was the true son of Abraham.

If we want to understood the nature of unrigheous wealth, we should do what the rich man and his brothers did not do. We should study the law, and the insights of the prophets into the teaching of the law.

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