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Trinity 1 – Luke 16:19-31

by pastorjuhl ~ June 12th, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

If you have it, flaunt it. Let your neighbors know what they are missing. Show off those priceless items you treasure. Make everyone know that you have something they wished they had. Make them jealous. Make them wish they were you.

That’s how the rich man in Jesus’ parable lives. He doesn’t wear purple now and then. He wears purple every day. The rich man borders on obsessive-compulsive behavior. He seemingly wants everyone to know every day that he is rich and you are not. Not only does he dress well, he eats well too. Every meal is gourmet. He eats no TV dinners. He needs no microwave. He won’t have fast food. It’s got to be the best because only the best will do for this rich man.

Then there’s poor Lazarus. He was laid at [the rich man’s] gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Lazarus depends on other people’s help to get him through the day. People lay him at the rich man’s gate. Lazarus hopes the rich man will come by and give him some crumbs. Maybe the rich man will send a servant to deliver the crumbs. The rich man neither clothes Lazarus nor gives him one crumb. The rich man has nothing to do with Lazarus. Lazarus must be content with dogs licking his sores. Dog spit is an antiseptic. Where man falls short in helping his neighbor, man’s best friend steps in to help.

We think the rich man a fool for not helping Lazarus. Those who have should help those who have not, especially if those who have are Christians. Nevertheless, we pass by those who need our help every day. We don’t realize those among us who suffer the slings and arrows of life because we’re too busy taking care of ourselves. The word “enough” is not in our vocabulary. There is never enough money. There is never enough love. There is never enough food. There are never enough cars. There are never enough televisions, games, computers, or any other creature comforts. We’re not afraid to have more of what we think we need. We’re not afraid to go to extreme lengths to get it. But when it’s time to return to the Lord what He first gives us, we don’t have enough to give Him. We give Him something and hope it’s enough.

The rich man’s problem is our problem. Not everything we have is ours. We are stewards of God’s stuff. God gives us everything we need, and most of what we want, but we will not give back to Him in the spirit that He gives to us. The rich man doesn’t take care of Lazarus because he’s too busy enjoying life every day to take care of a man lying at his gate every day. We are too busy enjoying life every day to take care of those we know who need help every day. We are too busy enjoying life every day to set aside our tithes and offerings to the Lord so the Gospel may be proclaimed among us.

Saint John writes if someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? As stewards of the Chief Steward’s stuff, we love the stuff He gives us more than we love Him. Loving stuff over God is the way of death, because the First Commandment, You shall have no other gods before My face, preaches repentance from fearing, loving, and trusting in other gods instead of the one true God. We hate our brother when we let him lie at the gate. We hate our brother when we take care of ourselves exclusively. When we hate our brother, we hate God, because he who loves God must love his brother also.

When the rich man dies, he goes to hell. When Lazarus dies, he goes to Abraham’s bosom. Even in eternal torment, the rich man tries to boss Lazarus around. Send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. 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. Lazarus won’t be bossed around. If the rich man’s family won’t hear and believe the word of Moses and the prophets, they certainly won’t believe Lazarus returning from the dead to testify about what waits for them if they do not repent. When we hate God and our neighbor, we won’t believe the preaching of the cross and resurrection because the holy things of God do not give us temporal satisfaction. We know eternity is yet to come, but what’s eternity compared to living well?

What’s living well compared to eternity. We cannot take God’s stuff with us to heaven. We take our own condemnation with us to hell when we do not continue in God’s Word and show God’s love to others. Unlike the rich man, there still is time for you and me to listen to Moses and the prophets and the Son of God Who rose from the dead.

Though Abraham later took matters into his own hands concerning the promise of a son, he nevertheless believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Abraham took it on faith that God would provide for him. God provided more than Abraham could imagine. God provided him the promised heir. God provided him with descendants that could not be numbered. God also provided him with land, animals, and treasure. Abraham received all these things because he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. It doesn’t make sense when we look at all we have. But when everything we have is taken away, what is there left to cling except the promise of redemption from sin and everlasting life? In spite of everything Abraham has, he has the promise of the coming Messiah.

In spite of all God gives us, we have the promise of Messiah Who was rich beyond measure, yet counted those riches and honor to be nothing. Jesus takes on human flesh and blood to suffer and die for our sins and rise from the dead victorious over death and hell. This is the proclamation of Moses and the prophets the rich man’s family must hear. No wonder Jesus tells this parable to the Pharisees! They, of all people, need to hear it! They have the riches of forgiveness and eternity in the Word they teach, yet they don’t believe it. They refuse to believe Jesus is the One they spend their whole lives reading and teaching about.

We do not read in Scripture that we are saved by possessions, income, or our reputation. We are saved by the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, who becomes Lazarus for us. The name “Lazarus” means, “God is my help”. If God does not help us out of death into life, we are helpless and pitiful. But God sees our wretched state and sends help in His only-begotten Son. He lies at the gate of mankind every day and many pass Him by without a glance. His own people hand Him over to die a criminal’s death. Jesus dies a horrible death because He loves His Father and does His Father’s will. As we prayed in the Introit from Psalm 13: O Lord, I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.

The Lord deals bountifully with us when He wipes away our sins because of the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. God’s Word of repentance and faith shows us the way out of this miserable earthly existence toward the Way of joy and bliss before the Father’s heavenly throne forever. This Way goes through baptismal water and Eucharistic bread and wine that are the True Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus feeds us in preaching and the Sacraments, giving us his mercy that no earthly possession can give.

Saint John also writes, Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. Those who are of the world have boldness now. Their boldness will turn to fear in the day of judgment. They will no longer take comfort in their belongings. They will no longer live in the self-perpetuating lie that they are their own gods. Because God loves us in His Son Jesus, we have boldness to live without fear, especially in the day of judgment. We have boldness to love our neighbor through works of mercy. We have boldness to return to the Lord the generous gifts He first gave us. We have boldness to live together in love and union as redeemed, baptized, forgiven children of God who love each other as we love God.

If you have it, flaunt it. Tell everyone what God has done for you in Jesus Christ. Live in peace. Open your lips so your mouth may declare His praise. Forgive one another as you are forgiven. Put aside all malice and strife and put on the whole armor of God. He loves you and defends you from the evil foe. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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