Thinking the Unthinkable
Lord of All Seasons, the work of Your hand can be seen in the gold and crimson landscapes of fall. Yours is the kingdom and the glory.
Read Luke 16:19–31
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Our temporal possessions must find purpose in an eternal vision.
This parable and also yesterday’s (the Shrewd Manager) need to be taken together to understand what Jesus originally intended. Out of context, this story becomes a text about hell, eternal punishment and suffering; it may well help us with those questions, but it wasn’t the reason for which Jesus told it. Note again the emphasis on status and position, on wealth and poverty. In the whole flow of the passage, the rich man represents those who believe they carry the Word of God and are the guardians of his law, whereas Lazarus represents the margins, the sinners, the pig-huggers who sit on the fringe of the kingdom. In a dramatic status-reversal story, the rich man is now in the place of judgment and suffering and Lazarus is reclining on the bosom of Abraham. The man of privilege and opportunity is lost and the one who seemed to have nothing is eternally found!
To the Pharisees, who loved money (14) and who believed their status and position were enough to ensure favor with God and a place close to Abraham, Jesus issues a stern and terrifying warning. Unless they consider the way of God’s kingdom, as taught and represented by Jesus, they will find themselves excluded while those who are currently excluded will take their place. However, if they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, why would they listen even “if someone rises from the dead” (31)? Jesus is attempting to shock the religious community into action by showing them in the starkest of images that their privilege, position and power will not be enough to sustain them for what is coming. Spiritual status before God is grace granted, never humanly earned!
If we keep looking up to God in gratitude we’ll never look down on others in judgment. How can you put the truth of this statement into practice?
Mighty God, I am filled with praise to You. Because “I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see” (John Newton, 1725–1807).
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