There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day— Luk_16:14
The Passion Was the Same
Our Lord had been speaking against the sin of covetousness, when the Pharisees, who were themselves lovers of money (Luk_16:14), began to ridicule Him. In these circumstances the parable was spoken; it was meant to enforce the warnings against mammon (Luk_16:13). And there is something highly significant in the unexpected turn that the enforcing takes. Between the typical Pharisee and this rich man there was little outward resemblance. The bitterest enemy could not accuse the Pharisees of faring sumptuously every day. Whatever their faults were, they were austere and rigid. They honestly despised luxurious living. Yet in drawing this picture of luxurious living, there is no doubt that Jesus was thinking first of them. Now, where lay the point of contact, do you think? It lay in a common love of money. The Pharisee loved it, and he secretly hoarded it. The rich man loved it for the pleasure it bought. Each showed his passion for wealth in his own way, but the same passion was supreme in both. Learn, then, how one deep-seated vice may fashion itself in the most diverse garbs. A hundred miles may separate two rivers, but for all that, they flow from the one lake. Our eyes might fail to discover kinship between the secret hoarding of the Pharisee and the prodigal squandering of this rich man; but in the eyes of Christ, both ran down to a common selfishness, and to a common heart neglect of God.
The Strange Contrasts of the Worm
Here are two men, and day after day there is not the space of twenty yards between them, yet a distance like the sea divides the two. The one is rich, the other is a beggar. The one has every dainty on his table, the other gathers the crumbs to stay his hunger. The one is clothed in the fine linen of Egypt; the other on the doorstep is in rags. The one has servants to do his smallest bidding, they are fanning him in the long hot afternoon to drive away the flies; the other has no one to drive away the dogs when they gather round him and lick his sores with their unclean tongues. It would be impossible to conceive a greater contrast—and there is only a porch and a door between the two! Yet with such contrasts all the world is teeming. Do you live in a roomy terrace in a great city? There is want and misery within a stone's throw. Is your home a little villa in some quiet town? Learn something of that lane that you pass on Sundays going to the church. Are you a farmer's daughter? Who was that tramp that the dog barked off today? Wherever you are, there is a Lazarus near.
The Changed Conditions of Eternity
A great philosopher has written in his books that we should view all things sub specie oeternitatis. The boys who are learning Latin will tell us what that means: it means that we ought to consider things under the light, so to speak, of eternity. Now, I feel that it was under that eternal light that Jesus was moving when He spoke this parable. And why? Because we are told the beggar's name, but we are not told the name of the rich man. When a great man gives a public banquet, the newspapers tell us all about it. We get the names of the host and of all his guests, and we hear, too, how the ladies were dressed; but we never dream of finding in the newspaper the names and addresses of the poor around the gates. But when Jesus tells the story of this feasting, and tells it as it is written in the books of God, the beggar is named—and a noble name he had—and the host is only "a certain rich man." Here the one man is great and he is known; the other is a beggar and a nuisance. Here the one man has everything he wants; the other lives and dies in want of everything. But yonder, in the world beyond the grave, where the wrong is righted, and God's strange ways are justified, Lazarus lies upon the bosom of peace, and the rich man bitterly reaps what he has sown. Do you see the contrast between the now and then ? Do you mark the complete reversal of the lots? It is by such unveilings of eternity, that Christ has eased the problems of the world.
The Sin of the Rich Man Was Selfishness
There was nothing sinful in his being rich—Abraham himself has been a wealthy man. It is not hinted that the rich man of the story had made his money in unlawful ways. He is not charged with oppression of the poor, nor with enriching himself by others' ruin. Had you asked his boon-companions what they thought of him, they would have called him the finest fellow in town. It was neglecting Lazarus that was his sin. His crime was the unrelieved beggar at his gate. And he could not plead that he was ignorant of Lazarus, for he recognized him at once in Abraham's bosom. It was not want of knowledge, then, but want of thought that was the innermost secret of his tragedy. He was so engrossed in his own life of pleasure, that his heart was dulled to the suffering at his door; and every day he lived he grew more selfish till at last he went to his own place. Let the children learn how needful it is to begin doing kindly deeds when they are young. We grow so accustomed to misery by and by, that our hearts turn callous before we are aware. It is a priceless blessing when the sympathies of childhood are turned into the channel of activity. Caught in their freshness, and expressed in deeds, they form those habits of help and brotherly kindness that were utterly wanting in this rich man's heart.
It Will Never Be Easier to Believe Than Now
Did you ever read of the boy who stood on a muddy road, and who promised God that he would be a Christian if there and then God would dry up the puddles? He wanted a miracle to make him a believer; he thought he would become Christ's if he got that. Jesus here tells us that is a great mistake. It will never be easier to believe than now. The man who is not persuaded by the Gospel will never be persuaded by a ghost. Let no one wait, then, before accepting Jesus, for something extraordinary to happen. That something is never going to happen, and if it did, it would leave us as we were. Now is the time, under God's silent guidance, and in the quiet morning of our days, to range ourselves under the conquering banner of the great Captain who lives forevermore.