Sermon for April 3, 2020

Love Money or Love People
Luke 16:19-31

Study Notes- Luke 16:19–31 (NRSV): 19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

Sources to be used:

Buttrick, David. 2000. Speaking Parables : A Homiletic Guide (version 1st ed.). 1st ed. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press. 

Green, Joel B. 2010. Methods for Luke. Methods in Biblical Interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kissinger, Warren S. 1979. The Parables of Jesus: A History of Interpretation and Bibliography. Atla Bibliography Series, No. 4. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press.

Lehtipuu, Outi. 2007. The Afterlife Imagery in Luke’s Story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Supplements to Novum Testamentum, V. 123. Leiden: Brill.

Wierzbicka, Anna. 2001. What Did Jesus Mean? Explaining the Sermon on the Mount and the Parables in Simple and Universal Human Concepts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

What type of parable is it?

The parable is figurative in amongst a long list of parables that the Gospel of Luke puts together.

What is the story’s main contour?

The main contour would be that it is a parable about a new covenant.

Note its point of conflict, broad characterizations, setting, tone, climax

The conflict must deal with a Rich Man and Lazarus.  Lazarus was a beggar and was seeking care.  The Rich Man recognized the need but ignored the beggar.  Both the Rich Man and Lazarus die.  The beggar is in a place of comfort and care and the Rich Man is tormented.  His thirst cannot be quenched, and he cannot go back and tell his friends to change their ways so that they don’t end up where he is.  Since the Law of Moses is implanted on all men’s hearts, the warning is already in place.

Note the incongruity at its core

The Rich Man already received his blessing but did not share with others.  Therefore, those who suffer is due to the lack of humility and love for all people. 

Note the surprise in the parable

The surprise is one of the few times we have a clearer picture of what the afterlife may be like.  While we recognize that this parable is figurative, we also understand that Jesus is speaking about an eternal life.

Consider where it may be among ourselves or in our communities

Since many people, especially in small towns know someone’s history, or a families’ history, we need to look past what labels or judgments that have been made and look to do good to everyone rather than a sect of people within our own circle of friends.  Do good for the benefit of everyone.

Note scholar’s ideas about redaction.  Does it appear in other gospels?

There is possibly a connection between this story and what is recorded in the Gospel of John chapter 11.

How does it disclose the kingdom of God?

According to my present study, there is a promise of a New Covenant within this story in amongst the other parables that preceded it.  Being that there was an understanding by some who were following Jesus that there was life after death, the Pharisee, compared to those who only believed of the blessings now and that there was nothing after death, the Sadducee.  Therefore, Jesus is talking about being both a blessing now and the blessings ahead.  Jesus reveals this throughout his life as the suffering servant, the idea that we are to work together and share, bearing the difficulties of life together.

  1. This passage of Scripture begins in an area of many parables that Jesus begins telling people along the road as they traveled.  At this point, many tax collectors and “sinners” were drawn to these stories.  As he welcomed these sinners, some began to look down upon him.  Starting all the way back in Luke 14:25 and to the verses today are a group of parables dealing with this idea of loving God and loving your neighbor.  The terms tax collectors and sinners were labels that excluded relationship, people not to fellowship with.  It was the sinners that were more responsive to the teachings of Jesus and Jesus is trying to get the crowd to dissolve the labels and look towards the soul.
  2. As the story continues, it is mentioned that the Pharisee’s are listening in and that they were lovers of money and they sneered at the teachings of Jesus.  So, within the promises that Jesus is giving the people hope, the Pharisee’s loved their ability to have what they had: purple robes that were expensive, they ate well, and their service was not people centered but practice centered when it came to Temple worship.  So, the purple linen would be a direct comment from Jesus to the Pharisee’s.

II. Sermon Outline:  This is done after the extensive exegetical work is complete and where the rhetorical work begins.

A.  Do we love Jesus if we do not love people?

B. Transitional Concerns:

                What does this scripture mean? As you look at this parable, it is tucked into a time where the crowds of Jesus are very diverse.  So, diverse that there were the likes of tax collectors (hated by most people for their collection of their hard-earned wages and unfair fleecing during collection) and “sinners”.  Now the term sinners had a level of judgement attached to it.  Who can discern if something is a sin? Well, that is usually attached to some sort of belief one puts into practice.  Now, most of the crowd has their base in Abrahamic and Mosaic stances in their beliefs and this is how you can diagnose both sin and sinners.  As “sinners” find hope in the teaching of Jesus, those who held to ridged beliefs felt indignant that Jesus would even talk to sinners.  This pique the ears of the Pharisee’s now and Luke points towards the idea that they LOVED money and Jesus directs them to understand that God knows their hearts and that they did not have a heart for people.  Often, we get to the point of the Rich Man and Lazarus and use this as a picture of the afterlife, but the application is directed towards the Pharisee’s, who unlike the Sadducee’s, believed in life after death.  When Jesus points towards the Rich Man wearing purple robes, the Pharisee’ could look down and see that they were wearing them.  Purple cloth, something we see a later disciple of Jesus sold whose name is Lydia, was an expensive color to produce in those days. 

                Is this scripture true?Since Luke makes the transition towards the Pharisee’s, who loved money and their own comforts more than the needs of people that they encountered or those they would not permit to enter the Temple area due to their uncleanliness, the parable has some very direct messaging for them to hear.  If the Rich Man equals the Pharisee, then this parable brings great hope to the beggar equals tax collectors and “sinners”.

                What difference does the scripture make today? For those of us that have been faithful followers of Jesus, we must be careful not to fall into the trap that Jesus point towards in this parable.  Remember, the Pharisee’s loved money and let us not forget, they practiced their style of worship and faith towards God.  Indeed, they thought that their practices were right.  Even the Temple took the time to whitewash the tombs so that it was a beautiful place to worship.  All the aesthetics were top notch and pleasing.  As Jesus directs them towards this parable, they are living high on the hog (probably should use an idea that is pork related), their next life may be a lot lower than they anticipated.  They loved money more for themselves than the people without the means who needed grace and mercy, help!

INTRODUCTION: All ministry should be focused people’s needs and not focused so much on people’s deeds!  Our perceptions often lead to assumptions that are neither graceful nor merciful.

First Point: One had more than enough means to help the need.

Explain the point:  Lazarus did not ask for much, in fact, the statement made that he would have been satisfied by the crumbs that fell from the Rich Man’s table.  It is said that the Rich Man lived lavishly and at very well, perhaps more than just crumbs were left over.  Lazarus, covered in sores, had dogs licking his sores.

        Illustrate:  Was it Lazarus’ appearance that the Rich Man did not like.  When looking at the purple robes Rich Man compared to the purple robed Pharisee, the skin condition was probably the issue.  Leviticus chapters 12-14 goes into the issue of tzara’at, or infectious skin diseases.  When one hears the word is sometimes translated into English as leprosy.  However, skin diseases are more than just leprosy.  I would have hated being a teenager in ancient Palestine with bad acne!  Have you ever watched a television show called Dr. Pimple Popper?  My wife loves that show!  Thank goodness they haven’t invented “smell-o-vision”.  But part of the tzara’at was that these individuals needed to present themselves to the priests after they went through a time of purifying and sacrificing to be deemed clean.  However, if the priest did not take the time to help someone become clean, like to see a physician or provide the medicines that could help, how would Lazarus get better?  Jesus heals many people with skin conditions that needed to present themselves before the priests and as you read the stories, it didn’t seem like the priests were all too happy to see such miracles.  They had already deemed these people as perpetually unclean.

Apply:  Jesus didn’t mind getting dirty.  He placed his hands on people that were unclean according to Levitical practice.  Even when people touched his cloak got healed, something doctors were unable to help with.  Jesus saw their pain and had compassion.  The people in purple were worried about being “dirty”.

Second Point:  The dogs licked Lazarus’ sores.

        Explain the point:  This isn’t the first time Jesus makes this same point and let me suggest why.  In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priests walked by thinking that the man was dead.  They could not be around death or blood, or they’d be ceremonially unclean.  It is the Samaritan that takes care of the man and goes over an above what is required.  Now Samaritans were treated like dogs by those who followed Temple practices.  Even Jesus reflects this.  Matthew 15:26-27, Jesus says that it is not right to throw their children’s bread and toss it to the dogs when a Samaritan woman, a Canaanite to be exact, asks for a miracle healing for her daughter.  Now, remember who is in the room when Jesus is asked this request?  Yep, the Pharisee’s.  Preceding this comment Jesus tells people what defiles a person.  A hard heart defiles a person.  There is no compassion.  No empathy.  No sympathy.  Dogs took better care of Lazarus.  Again, we have priests and dogs (Samaritans) in a Jesus parable.

        Illustrate:  We do tend to become calloused by life.  We sometimes look at a book at its cover.  If it doesn’t say endorsed by Oprah or someone we respect, we tend to just not bother opening the book.  This is a relational problem as we don’t understand the contents of a book without taking the time to investigate the material.  However, like any book, every author usually has an intent, the underlying meaning that explains all things.  People are the same way.  We can go into something with our own preconceived ideas and not understand anything about a book.  However, if we slow down and follow the story, a good writer explains the plot for you to follow, you are not in control of the story, the author is.  Now think about how best to help people.  Is not their story theirs?  Are they not the author?  Then we must involve ourselves in the story to understand them.  Some of the most unpleasing covers lead to the most fascinating stories.

        Apply:  We must be sensitive to not stick to something based on face value.  Face value in today’s language would be like most beautiful supermodels in television and magazines.  But while they are insanely attractive, sometimes they can be quite ugly people in their actions.  Therefore, our evaluation of perfection is flawed and is often unattainable.  These ridiculous standards can affect more people negatively and the intention leads towards exclusivity, you are not, or you can not be a part of us.  Samaritan, the dogs, had more compassion than the Pharisee.  Lazarus had dogs to lick his wounds, and from the evaluation of the Rich Man, that seemed like that was what was best for sore covered Lazarus.  Lazarus was too dirty for his help.

Third Point:  They both got their reward.

        Explain the point:  The Rich Man in our story got his reward prior to his death as he had been comfortable for all his life.  Lazarus finally finds comfort.  Now, a lot of people will want to go to the idea that money is the root of all evil the love of money is the root of all evil, I want us to go a bit further.

        Illustrate:  When I was in grade school there was a place on my report card that said, “Do not share well with others”.  Why would their need to be that on a child’s report card?  Do you think that perhaps there is this in born trait that humanity has that goes back to those formative years and when someone tries to use that something that we possess, we react by stating “MINE!”?  I’ve earned it!  I worked for this!  I deserve this! This is mine, not yours!  You have done nothing to deserve what I have! Proverbs 16:18 (NIV): 18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

        Apply:  There was a decision made by the Rich Man that Lazarus did not deserve his help.  He had more than enough, but it was his.  It was his comfort, after all, he and his brothers had worked for it.  This appears to be a family issue as well.  They enjoyed their comfort.  They were blessed on this side of eternity.  However, they did not treat their neighbors well.  As the Rich Man sees Lazarus being comforted while he is in anguish, he asks for someone to go back and tell his brothers not to end up where he is at.  The remark in return was that they have the warning of Moses and the Prophets and that’s good enough.  What does that mean.  Well speaking of Moses, we must think of the 10 Commandments.  Those were at the top of their list of for any practicing Jew, especially priests.  Jesus boiled all 10 Commandment down to three: love God with everything that you have and are, and equal to it, love your neighbor and love yourself.  It’s that equal to it that is most fascinating.   If indeed this is equal, that means the same.  If I submit myself to God, I must also submit myself to my neighbor.  We really like to love God and love ourselves, but loving our neighbor, those people are CRAZY!  I saw them do this.  I heard about them doing that.  They deserve what they get (this is usually a negative opinion).  Paul puts it this way:

Galatians 5:16–25 (NIV): 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Conclusion:  Now, take the words of Paul, the life of Jesus and his message of turn the other cheek and to give to people in need.  Now look at the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.  Do you see the common thread?  You have the purple robe wearing Pharisees that were well off who did not practice what they preached.  In the area called the court of the Gentiles, Jesus flips over money changer tables, drives out the livestock that were there for purchase and forms a whip out of chords and drove out the “regular business” of the Temple.  Then, Jesus preaches and heals, and meets people deemed too filthy to even go to worship, or people who did not have enough money to pay the Temple tax or buy their sacrifice.  It is by the Beautiful Gate that a beggar meets Peter and John after the day of Pentecost.  Jesus and the disciples used this space for ministry because that was where the people were at who needed help.  Inside, the Temple had the best of everything, and they ate well.  Not even beyond their gaze that saw people suffering and did nothing.  For Jesus, this is injustice!  Jesus had put the priests in charge all those years ago so that they could take care of the people.  Instead, they had twisted the meaning so that they could take care of the Temple and themselves.  I wonder, are we doing the same thing today?  The Samaritans treated people reasonably well, it seems.  The Pharisees had seemed to forget that these people were their brothers and sisters and that they shared the same heritage.  Jacob’s well is in Samaria.  They were once one nation under Saul, David, and Solomon.  It was division that led to the purposeful amnesia that made each other enemies.  Therefore, I proclaim, there is only one Church that Jesus died for and is the cornerstone of and it isn’t Catholic.  It isn’t Methodist.  It isn’t Lutheran.  It isn’t Presbyterian.  It isn’t even the Church of God.  It is a Church that has Jesus as the head.  It is a Church that builds upon unity in His Spirit.  It is a church that extends the same type of care that Jesus had when he walked this earth.  Selfless sacrifice for the sake of all humanity where grace, love, and mercy rule our relationships.  An enemy wants to divide and conquer.  A friend finds common ground and acceptance.  We all have stories to share but we must always take the time to listen.  Just like a complicated algebraic equation, we get to a point that certain variables lead to a predictable result.  However, by listening to their stories, and understanding those variables, we can see the things we have in common.  At some point, we had to have our own variables changed so that the answer was “Jesus”.  So, let us not focus on ourselves as a congregation that makes decisions based on the majority within the walls, but instead focus on the needs outside the walls.

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