“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table.” (Luke 16:19-21)

Which would you rather be? The one with the fancy clothes, cars, servants, vacations, food and wine, or the one who had to beg?

Which of these two would you say was blessed by God? Be honest.

You’d say the rich man. He had blessings. He was full of himself and what made him happy.

And the poor beggar, he had nothing. Blessed by God? Doubtful! We might even wonder if he was cursed by God, or he did something to deserve this.

We would be very wrong.

Both died. Death is the great equalizer. Rich and poor die alike.

And then comes the big surprise.

The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. (Luke 16:22-23)

In death the rich man loses everything; the poor man gains everything.

The rich man becomes the beggar; the beggar becomes the rich man.

Lazarus, is now carried by the angels to heaven. The rich man is in torment eternally in Hades.

There is a chasm that cannot be crossed.

The parable is not necessarily about money, but what you cling to in this life apart from the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Money, lifestyle, pride, what are you full of?

When whatever you are full of apart from Jesus fails, and it always ultimately fails, when you die the earthly happiness dies with it.

And then what? The rich man in his unbelief winds up an eternal beggar, worse off than Lazarus.

And the poor man in his faith has the comforts of Abraham.

What turns you away from Jesus and His Word?

“We are all beggars, this is true,” Martin Luther said.

In the end we are all Lazarus: helpless, sick, longing to eat the crumbs that fall from God’s table. And unless we see ourselves in the position of Lazarus, we cannot and won’t want to be saved.

Unlike the rich man in the parable, Jesus comes to us in our poverty. “Though He was rich, yet for our sakes, He became poor that we through His poverty might become rich.”

In the poverty of our sin and death, condemned under the Law to an eternity of misery, Jesus came to us when we were unable to help ourselves.

He took on our weak and fallen humanity and brought us to His house, washed our wounds and gave us a seat at His table.

Not as pathetic beggars, but as beloved friends. Not as strangers, but as one of the family. Not to eat the crumbs, but to feast on the abundance of salvation that Jesus, God’s Son, has won for you.

The truth is, only in Jesus are you truly full, rich and blessed. Apart from Jesus, you are empty, no matter how full.

The Rev. Kevin Oster is pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Hutchinson.

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