Amazingly, Jesus did not always have the crowds cheering. As we follow Him from the dinner table at the house of a Pharisee in Luke 14:1, through the afternoon of His dining, walking and teaching, (all the way to Luke 17:10) we find that He managed to say some things that caused the Pharisees to “deride” Him (Luke 16:14). We looked at that text last time. Jesus told the parable of the Unjust Steward in order to teach us that as God’s stewards we should be using our material wealth for the expansion of His Kingdom rather than for our own comfort. Those Pharisees, being wealthy themselves, did not like Jesus’ teaching on that subject and so they mocked Him. This leads to the next story that Jesus told (Luke 16:19-31).
Matthew Henry comments on what Jesus says next, “The Pharisees made a jest of Christ’s sermon against worldliness; now this parable was intended to make those mockers serious.” And so it is. He begins to tell of a “rich man” who was dressed in “purple and fine linen” and who “fared sumptuously every day.” A man the Pharisees could easily identify with. One who must surely be blessed by God. Then Jesus contrasts the rich man with a “beggar” named Lazarus. He is laid at the rich man’s gate where he begs for food but remains unaided as his sores fester and are liked by dogs.
As the story goes, both men die. Only the rich man has a burial, but this is where his blessings end.
Luke 16:22-24 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’
This is not the Bible teaching “karma.” Rather it is a demonstration of the fruit of a “said faith.” The problem with the Pharisees was that they found many ways to avoid doing what the Bible taught them. Jesus points out one in passing between the two stories in Luke 16.
Luke 16:15-18 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. 16 “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. 17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail. 18 “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.
The Rabbis had debated the meaning of Deuteronomy 24:1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house.” Rabbi Hillel said that the key phrase in this text was, “it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes.” Thus, a man could divorce his wife if he did not like the spice in his food or for any of a hundred frivolous reasons. Jesus pointed our that they could not cause God’s Word to change and would be ultimately found guilty of its violation.
Likewise, with the command to care for the poor in Deuteronomy 15:7 “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother.” And so the Pharisees are represented in yet another of their sins as Jesus tells the story of this rich man.
Was not the rich man a member of the covenant community of Israel? Was he not circumcised and did he not attend synagogue? He knew of Father Abraham and the promise. Yet all of his religion took him no further than the grave. The point of this story is not to teach us about the awfulness of Hell, though we see a glimpse of it here. This story is to demonstrate the fate of those who claim to believe and yet generate excuses not to obey what they are commanded in God’s Word; to lay bare the hypocrisy of those who hold up their own righteousness as a standard, yet disregard true righteousness because of they have used their own standard in the place of God’s.
What is your standard of righteousness? Is it related to hairstyles or music styles? Is it based on cultural standards or Biblical ones? Does it cause you to disregard other commands in the Scriptures, especially the most often commanded one to “Love one another.” John 13:34-35, John 15:12-17, Romans 12:10, Romans 13:8, Galatians 5:13, Ephesians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, Hebrews 10:24, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 Peter 3:8, 1 Peter 4:8, 1 John 3:11, 1 John 3:23, 1 John 4:7-12, 2 John 1:5
This may be the best way to determine whether your standard is the Lord’s or your own. I pray that as you listen to the message that you are provoked and encouraged to evaluate where you are at in your relationship with the Lord based upon your response to His Word. James 1:22 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
Audio is available by clicking on the link below
Following Jesus Part 4 (Reality of Disobedience)