Enough is Enough!  - Pastor Donna Doutt – 9/29/19 Luke 16:19-31 The Message (MSG)

Some of you know my son. When he was little, he was really a handful. He was willful, and obstinate. If I said “don’t”, he definitely “would.” He knew how to push my buttons, and no matter what I said, it was never enough to convince him that if I said “no,” it was for his own well-being or safety.

One day I was passing through the living room, and I saw him sitting on the floor by an electric outlet with a screwdriver in his hand. I knew by his posture what was going to happen next…what do you think? Yes, I was certain he was getting ready to stick that screwdriver in the outlet. I shouted “Don’t.” He looked right at me, reached out, and stuck that screwdriver straight into the socket. As you may know, he did survive the event.

But here’s the deal…that wasn’t enough of a lesson. He went on to do it several more times before he was at the age of reason. He didn’t learn his lesson the first time.

And so it is with this parable today from Luke. I really like this scripture from Luke that was our reading today. I have to admit, being the imperfect person that I am, I had never, EVER, heard that particular story before. I thought to myself….self….that story needs to be visualized! So I went off in search of some artwork to see how that could play out, and here’s what I found: (see attached)

This piece is titled “Lazarus and Dives.” I think I’m pronouncing that correctly). I don’t want you to confuse this Lazarus with the more famous Lazarus of Bethany, the brother of Martha and Mary, and also of “risen from the dead by Jesus” fame. This is an entirely different Lazarus. Also, this painting names the rich man as “Dee-Was.”  [1] The traditional name Dives is not actually a name, but instead a word for "rich man",

Up here in the top panel, is the picture of the rich man and his family. They’re feasting away. Our scripture tells us, [2]“19-21 “There once was a rich man, expensively dressed in the latest fashions, wasting his days in conspicuous consumption. A poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, had been dumped on his doorstep. All he lived for was to get a meal from scraps off the rich man’s table. His best friends were the dogs who came and licked his sores.”  

Doesn’t that paint an ugly picture? The rich man has everything. He lives a life of idolatry amongst his possessions, but he’s oblivious to the starving, sick man right outside his door!

Now here in the middle panel: Lazarus' soul is carried to Paradise by two angels. Our scripture continues the story: [3]22-24 “Then he died, this poor man, and was taken up by the angels to the lap of Abraham.” Indeed, we see here, the poor man who died. Notice the different from the top image of the poor man. Up here in the top frame when he’s begging, he’s covered in sores. Down here in the second panel his skin is clean. Also notice, he’s not buried.

The angels are taking his soul straight to heaven, where he’s sitting in the arms of Abraham, and appears whole and new, almost infant-like, like he’s been re-born.

Now we go down here to the bottom panel, where our rich man is. Our scripture tells us: [4]“The rich man also died and was buried. In hell and in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham in the distance and Lazarus in his lap.”

The rich man’s soul is definitely carried off, but is buried in the ground, and his soul is carried off by two devils to Hades; where he is tortured in hell. The scripture continues, “He looked up and saw Abraham in the distance and Lazarus in his lap. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, mercy! Have mercy! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool my tongue. I’m in agony in this fire.’ 25-26 “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that in your lifetime you got the good things and Lazarus the bad things. It’s not like that here. Here he’s consoled and you’re tormented. Besides, in all these matters there is a huge chasm set between us so that no one can go from us to you even if he wanted to, nor can anyone cross over from you to us.”

What Abraham literally means is “too bad, so sad!” In his lifetime, the rich man had plenty. He lived in perpetual idolatry of his possessions.

While so many other parables sometimes leave us confused and wondering “what was the point of that story,” this one is crystal clear.

 

Dr. Scott Bader-Saye, author of [5]“Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear” and is also a Professor of Christian Ethics and Moral Theology the Seminary of Southwest, writes, “’Rich and poor’ are not left as vague generalities but are depicted as two men, one inside the gate of abundance and one outside. Their close proximity accentuates the fact that Lazarus seems invisible to the rich man. Even after death, when the rich man gazes across the abyss to see Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, he speaks of the poor man in the third person – as if he were not there.”

He never acknowledges the poor man in life, and still refuses to acknowledge him even in time of death.

The first few verses of this parable make some solid and valid points. We need to be aware of what is outside our own door. Those faces we see on the evening news are real people. The children languishing at the border in confinement are someone’s child or grandchild. The people who come to our Community Dinners most often live day to day, with not a lot of rainbows on the horizon. The man we see languishing in the doorway or alley is someone’s brother, father, or son. There but for the grace of God goes us.

The story goes on to sum this parable up with part 2 of the lesson. The rich man begs, “27-28 “Then let me ask you, Father: Send him to the house of my father where I have five brothers, so he can tell them the score and warn them so they won’t end up here in this place of torment.’29 “Abraham answered, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets to tell them the score. Let them listen to them.’30 “‘I know, Father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but they’re not listening. If someone came back to them from the dead, they would change their ways.’31 “Abraham replied, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, they’re not going to be convinced by someone who rises from the dead.’”

This rich man reminds me of my little son whose stubbornness lent him into wrong situations, blinded to the consequences of his actions.  As the rich man found out while he thrashed in Hades, it’s too late when you’re at heaven’s gate.

This scripture is so powerful and packed with lessons. We need to ask ourselves what is important? When does it occur that enough is enough? This rich man had more than needed, but never saw the need around him. His values were never Christ-centered, but always self-centered.

Apparently, his entire family was that way, because we know he couldn’t save them either! If the rich man’s brothers do not practice what both God’s law and the prophets are teaching about the right use of wealth, even the message of one raised from death won’t have an impact on them.

 

In this highly commercialized world that we live in today, we sometimes misplace our values. Our lives unwittingly become consumed in forms of idolatry. Keeping us with the Joneses. Who has a bigger boat? Who has a newer car with all the bells and whistles?

In so many churches, more attention is placed on who might spill coffee on the sanctuary carpeting than how many people are in the pews. Of course, we know we need to take care of our physical buildings. That’s just good stewardship. But caring too much about “things” is idolatry. Let’s not let our love of things…this unconscious worship of things…  blind us to who is outside the door, and what we can be doing to follow in the footsteps of Christ.

Our scripture from our Epistle lesson from 1 Timothy this morning, implores us not to be the rich man in Hades. “Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.

17-19 Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.”

My prayer today is that we know when enough is enough. God calls us to be obedient. Our resurrection depends on that obedience. Jesus didn’t invent the call to generous sharing of resources with the poor, it’s a biblical theme, and the focus of many of Jesus’ lessons.

In Jesus’ famous “Sermon the Plain” in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 6, which is a parallel of other Gospel’s Sermon on the Mount that gives us the Beatitudes, Jesus teaches, “Blessed are you who are poor…But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”

Our salvation is not to be found in possessions or riches, but in our faith. Let us open our door today to see who might be waiting on our doorstep to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.

As Paul tells Timothy, “Fight the good fight, take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called…”

 

[1] Wikipedia contributors. "Rich man and Lazarus." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 29 Aug. 2019. Web. 24 Sep. 2019.  

[2] Bible Gateway. The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5]  Bader-Saye, Scott. Feasting on the Word, Year C. vol. 4. P.116-120

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