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Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
June 2, 2013
Central Passage
Luke 16:19-31
Description

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and all who practice it have a right understanding.

The Rich Man was a fool. He did not fear the Lord. Had he feared the Lord, he would have listened to Moses and the Prophets. They preach that the Lord is the avenger of the poor and the friend of the downtrodden. They preach and teach that the Lord will humble the proud and exalt the lowly; He will bring down the mighty and exalt those of humble estate. It is as St. Mary, mother of our Lord teaches us: “He has filled the hungry with good things, but the rich He has sent empty away.” (Lk. 1:53)

And what does our Lord say? He calls those who store up treasures for themselves fools for storing up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God. (Lk. 12:20-21) Therefore, store up for yourselves treasure in heaven. Indeed, the Lord says to the rich man, “Go and sell all that you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come follow me.” (Lk. 18:22) Would that the rich man had listened.

But it’s not about having money and wealth, neither is it about being poor and destitute. The Scriptures teach us that Abraham was a man of great wealth, as were his descendents. When the Hebrews left Egypt, they plundered the Egyptians and left the land of slavery with great wealth. They were rich. So, too, were King David and Solomon. We hear from the Scriptures about a great many people who were wealthy and yet were also holy and righteous. So, too, many poor men have not listened to Moses and the Prophets and have been thrown out of the great feast. It’s not about being rich or poor. It’s about listening, listening to the Word of the Lord. For unless we hear Moses and the Prophets, we will all likewise perish.

But listening with ears to hear is more than just hearing. How many parents have scolded their children, “You may have heard what I said, but you were not listening!” If they had listened, they would have acted differently. So St. John preaches that whoever says he loves God but hates his brother is a liar, and that if one loves God he must also love his brother. Listening isn’t simple mental comprehension, but is living. Those who listen live differently. So, too, the rich man. Had he listened to the word of God he would have acted differently.

That is what it means to repent: to act differently than you are acting. To stop storing up treasure for yourself and to become rich toward God.

So how does one become rich toward God? Listen again to our Lord’s words: “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” The treasure you have in heaven is not gold or silver, it’s not a bank account. As hard as it is to hear this, we must confess that the treasure stored up for you in heaven is the witness of your deeds. In whom or in what do you fear, love, and trust in the most? That is your God.

Do you fear financial ruin for yourself or for the congregation more than you fear spiritual ruin? Then your god is money. Do you love leisure and rest more than the Lord’s gathering? Then playtime is your god. Do you trust in your own righteousness and religion more than submitting to the will of God? Then your pride is your god. Whatever your god is, that is what guides your thoughts, words, and deeds. Our Lord says as much in the twelfth chapter of Matthew when He says: “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account of every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:36-37). And St. Paul teaches in Romans chapter two, “[God] will render to each according to his works: to those who by well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” (Ro. 2:6-8)

But who can accept this teaching? It is impossible. With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

This isn’t works righteousness. It’s not about earning your way to the side of Abraham. Poor Lazarus didn’t earn his way to the side of Abraham. But as his name means, “God is my helper,” so he trusted himself to God. Why? Because of the promises he heard in Moses and the Prophets: that God is the avenger of the poor and the exalter of the lowly and so forth. He listened to Moses and the Prophets who taught him not to trust in the kindness or wealth of the rich man, but to trust in God who created him and has promised to lift up, bind his wounds, heal his sores, and give him rest from his weary life. He listened and believed the promises of God.

And the rich man wasn’t punished because he was rich but because he despised preaching and the word of God. He didn’t listen to his pastors, to Moses and the Prophets, but instead did what was pleasing to his own heart. Had he heard with ears to hear, he would have cared for poor Lazarus. But more than that, he would have joined poor Lazarus. For the Lord didn’t only say, “Give all you have to the poor,” but He also said, “Come, follow me.”

 The rich man wouldn’t have joined poor Lazarus in his poverty, per se, but he would have joined him in entrusting himself to the One who judges justly and shows favor to the humble. So St. Peter preaches, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so at the proper time He may exalt you.” (1 Pt. 5:6) That is the way of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who was God did not consider equality with God something to be stolen, but laid aside His glory and became a servant, not because salvation is found in poverty, but to join Himself to the poor – to you and me – and commit Himself to the eternal Judge, making for us the way of salvation through His obedience.

The Lord Jesus didn’t trust in His riches, which was more that gold or silver. He was rich in angelic rule, able to call forth legions of angels to defend Himself or to have the earth open and swallow His enemies. But He did not trust in His own riches, but entrusted Himself to His Father, who by your adoption in the holy waters of God, has become your Father also. And your heavenly Father gives you all that you need to support this body and life.

Not only so, but He also gives you that which supports your body and soul in the life to come. He sustains and protects you. He feeds and nourishes you even though you be as poor as Lazarus or as rich as the rich man. Your heavenly Father is the giver of all good gifts and saves you by giving you His only-begotten Son whose obedience covers your disobedience as his innocent blood covers your guilty heart, and whose risen body gives life to your mortal flesh. Who gives you the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of life, so that you would listen to and believe His holy word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity and thereby be called sons of God.

+ In Nomine Iesu +