See to it that nobody enslaves you with philosophy and foolish deception, which conforms to human traditions and the way the world thinks and acts rather than Christ.
“There was a certain rich man who clothed himself in purple and fine linen, and who feasted luxuriously every day. At his gate lay a certain poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. Lazarus longed to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Instead, dogs would come and lick his sores.
Sooner or later the second chances end. David comes to mind for second chances. When we were in Destin in 2012 I had the privilege and honor to remarry our daughter Melissa and Mike on the beach. It was a prayer answered. I briefly spoke about how our Lord is a God of second chances.
If we look at the scripture leading up to our Gospel scripture today in chapters 15 and 16 we find that He is a God of second chances. In Luke 15 we find the story of the prodigal son. In that story the insolent young son received a second chance from God to return home. Last week we studied the household manager that robbed his owner and we found that while the owner had fired him, the owner still gave him grace and mercy in that he did not throw his family into debtors prison and also the owner covered the dishonest discounts that he gave out.
Second chances abound in the Bible. What we forget is that sooner or later the second chances end. Let’s focus for the moment on verse 19 and our Colossians scripture for a few minutes. There was a certain rich man who clothed himself in purple and fine linen, and who feasted luxuriously every day. See to it that nobody enslaves you with philosophy and foolish deception, which conforms to human traditions and the way the world thinks and acts rather than Christ.
I think that it is obvious that if the rich man knew God at all, he figured that he always had tomorrow. Human traditions and the way the world thinks, the world philosophy always thinks that there is tomorrow. It is a selfish world that we live in. We have discussed this before, haven’t we? Remember the parable of the man that decided to build bigger barns?
This selfish, worldly philosophy defines what I believe is the religion of this day. In a study in 2005 about youth they defined this religion, and it doesn’t just define youth. The researchers call it Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. I think that the rich man today in our scripture lived by this and much of America and the western civilized world believes this. Here it is:
1. A god exists that created and ordered the world.
Notice that god is with a small g. Something or someone had a hand in it and to this person it matters not if it is the God we worship. A small g god made the world for our selfish use and manipulation. So if we prosper, it is from our works and we deserve it and we have the “say” in how we use it.
2. God wants people to be good, fair and nice to each other, as taught in the Bible and most other religions.
Justice is done in a way that we define justice, not God’s justice. Obedience is defined by the world standard or our standard. Sin is ignored. All people are really good. Second chances are given as we choose.
3. Central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself.
The rich man has every right to wear luxurious regal purple clothes and fine linen, he earned it. He can feast luxuriously every day, he doesn’t need to obey the Sabbath. He can have a fine house with servants, a nice yard, and a gate with guard dogs. If he chooses not to see Lazarus, that is his right.
4. God is not needed to be involved in ones life except when God is needed to solve a problem.
As we shall see, this rich man never spoke to God or worshipped God until he had a problem, until he ran out of second chances. This reminds me of the phrase “there are no atheists in foxholes.” This reminds me of sometimes how I pray the laundry list of wants rather than looking to God for guidance and praising Him. This reminds me of why we have so few people attend church, read and study the Bible daily and have any relationship with God at all.
5. All people go to heaven.
Remember the book, “All dogs go to heaven.”
I propose that this is the number 1 religion of the world as we know it. This is a religion where if we believe in God, we just see Him as a God of endless second chances. After all, all people go to heaven. This is a religion that does not need Jesus and his message of being a servant Savior. This is a religion that does not love God with heart, mind, body, and soul. This is a religion that only forgives if something can be gained. This is a religion that loves ourselves then loves others so something can be gained.
This is a religion that seldom sees Lazarus because he needs to get off his matt and go somewhere else. Or you take care of Lazarus! I gave a little at church for that. This is a religion that thinks the good gifts given by God were given for self-indulgence, indifference to the needs of others, arrogance, and really class pride, a feeling that only “our people” matter. There is no eternal focus in this religion, heaven or hell is the present time and there is always a second chance. I believe this sums up what most of the world thinks.
But Jesus reminds us in our scripture today that sooner or later the second chances end. Let’s read on: “The poor man died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.” I love this saying which I found on a church by Deaconess downtown: “What would you do today if you found out that tomorrow was your last day on earth.”
Rich or poor, upper middle class or lower middle class, we will die. Lazarus wasn’t even buried, he was too poor. The rich man died and probably had a wonderful funeral with eulogies and mourners, and many visitors. Many may have gathered and spoke about how God had blessed him with riches, sumptuous meals every day and his fine clothes. By the standards of the world, God had truly blessed him.
Let’s read on:
23 While being tormented in the place of the dead, (the Rich Man) he looked up and saw Abraham at a distance with Lazarus at his side. 24 He shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I’m suffering in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received good things, whereas Lazarus received terrible things. Now Lazarus is being comforted and you are in great pain. 26 Moreover, a great crevasse has been fixed between us and you. Those who wish to cross over from here to you cannot. Neither can anyone cross from there to us.’
Did the riches condemn him? No. What we find is the events of our lives and what we do with the gifts that God gives us is what really matters. What we find is that if we leave God out of our lives, Jesus out of our lives, if we do not make EVERY effort to be like Jesus, we will eternally reside in the place of the dead, hell.
What we find is that if we selfishly live by the philosophy of the “I earned it world” and I will take care of me first and I will depend on myself for tomorrow’s needs and wants ignoring the kingdom building and caring for the poor and downtrodden….we will live eternally in the place of the dead.
What we find is that when we die a great crevasse is fixed and can’t be crossed for eternity. There is no repentance after death. What we find is that just knowing there is a god but not having a relationship with Jesus / God, will send us to the place of death. What we find in this scripture is that from the place of death, we will see what we are missing and will be tormented by those whom we see in heaven.
What we find is that each of us in whatever circumstance we find ourselves can be Lazarus if we live by grace in the moment, no matter how harsh life may be. It is ironic that the name Lazarus means “the one who God helps.” After a terrible life of begging at the rich man’s gate after being carried there each day by his friends, being hungry and with sores that were licked and cared for by dogs, Lazarus will spend the rest of eternity in heaven.
As we finish our scripture today let it speak to you as to the urgency of action required of you before the second chances are over.
27 “The rich man said, ‘Then I beg you, Father, send Lazarus to my father’s house. 28 I have five brothers. He needs to warn them so that they don’t come to this place of agony.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. They must listen to them.’ 30 The rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will change their hearts and lives.’
Will you be Lazarus, “the one who God helps”, and go to the world around you and warn others before it’s to late for them? Will you be Lazarus and tell about Jesus who was crucified for our sins and rose from the dead? Will you be Lazarus and be filled with grace and obedience in whatever circumstance you find yourself? Will you be Lazarus and give all you can to the poor and downtrodden Lazarus’s of the world? Will you be Lazarus and be a real life example to others for the kingdom? Will you be the one who God helps in order to advance the kingdom rather than selfishly keeping God’s gifts?
Are you the Rich man? Living in your world for yourself, yes still quite possibly a good man or woman, yet nobody sees Jesus in you, you are not any different than other good men and women?
Yes, who are you in this parable? Who do you choose to be starting today?
As we come to the communion table today, who are you in this story? Is this a time to come and repent, ask the Lord for forgiveness and change the direction of your life?