"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. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side." (Luke 16.19-23)
Let’s be honest: sometimes we suspect that God does not favor us. When we lose a job, a loved one, our health - when we suffer disease or loneliness, or when our fragile dreams don’t come true - we tend to think that God is punishing us and does not favor us.
But what this parable shows us is that material wealth in this life is not evidence of God’s favor, and suffering is not evidence of his judgment. Think about this parable: which man had God’s favor, the rich man who entered eternal torment, or the poor homeless man who was carried by the angels to Abraham's side? Was it the one who had a lot of material wealth, but knew nothing about grace, repentance, faith, compassion, and mercy? Or was it the man who was poor, starving, and diseased in this life, yet will be vindicated on the last day?
Yes, every good thing we receive in this life is a gift from God: good weather, good health, good food, good job, family, friends, etc. But none of them are an indication of God’s favor. Those are only common blessings, which he bestows upon the righteous and the wicked.
His favor, though, only comes to the righteous. And the only way we can be made righteous in God's sight is by embracing the One who told this parable, the One who “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8.9).
For our sakes, the Son of God left the glories of heaven, assumed human flesh, was perfectly obedient in his life, and went to the cross to suffer the wrath of God against our sins. And having been raised from the dead, he gives the riches of his righteous to all who will receive it by faith alone. The only way we can have God’s favor is through faith in Jesus Christ. For in Christ, God justifies the wicked and promises them eternal life.
Do you see your need for God’s favor? Do you think you manage life without God’s favor? Well, consider the rich man in this parable and look at his eternal destiny.
Are you mad at God because life hasn’t gone your way? Consider Lazarus, who was diseased, homeless, and starving, and see God received him because of his faith, and brought him to glory.
Are you a poor beggar, who cannot help himself? Are you a diseased sinner, who longs to be made well? Listen to the voice of Scripture, which tells us everything we need to know about sin, salvation, and how we can go to heaven. Listen to it, and call upon the name of the Lord! Believe on the One who has been raised from the dead!
For if we are in Christ – no matter what our lives may be like now – God’s promise is that one day the angels will carry us to glory, and you we recline at table with Father Abraham, and live forever in the presence and comfort of our Lord. Amen.
From Pastor Brown's sermon on Luke 16.19-31, "The Rich Man and Lazarus." You can listen to the whole thing here.