Temporary Wealth

I can remember when I was young standing in line with my mother at the grocery store. When we got to the cashier, I remember the chill of hearing the cashier giving us the total owed, and my mom humbly pulling out green food stamps to pay for our much-needed food. More often than not, the amount due exceeded what the stamps would cover. With a smile on her face, my mom would begin eliminating what wasn’t essential. This, among other things, instilled in me a resolve to never again experience financial insecurity.

While being poor financially may not be desirable on Earth, I can say from experience that wealth and prosperity can sometimes take the place of God! In fact, money is one of the most commonly discussed subjects in the Bible. With roughly 2,350 verses concerning money in the Bible, why is it so important that God warns us of the dangers of seeking wealth? One of the best and clearest stories God gives on the topic is the parable of Rich Man and Lazarus from Luke 16.

Luke 16:19-31
There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire. But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’

The verses tell the story of a rich man, dressed in purple, living in luxury every day, and a beggar named Lazarus, who lived on the streets outside the rich man’s gate. When the time came and both men died, Lazarus was ushered into Heaven by angels, while the rich man was buried and banished to Hell.

First, notice how the rich man died and was buried in the ground, relegated to an eternity of torment. Meanwhile, Lazarus the beggar died and was guided by angels into Heaven.

While in Hell, the rich man looks up to Heaven and sees Lazarus with Abraham. He begs Lazarus to dip his finger in water and come down to touch his tongue. Clearly, the rich man was miserable. In fact, the Bible says he was in agony in this fire. Yet somehow, despite his conditions, he believed Lazarus was still below him. Abraham responded by reminding the man that during his lifetime he received his good things, while Lazarus did not. Put simply, he relished his Earthly pleasures and wealth rather than building up Heavenly treasures.

There are several things we can take away from this verse, especially for guys like me who have worked hard and gained some prosperity. Left to myself, I can easily forget where it came from.

First, God loves to bless His children. Luke 12:32 says “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom”. However, if we love the gifts more than the Giver, we end up as the rich man, agonizing in Hell desperate to warn our family and friends that Hell is a real place.

Second, God calls all of us into a relationship with Him, but not all will turn toward Him in that calling. “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14

Third, you have a name. Lazarus had a name. He had little, but he knew who his Father and Creator was, and when he died his Father sent His angels to pick him up! He no longer felt pain. His sores were healed, and he no longer was in need! But notice the rich man was not given a name. His identity was stripped from him, and the luxury he had on Earth was replaced by eternal torment. Temporary fame brought forever shame!

Fourth, we are taught to turn our eyes and ears to our Savior, who is moving us to tell others now! The rich man lived in luxury and probably didn’t consider that his days were numbered. Only God knows the days we have left on this Earth. Psalms 90:12 says “Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.” Planning for retirement is fruitless if you’re gone tomorrow! Learn the
Word of God, seek out your Father and tell others.

Our Heaven and eternity is not here on Earth—it’s in Heaven! Being rich and successful can be a good thing, but not at the cost of eternity!

Make it a good journey!

RTM, Stephen Thomas