Perils of Wealth (Sermon 9-25-2022)

In Luke the 16th chapter, Jesus tells us about a rich man and Lazarus. Theologians argue over whether this is a parable or not. In most of the parables, Jesus never gives names to the characters. However, in this story, Jesus gives one of the characters a name. Is this a parable or not? Is that important to the lesson Jesus is sharing? I think not!

Today’s message will draw from this passage but it will not be the primary lesson. We have all heard many sermons and lessons about the rich man and Lazarus. There is no real need to replough that field. It will serve as a foundation on which we will build our message.

First, let us read through the words of Jesus as found in Luke 16:19-31.

“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31 NASB)

There are many points we could draw from this passage. However, we will be moving on to another for the main text for today’s message. Before we leave this chapter, let’s note a few things; first, the rich man lived in luxury and enjoyed his wealth. He enjoyed all that his wealth could afford, second, Lazarus was in need of medical help and food. The rich man could clearly see the situation of Lazarus and never moved to help. The rich man knew enough to call Lazarus by name when he thought Lazarus could help him in his new found situation. The final thing to note, before we move on, is there are no “Christmas Carol” ghost stories in the making. God has provided His message through the words of Moses and the prophets as found in the Bible. If people don’t learn what God is expecting from God’s revealed word, then there is not another route.

As we move to the main text for today’s message, it may be well to note that there are several passages in the Bible that are often misquoted. One of these will be found in today’s text. I will point it out when we read it.

Let’s now turn to the book of 1 Timothy the 6th chapter. The first few verses of the 6th chapter deal with those who subvert the gospel message. Some seek to create controversy and to argue. Some seek to use the gospel message to gain wealth. Paul is setting the record straight. Elsewhere in his letters, Paul indicated that preachers and those who labor in the mission field do deserve to be paid or supported by the church. Now he must draw the line about using the message of salvation as a means to gain wealth. He also talks about those who have achieved wealth.

Many of us have noticed the sign on the left-hand side of the road as we turn off 264 heading toward Bath. It reminds us that those who are content have great wealth. Paul has a similar message. Let’s begin reading in 1 Timothy the 6th chapter at verse six.

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. (1 Timothy 6:6-7 NASB)

Our salvation is worth more than anything else in this world. We should be happy-no-elated with our salvation. There is a contentment that should bring us peace and security beyond anything else we could imagine. Paul draws a line under that important concept. We don’t get to take anything with us. Never have I ever seen a moving van pull up in a cemetery. No bank has ever transferred money from a dead person’s account to a new bank in their eternal destination. It does not happen. Some may be born into wealth, but no one ever came out of a womb holding anything in their little fist. When we die, we will be holding the same thing-nothing.

Paul now expresses a universal truth of God.

If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. (1 Timothy 6:8-9 NASB)

In the prayer that Jesus gave to His disciples as the model prayer- the same one we repeat each week, we ask God to give us this day our daily bread. We do not ask God to give us a month supply of bread. God, trying to teach the children of Israel to trust Him, only allowed them to gather one day supply of manna. Our faith in God should teach us to put our trust in Him and not our wealth. God never said that money is bad. You will not find that in the Bible. Pay attention as we read.

For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10 NASB)

Money is not evil. It is the love of money that is the root of all sorts of evil. It causes us to do things that no person of God should ever be tempted to do. The lure of money and our love for that money can and does draw us away from the safety of our salvation. Satan cannot snatch us away but he may lure us into walking away by our own free will and choice. Money and our love for money is one way we may wander away from our faith.

Love for money causes us to abandon friends and family so that we may spend more time going after money. It is a greed that is always hungry and never satisfied. Love for money is an addictive drug that has become acceptable to almost everyone. Yet, it is a love that is never satisfied and will leave us with more regrets than assets. So, what are we to do?

But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:11 NASB)

We are to run away from this greed or love for money. Rather that chasing after money, money, and more money; we are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.

Pursue implies more than a casual following. It gives the picture of running after these traits with a passion and purpose. I suggest that we chase after these with the same drive and determination that we have chased after money. We may find that when we do, our love for money becomes less of a driving force in our life.

Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. (1 Timothy 6:12-16 NASB)

Paul admonishes Timothy (and us) to continue to live a life that is faithfully serving God. We are to live in such a manner that others see and recognize our devotion to God and His son- Jesus. The reward for such a life will be revealed when Jesus returns.

Paul then has a final word about wealth. He spoke to many of us who might be chasing wealth and now he addresses those who are wealth. Being wealthy is not a sin. Some people are more talented, in a better circumstance, or perhaps inherited their wealth. Having money Is not sinful. Paul tells the wealthy to not trust their wealth but to use their wealth to help others.

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. (1Timothy 6:3-19 NASB)

We started our message this morning with the story Jesus shared about a rich man and Lazarus. Had the rich man followed Paul’s advice, perhaps the story may have had a different ending. Perhaps, Lazarus would not have lived in misery prior to his death. Perhaps, they both would have been in Abraham’s bosom.

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