Faith and Compassion

19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:

20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,

21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. Lk. 16:19-25

Notice here that one man “was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day”; while his neighbor was daily “laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.”

Now, the Bible here does not say that Lazarus was born again and that the rich man was not. It could well be that the rich man was also saved. But there is no doubt that Lazarus lived a life that pleased God.

The accusation against the rich man, on the other hand (vs. 19-21), involves how he treated his neighbor, Lazarus. It appears that he lived a selfish, unloving life. He did not love or show compassion to his neighbor, Lazarus, who was poor.

Even Abraham accuses him of only this sin:

“Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.”

God is not envious of us when we prosper. I haven’t heard of a father who is envious when his children prosper. God is the Father of fathers and He is happy when we prosper, even in material things.

But, in countless scriptures, God tells us how we ought to live our lives with the less fortunate in a manner that testifies of our faith in Him.

When we get to heaven, we will not just walk up to God and tell Him, “Lord, you know that on such and such a date I believed in Jesus and I got saved”.

That salvation script won’t work. What will happen is, God will bring out a rap sheet of your lifestyle. He will say, “Let us see your works.”

The Bible, in the Book of James, talks about faith without works.

“14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (Jam. 2:14-17)

Are you saved? Don’t get complacent; Judgement Day is coming. Get out there and “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12)

Working out our salvation incudes how we live with the less fortunate. We are stewards of whatever God has given us. One day, we will give an account to God.

All that the rich man would allow the beggar, Lazarus, to have of his sumptuous fare were the crumbs that fell from his table! When we read this, we can think of any number of scenarios that could have been coursing through the rich man’s mind whenever he thought of Lazarus.

Scenario no. 1: He probably considered Lazarus a loser. In today’s church parlance, he would have said Lazarus was cursed. A child of God a beggar? Impossible! The fellow needed a ‘deliverance’ session.

Scenario no. 2: Or, he considered Lazarus plain lazy. Yes, Lazarus was a dirty, lazy beggar. His sores most likely were caused by an unhygienic lifestyle. The rich man therefore gave his security detail strict instructions to keep Lazarus locked out of his compound. He intelligently surmised that if Lazarus so much as set a foot within, something worse than the bubonic plague could erupt right inside his home, and he and his entire family could die.

I once heard a preacher say that he handles only clean, brand new dollar bills. He said something about having a phobia of all the germs that one can easily collect from touching old, dirty bills.

Just like Lazarus’s benefactor, this preacher was also a very intelligent man. But I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes when God shows up.

We should be careful how we handle people, especially God’s people. We should not call them names like “lazy” when we don’t even know – or care – what they are going through. The Bible faults us when we carry this very uncharitable attitude. Colossians 3:12 says:

“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering…”

We ought never to forget that Christ died; and that He died for these very people. It is for this reason that we cannot despise or mistreat people, least of all God’s people.

I believe it was this very sin that took the rich man to hell.

[STOP being merely religious and reconsider your WAYS with regard to God’s people while you still have the time]


Dying With Christ

“9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)” Eph. 4:9-10

The key phrase in this particular scripture is “he also descended first”.

I remember a brother who used to say, “You cannot deal with No.2 before dealing with No. 1. First is first.” The brother’s words stuck to my mind, they were so graphic.

Now here the Bible says that before He ascended to Heaven, Jesus first descended into the lower parts of the earth. That ought to grab our attention.

In other words, before we deal with Jesus’s ascent, we will need to consider His descent first.

Actually, it is so humbling that the Lord of all the earth would need to descend! But He did.

Many believers, when they read this scripture, idolize the notion that Christ crashed physically into hell, Rambo-like, and grabbed the keys from the devil as the latter stood quaking with fear at the sight of Jesus’ rippling muscles.

But no, it did not work like that. In fact, Jesus did not have Rambo’s muscles for the precise reason that they were not needed in this particular warfare. Actually, it was in weakness that Jesus won the victory. Ephesians 4:9-10 provides us with the details of exactly how things worked out on that day. The Bible says that Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth. ‘Descending’ here does not talk of something physical that Jesus did, like crashing bodily into hell, or going down into the depths of the earth the way one goes down a mine shaft. On the contrary, ‘descending’ here talks of losing. It was after He lost something in the flesh that Jesus gained the ascendancy over the devil in the spirit. Notice the Bible says, “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens”. Christ was willing to lose, and it was in losing that He ‘crashed’, if you will, into hell and took all power from the devil.

Philippians 2:7-8 says, “7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

In other words, Jesus sank and sank. He kept on sinking until He became nothing.

Too many of us need to lose. In particular, we need to lose our pride. Our pride is that old self, the flesh. It is that thing in us that does not like being touched, or talked back to, or criticised or belittled in any way. That is the old man, and it is he whom we need to lose.

The new man that is made after the image of Christ allows himself to be insulted, to lose what is rightfully theirs. This new man will even gladly surrender their life for the sake of Christ.

The Apostle Paul says, Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth…” (Col. 3:5). It is through the cross alone that we can crucify these lusts of the flesh.

There are many interpretations about what victory in Christ means… or what obedience to God means. But true victory and true obedience simply have to do with losing with Christ – losing the flesh and its lusts – that we might gain with Him.

[Below: Jesus had to go down first before He would go up!]