How many of you would like to be rich? If you were you could dress in the latest style, drive a fancy car, live in a big house with a swimming pool, and fly around the country in your private jet.
How many of you would rather choose to be poor? I don't see too many of you raising your hand on that one! If you were very, very poor, you might wind up living on the street and sleeping on the sidewalk. You would probably get your clothes from the thrift store and you might be seen standing on the street corner holding a sign that says, "Will work for food." You would probably walk everywhere you went because you couldn't afford to buy a car. I must say, that doesn't sound too appealing.
There is nothing wrong with being rich and there is nothing shameful in being poor. Being rich does not guarantee that you will be happy and being poor doesn't necessarily mean that you will have an unhappy life. Consider the Bible story that Jesus told which is known as "The Rich Man and Lazarus."
Jesus said in Luke 16:19-21, "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen. He lived in luxury every day. At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus. As Lazarus lay there, he was hoping that he might receive some of the scraps from the rich man's table. Lazarus was covered with sores and the dogs would come and lick his sores. The rich man never offered to share his wealth with Lazarus. Every day he walked past him as if he was not even there.
In the story Jesus told, Lazarus finally died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the heavenly banquet. Even though he had nothing on this earth, he trusted in God to take care of him and that is exactly what happened. Lazarus had everything he needed in his heavenly home.
The rich man also died and was buried. The place where the rich man went was a place the Bible calls Hell. He was miserable. The rich man looked across that great divide and saw Abraham with Lazarus standing by his side. He cried out, "Father Abraham, send Lazarus down and let him dip his finger in water to cool my tongue." Abraham answered, "Don't forget that when you were living you had all your good things and Lazarus had nothing. Now he is well cared for and you are in great pain. And besides, there is a deep ditch between us, and no one from either side can cross over."
Remember, this is a true story Jesus is telling, not a parable. When Jesus told a parable He never named the characters. Here He names a real man, Lazarus. It was not the rich man’s money that sent him to Hell and it was not the poor man’s lack of money that sent him to Heaven. The rich man whet to Hell because he did not trust in God. The poor man went to Heaven because he put his trust in God.
There is an important lesson to be learned from the story of the rich man and Lazarus. All the money in the world won't buy our way into heaven. The only way we can get into heaven is by putting our faith in God. When we do that, he will provide everything we need. Maybe we won't be rich on this earth, but we will be in heaven!
Perhaps the greatest lesson to learn from this story, then, is that when death comes knocking on our door there is only one thing that matters: our relationship with Jesus Christ. “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36). Eternal life is only found in Christ. “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12). The truth is, if we wish to live apart from God during our time on earth, He will grant us our wish for eternity as well. As one pastor aptly said, “If you board the train of unbelief, you will have to take it all the way to its destination.”
(Lloyd Blanton is CEO and Director of FreedomWay Ministries, a faith-based service, in Cleburne County.)