160925 Luke 16:19-31

Last Updated on Monday, 26 September 2016 Written by Pastor Schmidt

Sermon Text: Luke 16:19 – 31

Sermon Theme: Are You Rich or Poor?

Do you consider yourself a rich person or a poor person? Recently, I read that the average yearly wage in the United States is almost $60,000. This compares to an average yearly wage of just $15,000 in Mexico. Yes, when compared to the rest of the world, you and I do enjoy great financial blessings from our Lord as citizens of our country. But today we want to take some time to review our spiritual wealth. As you personally consider your relationship with your Lord and Savior, are you rich or poor?

In the Gospel Lesson for today, the Lord is telling the story of a rich man and a poor man, whom Jesus gives the name Lazarus. By all worldly, outward appearances, the rich man and poor Lazarus were exact opposites. We are told that the rich man ". . . lived in luxury everyday." While Lazarus was "covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table." Each day the rich man "was dressed in purple and fine linen" while for Lazarus "even the dogs came and licked his sores."

Not only were the rich man and Lazarus exact opposites from a worldly point of view, they were different spiritually as well. The rich man lived by the motto, "Eat, drink and be merry. For tomorrow you may die." Because his focus was on the things of this world, because this rich man had placed his trust in worldly wealth, when he died he went to hell. Although he was materially rich, this man was spiritually poor. But Lazarus, who seemed to be the poorest of the poor by the world's standards, was actually far richer than the rich man in this story. For we are told that when he died, "the angels carried him to Abraham's side" in heaven.

Now suffering in hell, the rich man calls out to Abraham, "'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 fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'" When he died, the rich man received full payment for his life lived without the Lord. He was suffering in hell, while Lazarus was enjoying the perfect peace and comfort of heaven. And this situation would not be changed no matter how much the rich man begged.

Not wanting any of his family members to have to endure the suffering of hell, the rich man says to Abraham, "'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, 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 rich man thought that if Lazarus would come back from the dead and appear to his brothers that this would convince them to change their sinful lifestyle. But Abraham makes the point that it is only the Word of God that has the power to change hearts. It is only the Word of God that can make someone spiritually rich.

Are you anything like the rich man in these verses? Do you, at times, find yourself withholding giving money to the Lord, so that you can put a little more away into your savings account or buy the latest and greatest gadget or the new vehicle you've always wanted? Do you know anyone like the poor man in this story, and yet thought to yourself, "Let someone else take care of them"? Do you find it easy to come up with excuses of why you aren't spending time in God's Word on a regular basis at home, or here in worship, or in one of our Bible classes during the week? My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the warning of God's Word before us is so very clear: if you and I end our life on this earth spiritually poor, the end result will be a life that never ends in the suffering and torment of hell.

But, the Good News of the Gospel is that you and I have One that has made us far richer than the wealthiest people on our planet today. In Titus chapter 2 we read that your Savior and mine, the Lord Jesus Christ, "gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own." Jesus Christ came as your perfect substitute and mine. In love for you and me, our Savior offered up his perfect life on the cross and paid in full the price demanded by the holy and just God. Because of Jesus, you and I enjoy the forgiveness of all of our sins. Because of Jesus, you and I are spiritually rich. It is in 2 Corinthians chapter 8 that we read, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich."

God the Holy Spirit, working through the powerful Word of God, brought you and me to faith in Jesus as our one and only Savior. That faith is strengthened each time we come to the Lord's Supper and as we spend time reading and studying his Word. It is the powerful Word of God that makes you and me rich. Or, as Dr. Martin Luther has said: "The Holy Spirit does not wish to work in us in any other way than through the Word and Sacraments." Working through the powerful Word, God the Holy Spirit motivates and empowers you and me to say thank-you to our Savior for the wonderful gift of our forgiveness that he won for us. We do this as we return to our Lord the best of our time, talents and treasures. We do this as we see someone in need and we offer them a helping hand. We do this as we make use of the opportunities we have to be in the Word of God as often as possible.

Are you rich or are you poor? Measured against the standards of our American society, there may not be many of us here today who would be considered rich. We may not drive around in the $100,000 cars, or wear the most expensive clothing or own the most expensive jewelry; but, as Christians, we have something worth much more than anything we could own on this earth. By the grace of God, you and I are rich! We are rich because God the Holy Spirit has used his almighty Word to give us faith in Jesus Christ as our only Savior from sin. We are rich because through Jesus you and I enjoy the forgiveness of all of our sins. Because of Jesus, you and I are spiritually rich and look forward to a life that will never end, at his side, in the great mansion of Heaven! Amen.



Our Mission Statement:

Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.


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St. Matthew's Lutheran Church
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Oconomowoc, WI 53066




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