|Lazarus and the rich man|
Luke 16: 24 “Then 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.’
Luke 16:14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.15 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. 16 “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. 17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail. 18 “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.
29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
Have you been to the Sentosa Resort World Halloween Night. For an extra sum, we can go on the express lanes whilst the other poor souls had to wait an hour to see the specific attractions.
Therefore, after a few attractions and walking passed the poor "peasants" who had to wait for a long que, I felt so privileged as if I deserved it just because I could afford to pay the extra money. The delusion was however short lived.
Some of us, especially those from good schools, may think that we deserved to be rich and to be treated like royalty here on earth. It is not suprising that many of those accused of corruption in Singapore such as Ming Yi, TT Durai, and Pastor Kong Hee all came from Raffles Institute.
I wished I had gone to the same school to become rich.
This was the kind of religious superiority complex that the Pharisees must have felt. They were learned of the law, graduated from bible schools, ordained as pastors, and so more holy and derserving of God's blessings and wealth, and of course more holy and righteous.
And yet Jesus said in Luke 16:15 that the rich Pharisees were an abomination. Why? because they were self righteous thinking that they could in Luke 16:16 follow every single commandment of the law, even though in Luke 16:18, they were the greatest hypocrite in divorcing their wives.
This was contrasted to the poor man who lived without much money, in dire poverty and rejected by society and condemed as a sinner.
Both the conservatives and liberal Christians are the same sinners according to the law - the conservatives for thinking that they could abide by the specific letter of law inwardly as being a good and moral person, and the liberals for thinking that they could follow the summary of the law outwardly, to love others. We all fail by the law, whether inwardly or outwardly.
In our 21st century, the "poor man" is the gay community condemned as sinners, whilst the rich man is the self righteous leaders of the mega churches and Love Singapore, who paraded themselves with wealth believing that they are the head and not the tail and the moral defenders of Singapore whilst insisting that gays be put in prison.
The story of Lazarus (the poor man) and the rich man is an amazing parable by Jesus confronting the Pharisees who were rich and were lovers of money, and yet were the spokepersons for the law and the prophets, ie they were religious representative of Moses.
This story is not about the balance sheet of heaven and hell. According to the law preached by the Pharisees, If you are a sinner, you go to hell according to the law of Moses. There is a great gulf between heaven and hell. There is no return.
So did Lazarus, went to heaven because he was so poor that he had less opportunity to sin as compared to the rich from Raffles Institute or Anglo Chinese School in Singapore?
Firstly, both Lazarus and the rich man were of the Jewish faith, ie they had believed and exalted their Patriach Abraham and the Prophets and Moses and the need to follow the law, but Lazarus ended up in heaven and the rich man in hell.
Therefore, Lazarus wasn't in heaven because he had believed Moses and the prophets but could he have been less sinful? in comparison to the rich pharisees. Indeed, he might likely be illiterate, do not know much of the law, and lived his life very simply with great sufferings.
Perhaps, he is less sinful according to the law as compared to the rich religious zealots who followed to the letter of the law and condemned others for not following the law. Yet strictly, all are sinners under the law. Even Lazarus would strictly not be in heaven.
Abaraham was accounted faith apart from the law. And that was why he was in heaven. Our righteousness does not come from the law, even the good works of loving others. It comes from faith in Jesus Christ.
On earth, the Pharisees (rich man) spent their time asking people to repent for breaking the law. Hence they were supposedly blessed and made rich by God because they were "Holy" and "righteous" according to the law. Yet, they ended up in hell.
In contrast, here on earth, the poor man was considered a terrible sinner as judgement from God since he was poor. This was in contrast to the pharisees who were rich because they deemed themselves holy and righteous before the law of Moses.
When Jesus talked about the rich asking lazarus to come down from heaven to warn the rich man's brothers, it was a sarcastic joke. On earth, the rich ie the legalistic religious pharisees have been spending their lives condeming the poor as failing to follow the law. How could Lazarus, in heaven, tell the rich ie the pharisees to be less a sinner. For Lazarus, was not learned in the law.
Therefore, for those thinking christians who thought that God should be fairer to warn the rich man's brothers who were as moralistic and corrupt as per the rich man, it doesn't help for they are so law minded, whether to the letter or summary of the law.
In Luke 16:30, Jesus was referring to Himself coming from the dead, coming from heaven, to preach to the brothers of the poor man about the kingdom of God. It still wouldn't help for when Jesus died and rose again the Pharisees remained hardened and refused to believe.
It was going to be useless, to convince the self righteous heart who believed according to the law, even if Jesus had come down from heaven, let alone poor lazarus.
We are the brothers of the rich man, if we are self righteous, thinking that we could reach heaven through the being sinless and complying strictly to the law of Moses, or even doing good works of loving others as a summary of the law. Both are useless.
The poor man could himself not go to heaven, for he was likewise a sinner even though he did not have the opportunity to sin as the Pharisees did. But the difference was humility, and he was poor not only in belongings but also in spirit seeing the need of redemption in Jesus Christ.
Therefore, we can only reach heaven when we are poor in the soul and the spirit knowing what manner of Grace and truth, and how great a salvation we have in Jesus Christ.
It is not a meta-physical debate of heaven and hell as some Christians may call it, but a reality of life and eternal death. If one does not die on earth and become poor in spirit and in truth, you will not be exalted to heaven.
Therefore, let us not be the rich religious pharisees, but the poor man understanding that we are sinners saved by grace through Jesus Christ, and not by our own good works even by our love for others.
As the Christians in Singapore begin another season of condeming the poor gay man as being a sinner, one day, the gay person may be in the right side of heaven on accounts of the grave sufferings and torments that the GLBT community has gone through here in earth.
Choose today whether you want to be poor or rich, for only the poor in spirit being in Christ will enter heaven, for Jesus is our righteousness and redemption if truly we believe He is our Lord and Saviour.