Sunday, July 6, 2014


Two things in life are undisputed certainties:
  • Everyone dies
  • Death is forever

Everyone dies, and death is forever.  How shall we then live?

If there is no God, then one can choose to either live for himself (carpe diem; eat, drink and be merry), or he can choose to live so that the world is a better place, or live to be remembered, etc. 

As you may recall, the last article began with the words above.  This time we’ll continue to address those issues, particularly from Jesus’ story called “The Rich Man & Lazarus” (see below).

We call the story by that name because those are the words Jesus used to describe the two main characters.  In Jesus’ day & culture, a rich man would have been thought to be good.  Jesus’ contemporaries were taught from an early age the message of their bible (what we call the “Old Testament), where it’s taught that if a person does what God says, he or she will be blessed.  That was essentially the promise God made to the ancient Israelites from the exodus to Jesus’ day.  If you’re obedient and faithful to God, He will bless you with lots of stuff.  The result was that people came to believe that if a person was rich, it’s a sign he’s also usually good. 

So when Jesus started talking about the rich man, people would have thought he was good and Lazarus had done something that deserved getting what he got in this life.  And since that was true, Jesus’ audience would have been surprised to hear that Jesus was teaching that the bad guy was rewarded and the good guy was punished in the afterlife.  It must have been a shocking lesson to most of them. 

Now stop and consider what you think, for a moment.  Have a short conversation with yourself about this before you read on.  Do you think that if modern American Christians are basically good, then they’ll get the American dream?  And if they’re lazy or weak or undisciplined then they’ll be embarrassed at their class reunion?  Think -

Kingdom Econ 101

Like any nation, God’s kingdom has its own economic policy.  It’s not socialism or capitalism, and I suppose if it were given a name it’d be called “righteousness.”  When you read that word in the bible, does it mean anything to you?  It means: “Justice” or “fairness.”  Kingdom economy is based on what’s fair, just or righteous (by God’s definition). 

God’s righteous economy works like this, usually (but not always):
God gives stuff (money, power, food, love, etc.) to those who are expected to distribute it.  Those who are wise and generous (i.e., loving & righteous) with the “talents” God has given them, God will give more.  That’s because they have proven themselves.  Check it out:

“A nobleman about to go on a journey called his slaves, and gave them money to manage for him.  To one he gave $10 million, to another only $10k.  He said to them,
‘Do business with this until I come back.’

When he returned he summoned his slaves so that he might know what business they had done.
The first appeared, saying,
‘Master, your $10 million has made $10 million more.’
And he said to him,
‘Well done!  Because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.’
The other said,
‘Lord, here is your $10k back.  I was afraid of you, so I carefully hid it and didn’t waste it.’ 
He said to him,
‘You worthless bum!  You know I expected you to earn me some interest, so if you were so frightened, you might have at least put it in a savings account.’
Then he said to the bystanders,
‘Take away his $10k and give it to the one who has $10 million.’
And they said to him,
‘Lord, he already has $10 million plus the ten cities you gave him already.’
‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.
(Excerpts, paraphrased from Luke 19:13–26)

If you prove faithful with a little, God gives you more.  Not to make you rich, but because He knows you can be trusted.  Here’s another one:

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.  Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?  And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?  No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
(Luke 16:10–13)

I hope you see the point Jesus is making.  He is trying to teach them that worldly wealth (in the hands of one of God’s children) really belongs to God.  We’re supposed to manage it - for God.  If we spend it on ourselves and our families, then we’re like the “Rich man” in the Lazarus story.  If we are frugal and live as “good” and “obedient” Christians … then we’re like the worthless slave who didn't even invest in the bank. 

Warning: Trying to trick God doesn't work. (Trust me on this one, I know)
If you give and work for God just so He’ll trust you with more, you can forget it.  He’s way too smart to fall for such an idiotic plot.  God is served well by people who actually do love their neighbor as themselves. 

How shall we then live?

Our first priority is to benefit God’s kingdom.  Remember in the SOM, when Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom & His righteousness”This is what he was talking about. 

The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus isn't really about a rich man at all – that was just a way for Jesus to get their attention.  Really the story is about a stingy man – a selfish man. 

To put it simply: selfish people earn themselves a place in hell. 

Notice he wasn't in flames because he went to the wrong kind of church, or believed weird doctrine or was a “bad” person.  He was in torment because he refused to share God’s gifts. 

That’s how many people get rich.  They have a decent income, or get lucky, and above all are frugal.  Frugality can be good, but selfishness and stinginess are not.  But what’s the difference?  Sadly the stingy, selfish person is almost always in denial.  He thinks of himself as frugal, or as looking out for his family.  But really his motives are pure selfishness.  God knows his heart, and God will judge.  The trick for each of us is to take inventory and see how honest we can be – even with ourselves.  No one else knows our hearts or our truth – only God knows, and we can know, if we try.

It’s not about money

God will only give us what we are able to manage.  If you have little, then it’s because either you’re just getting started, or because you aren't proving yourself, or – because you simply don’t recognize just how much you really have.  You see, this isn't just about money.  It’s also about time, love, food, youth, smarts, strength and all the “assets” (talents, gifts) you’re blessed with. 

Do you have a wonderful family? 
Great – so did the Rich Man (apparently).  But he didn't share this love with others who had no family, friends or food.  Surely “family” is one of Christianity’s golden calves, and selfish families are abundant in our culture.  

Are you FAT
If so, our culture conditions you to think that this is about your appearance or health.  But our Lord wants you to know that you could have fed hungry people instead of overeating yourself until you’re gross to look at and suffering poor health.  The selfishness of fat people is a far greater concern to God than their ugly exterior. 

Are you wealthy?
Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
I know your deeds - you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.
So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.  
He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.  
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
(Revelation 3:15–22, reorganized)

Similar questions you might ask in your inventory are:
Got a good job?
Got (or getting) an education? 
Got time?
Got blood, bone marrow or other physical blessings you can share?  
Are you tall, smart, young, healthy or a good communicator? 

All of those things are forms of wealth. 
They are all things that can bless you alone - or can bless others. 

There are two kinds of people in the world.  Those who are slaves in God’s kingdom and those who are not.  If you have been truly reborn, you are both a child of God and His slave.  He loves you and He gives you wonderful things … but they’re not just for you to keep, and they’re not because you’re a good person.  They are gifts given so you will do God’s work for the kingdom – to strengthen it and to expand it. 

You have been saved by grace [gift] through faith. –
Not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
Not as a result of works (so that no one may boast).  
We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:8–10)

Even our salvation is a gift from God that enables us to share!

God gave Solomon wisdom to rule, not just so he’d be praised for being wise.  God continuously increased the strength and faith of Joshua, David, Peter and others – because they had proven worthy with a little – so God gave them a lot.  Moses had a good life until God drafted him into service, and once there he grew from a reluctantly obedient servant to God’s great prophet leader.

Most Christians are lazy slaves, selfish slaves, just like the Israelites to whom God sent the prophets and the Jews of Jesus’ day. 

My (and God’s) challenge to you is simple: take inventory of your life and see how blessed you are, and then work to share.  Love, give, work – work until you are actually tired from working for the Kingdom.  Work for God and His kingdom; not (necessarily) your church. Discipline yourself for service to God, not just so you’ll look good on the outside.  Give gifts so God will see, not so that others will see. 

“When you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
(Matthew 6:3–4)

Devote yourself completely to God’s service and nothing else.  Like Lazarus, you may never be rich or comfortable in this life, but if you prove faithful with a little, God will bless you beyond your wildest imagination. 

Do you believe that?  If so, your life will show it. 

Everyone dies, and death is forever. 

How will you live?

There was a well-dressed, stylish rich guy who was happy, and lived the good life. 

Also there was a guy named Lazarus who was poor, sick and starving to death; he was so poor and sick he had disgusting skin sores that dogs would lick.  Since he couldn't move himself, others would lay him near the rich guy’s house to beg for scraps.  But poor Lazarus was so gross he was hard to even look at, much less help.

Eventually they both died.  Angels carried Lazarus’ soul to Paradise, but the rich man went to torment.  When the rich guy looked up he saw God - far away - and Lazarus was with Him in Paradise. 

The rich guy cried out,
‘God, have mercy!  Please send Lazarus to bring me a drop of water just to cool my tongue, ‘cause I’m in agony in this flaming fire!’
God replied,
‘Son, remember that during your life you had it good, and Lazarus was miserable.  But now he’s being comforted here, and you’re in agonizing pain.’”

Luke 16:19-25 (KPV)

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