Have you ever wished you could trade places with someone? If you could trade places with anyone you want, who would you choose? Maybe a movie star or famous athlete? Maybe you’d choose someone from your favorite band or a homeless person that begs by the side of the road? “Wait a minute,” you are probably thinking. “Who would dream of changing places with a homeless person who begs beside the road?” Well, it might not be what a person would wish for, but that is exactly what one person got in our Bible lesson today. It is the story of the rich man and Lazarus from Luke 16: 19-31.
There once was a rich man, expensively dressed in clothes of the latest fashion. He lived in a beautiful house and ate the very best food. A poor man named Lazarus, all covered with sores, had been put outside the door of the rich man’s house. All he wanted was a meal from scraps off the rich man’s table. Dogs that passed by him stopped and licked his sores. Do you think the rich man ever offered to share the food from his table? Did he ever stop to offer Lazarus one of his nice suit of clothes that he didn’t wear anymore? No way! He passed by Lazarus as if he wasn’t even there.
Finally, Lazarus died and was carried by angels up into Heaven to be with Abraham. There he enjoyed all of the comforts that he never knew when he was on earth. He was happier than you can imagine. The rich man also died and was buried. Well, the place where the rich man went was really hot. (I am sure you can guess where that was!) He was miserable. The rich man looked up into Heaven 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. You never tried to help him or acknowledge him. 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.”
Even though he didn’t have very much when he was on earth, Lazarus trusted in God to take care of him. That is what God did. He sent his angels to take Lazarus to Heaven. The rich man, on the other hand, didn’t think he needed anyone. He sure didn’t need God. He had everything that he needed. At least, that is what he thought then.
There is an important lesson to be learned from the story of the rich man and Lazarus. You and I choose where we will place our trust. We can trust in God, or we can trust in ourselves. If we put our trust in the wrong thing, we will find ourselves wishing that we could trade places. Let’s say a prayer together. Father, we trust in Your unfailing love; our hearts rejoice in Your salvation. Please help us to always believe in You and help others who are less fortunate that we are. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Ann Moody is pastor of Wilkesville First Presbyterian Church and the Middleport First Presbyterian Church.