Playboy Provocations And Beggarly Hands?

Text: Luke 16:19-31

In the name of Jesus. Amen.  

Let's get it out of the way right now. Riches and wealth are not evil, and they do not lead a person to hell. Also, being poor and in poverty does not lead one to everlasting life. This is not what Jesus is teaching in today's reading from the Gospel of Luke. Jesus is not validating communism, socialism, or the social justice agenda. In other words, only fools believe that rich people are evil and poor people are good.  Keep in mind that there will be plenty of rich people in heaven and hell, as well as plenty of poor people in heaven and hell alike.  

Now, with that said, we must not be too quick to dismiss the issue of money, though. Even though money itself is not evil or good, it is the 'love' of money that should concern us.  

Consider our story from Jesus yet again. There was a rich man and poor Lazarus. The rich man ended up in hell, and poor Lazarus ended up in heaven. And the reason why? It is quite simple; the rich man was an arrogant, selfish, independent playboy who was so inward-focused on himself that he did not see a need for God or his neighbor's need for him. Whereas, poor Lazarus was a beggar – poor in spirit and spiritually hungry. He was helpless and knew that he needed help from others, especially God.  

And so, before us, we have two types of individuals. Poor Lazarus knew his condition, and he turned outward for mercy. However, the rich playboy only cared for himself, resulting in him being blind and deaf to his need for grace.

For all of us Americans, we should pay particular attention to the rich man, not necessarily because he is rich but because of his attitude. That is to say; we Americans should take note that the rich man was consumed with the need for maximizing his pleasure. With his purple robe, his being merry, and his luxurious eating, he ended up in hell because he made his belly his god – his belches were his praise. All he could think of was his appetite for pleasure. 

Dear friends, consider a moment how our modern-day advertising in America tempts us down this rich man's path. For example, let's consider technology. Once you purchase an iPhone 11, they come out with an iPhone 12. But they don't just introduce a new product; instead, they make it look like the new product is superior to your old piece of junk phone. 

And so, you end up feeling second-class with your old iPhone 11. You feel deficient. But there is more. Marketers and advertising want to make you feel like you have every right to buy the new product. Who cares about your budget! There is free financing. Who cares about saving for later! You deserve it right now. In fact, I would go so far as to say that some marketers portray us consumers as victims who have every right to buy their product so that we can finally have a little happiness in our lives and be satisfied. Simply stated, they create discontentment in you, which opens the door for coveting. Then they give you a solution, a remedy for your coveting eyes. And then they appeal to the appetite of your gut to get you to buy their product. "You need to have it your way because you are worth it!"  

And we Americans? Well, we listen. We consume. We buy and buy and buy. We eat and eat and eat. We consume and consume and consume. And if a neighbor has something better than us, we feel incomplete and then work hard to get what our neighbor has.  

Dear friends, as already mentioned, this all goes the way of the rich man. And when we go the way of the rich man, we become so fixated on our wants, desires, and appetites that we get tunnel vision – we ignore everything else around us. We become an arrogant and self-centered jerk who cares for no one except ourselves. 

Now as bad as this is, what is even worse, though, is that when we fear, love, and trust in our desires, wants, and appetites, well… we not only end up having no time for our neighbor, but we have no time for God. The way of the rich man lands us smack dab in hell – alone.  

We like to make excuses, though. For example, we make tons of excuses in America for why we don't go to church and fail at our piety. Sure there are legitimate excuses and very reasonable explanations for why we don't go to church and fail at our piety from time to time. However, if we are really honest as Americans, the majority of the time when we neglect the Lord's Church and Sacraments is because we desire other things more than God. That may be uncomfortable to hear and uncomfortable for me to say, but it is true. We Americans simply do not have the courage, to be honest, that we have a greater appetite for sleeping in than for the Word and Sacraments. We don't like to admit that we have a greater desire to sit in a movie theater or basketball gym for three hours than to sit in padded pews for an hour. Ouch. That hurts. It hurts because it is true.  

Frankly, we Americans come up with all sorts of excuses why we don't go to church and neglect our piety – the sermons are not relevant, the music is boring, the people are mean, yadda, yadda, yadda. But frankly, all of these excuses are simply a smokescreen. We Americans want to be entertained. We want to appease our appetites. And the church? It doesn't feed the appetite of our guts, so we don’t go. 

And so, we go the way of the rich man. We do not fear, love, and trust in God, but we fear being bored, we love being entertained, and we trust in the appetite of our stomachs. And when we do this, we neglect those in need around us while spitting in the face of God, as we flirt with the abyss of hell itself.  

Lord have mercy on you, on me, and all of us Americans!  

There is a tremendous catch-22, however, to what we have been discussing thus far. And that is this, if you and I go the way of our wants, desires, and appetites, you and I will never be satisfied. In the Old Testament, Solomon says it best. He says that the one who loves money is never satisfied with money. If your goal is to simply consume, eat, and take – listen up… you will never be satisfied. 

It is a vicious trap. The more you consume, the emptier you feel. The more you take, the poorer you feel. The more you reach, the farther you fall. 

But, perhaps, the biggest catch-22 is the fact that the rich man ended up in hell is because all that he was seeking, wanting, and consuming was not able to bleed for him. You see, that which the rich man sought was not able to give back to the rich man. The rich man was all about grabbing ahold of things to squeeze value, pleasure, and entertainment out of them – but in the end, these things ran dry, and the rich man found himself in hell with nothing to atone for his sins.  

Dear friends, there is only one thing that gives to you and me. There is only one thing that bleeds and atones for our sins. And that one thing is not a thing but a person – Christ Jesus. But here is the catch with Jesus. Jesus is not another meaningless worldly thing that you need to seize with your sinful appetite. No!  Jesus does not come to you by your own clamoring, grabbing, and sinful appetites. You do not capture Jesus with greedy hands. No, instead, Christ comes the way of a gift. He comes to beggarly empty hands. 

Baptized Saints, Jesus is the One True God who is able to bleed for you to save you. Unlike money, sex, power, food, or whatever else we grab a hold of to maximize our pleasure, we know that these things cannot bleed to atone for our sins. 

And this is why the rich man went to hell and Lazarus went to paradise. Lazarus went to paradise not because he was poor but because he received the Lord's goodness and forgiveness.  

Listen up! Christ comes for beggarly dirty hands marred with sin, not hands clinging to the treasures of the world. Friends, repent! Drop everything! Stop trying to squeeze value, worth, and pleasure out of meaningless things. Receive Christ, for He comes to you to give, not take. 

And this church? Hear this. The church is not for the purpose of your entertainment. It is not here for you to feed your bellies or achieve all your wildest dreams. The church is not in the same realm as entertaining movies, fun basketball games, or enjoyable dinner parties, as good as they may be (and many of them are very good, appropriate, and wonderful). That is to say; when we choose other entertaining things above and over the church, we are essentially admitting or treating the church as if it is in the same category as going to the movies – when it is not. The church is not a rich man's option, among other entertaining things, but it is a necessity for poor beggarly sinners. 

Baptized Saints, listen up! You come to this church not like the rich man but like beggarly Lazarus. You come not to be entertained but come to receive. 

And receive? You sure do! You receive forgiveness, life, and salvation that lead not to hell but to paradise forever. 

Blessed Beggarly Saints, we receive, and we receive often, for Christ gives and gives often.  He give you forgiveness, life, and salvation this day.  

In the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

CLICK HERE to 'Like' on Facebook
CLICK HERE to 'Follow' on Twitter
CLICK HERE to Subscribe on iTunes

CLICK HERE to Subscribe on Podbean