Monday, January 20, 2014

“Jesus Teaches Compassion for the Poor” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday January 26, 2014

Purpose: To fully comprehend that compassion and generosity are core values of the Christian faith

Bible Lesson: Scripture Luke 16: 19-31
Background Scripture: Luke 16

Luke 16: 19-31 (CEB)
(19) “There was a certain rich man who clothed himself in purple and fine linen, and who feasted luxuriously every day.(20) At his gate lay a certain poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. (21) Lazarus longed to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Instead, dogs would come and lick his sores.

(22) “The poor man died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. (23) While being tormented in the place of the dead, he looked up and saw Abraham at a distance with Lazarus at his side.(24) He shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I’m suffering in this flame.’ (25) But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received good things, whereas Lazarus received terrible things. Now Lazarus is being comforted and you are in great pain. (26) Moreover, a great crevasse has been fixed between us and you. Those who wish to cross over from here to you cannot. Neither can anyone cross from there to us.’

(27) "The rich man said, ‘then I beg you, Father, send Lazarus to my father’s house. (28) I have five brothers. He needs to warn them so that they don’t come to this place of agony.’ (29) Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. They must listen to them.’ (30) The rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will change their hearts and lives.’(31) Abraham said, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, then neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’"

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Our lesson title is about compassion for the poor, but it might be more appropriate if our compassion is for the rich man, because in the end he is the one that ends up without any hope. This story has some unusual insights. First let us look at the “rich man.” The description given by Jesus paints a picture not of just a well off gentleman that has worked hard and been able to accumulate some wealth. This man is really wealthy, he wears only the finest clothes and lives in only the best of homes, and every meal is like a banquet. His effort to separate himself from the ordinary, places him in a gated residence. He was not an ordinary resident of Jerusalem, he was one of the 1% percent we hear about in today’s society. There is no evidence that he has broken any law, or not been a respected business leader or that he is not involved in the community. Or that he has not been an active member of his Synagogue.

The “poor man” is given a name by Jesus, he is called Lazarus. Lazarus was a common name in Jesus’ time and it means “one whom God helps.” I think he was named for a reason, his name implies he has faith and has trusted God to take care of him, and has believed that God will take care of him.

Both men die, one was given a proper burial, the other may have been left to decay in the street. Unfortunately for the “rich man” his sight comes a little late. The beggar that he walked past every day and ignored has found comfort in the presence of his father Abraham. That he recognizes and calls Lazarus by name, only helps to justify his present situation. Lazarus was not unknown, he and his plight were ignored by the rich man. He not only recognized Lazarus he also recognized Abraham. His pleading for mercy only shows that he knew better all the time.

I want to make an important point, these gentlemen are not where they are because of their wealth or lack of wealth. They are where they are, because one believed Moses and the prophets and one didn’t. Another observation is that there is no course after death for any reconciliation. Whether you believe hell is real or not, one thing is for sure, the agony of knowing those you love will face the same fate is a terrible burden to carry throughout eternity. Also for those that want to go there because that is where their friends are, there is no evidence that they will be visible or that you can communicate with them.

It is obvious from the story that the crevasse cannot be bridged, because it will not work. The importance of following and listening to God’s word during your life on earth is your only hope. God’s message is still the same, “love the Lord your God, and love your neighbors.”

Remember this epitaph that was written on one tombstone:
Remember, Friend, as you pass by,
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, soon you shall be
Prepare for Death, and follow me.
Someone has added these words:
To follow you, I'm not content
Until I know which way you went!

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