RICH MAN, POOR MAN
A Bible Story for Kiddies by John W. Cowart
Nobody can serve two different bosses without cheating on one of them. We have to decide whether we want to serve God or something less than God.
One day Jesus told that to some Pharisees who loved money, and they mocked him. In their hearts, they wanted to be rich and impress people more than they wanted to serve God. They pretended to love the Lord because they wanted everybody to think they were fine men. But what they really wanted was to get rich and feel better than other people.
Jesus does not care for that sort of thing at all.
So he told them a story about a wicked rich man and a good poor man, about Heaven and Hell.
This certain rich man had it all. He lived in a mansion, the kind of place with a wall around its private gardens. Fountains played in the garden. When the weather was hot, the rich man sat in the shade sipping a cool drink while a servant moved a big ostrich-feather fan to make a breeze for him.
He dressed in fine linen robes and wore a purple coat. A coat like that cost a fortune because the purple dye was made from tiny shellfish found only near the city of Tyre. It took hundreds of the little clams to dye a bolt of cloth and only the richest people around could afford such a coat.
The rich man feasted everyday. He drank choice wines and ate five-star meals cooked by his own chief.
Ah, the good life!
But while this man seemed rich and important in his day, Jesus does not even bother to tell us his name.
And Jesus didn't tell us how the man got rich either. Maybe he got his money from his parents; some people gain wealth that way. Maybe he worked hard at a good job; some people earn fortunes that way. Maybe he invested. Jesus didn't say.
Outside the gate of the rich man's estate lay a beggar. Jesus said this poor man's name was Lazarus, a Hebrew name meaning "God is helper".
Jesus did not tell us how Lazarus ended up poor. Maybe he could not get an education; some people get poor because of that. Maybe he drank too much; that makes some people poor. Maybe, somebody cheated him out of his living, or maybe he was too sick to earn a living. That happens to some poor people too.
Maybe it was a case of his being sick; because Jesus did say that ulcers covered the poor man's body and dogs would come by and lick the open sores.
Lazarus ate the leftovers the rich man threw out. Like some poor people even today, Lazarus and the dogs dug through the garbage cans outside the gate and ate whatever scraps he could find.
No one can live for long like that.
The Bible says, "He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God." (Proverbs 14:31)
But the rich man must not have believed the Bible. He lived in luxury and let Lazarus die in poverty.
"And it came to pass," Jesus said, "That the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom."
What a happy surprise for Lazarus! Father Abraham, one of the richest men ever to live in the East, hugged Lazarus and welcomed him to the feast.
Yes, Lazarus joined thousands and thousands of friends, godly people who die and flock in from the North and South and East and West to sit down at Abraham's table in God's Heaven.
Such a party!
This world has never seen the like!
The nameless rich man died too and was buried. And in hell, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away hugging Lazarus as guest of honor at the feast.
And, Jesus said, the rich man cried.
How sad. When a wicked man dies, his hope perishes; all he expected from his power comes to nothing. (Proverbs 11:7)
Now, just being poor does not make a person fit for Heaven. In Luke 16, the same Bible chapter as the story of Lazarus, Jesus said, "Whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much."
Nor does just being rich mean a person is bound for Hell. After all, there was wealthy Abraham in Heaven.
The Bible says that Abraham believed God. That's what made him right for Heaven. And you can bet that Lazarus believed God too. Believing God, trusting Jesus to make us right, is the only way to Heaven.
In Hell, the nameless man screamed to Father Abraham, "Send Lazarus. Let him dip his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in agony in this fire!"
Sadly Abraham shook his head. "Son, remember how you enjoyed the good life while Lazarus endured awful things. Now, he is comforted and you are in agony.
"Besides," Abraham said, "A great space is fixed between us. No one who wants to come help you from here can cross it. And you can not cross it to come here either."
The nameless one yelled again, "What about my family? I have five brothers. Send Lazarus to warn them so they don't fall into this place of torment!"
"Let them read the warnings in the Scripture," Abraham said.
"They don't pay attention to that old stuff," the man said. "But if somebody came back from the dead, they'd pay attention to that for sure."
Abraham sighed. "If people will not pay attention to Scripture now, then they will not pay attention even when Someone rises from the dead."
Theme Verse: "If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered."
--- Proverbs 21:13
Thought: Turn to God, believe in Christ, do good to others and your future is secure.
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