Master Sermon List
Who is Begging Now?
by C. M. Ward
"A certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his [the rich man's gate ... and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from ... the table..." -Luke 16:20, 21 "He cried and said ... send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip o f his finger in water and cool my tongue..." -Luke 16:24
This account reduces life to "bread and water" and it's a page out of the Bible that sets forth the truth in the plainest of fashions. First of all, Jesus is not trying to say that you go to heaven because you are poor and you go to hell because you are rich. It isn't the state of your pocketbook so much as it is the state of your heart. The dogs had a better "conscience" than the gentleman on the boulevard. The Bible says that "...the dogs came and licked the beggar's sores..." That was the only hospitalization he ever had. His canine friends did the best they could for him. It will be a solemn moment in the universe when God calls upon the animal creation to testify against man's inhumanity to man and man's unfaithfulness to his God.
Simple animal-sense would cause us to go God's way! God didn't have to speak twice to the animals when He wanted them to march into Noah's ark. The wisest of earth could stand around and scoff at God and laugh at the ark and prove so easily that it would never rain while the animal obeyed its Creator. The lion in the Persian pit of capitol punishment will hush its roar in reverent respect for God's servant, Daniel.
Two she-bears demanding more courtesy from their cubs than parents were demanding from their crop of juvenile delinquents in Elisha's day would be so startled at the blasphemy of the younger generation and their mockery of old-time religion that they, themselves, would open war against such ribald indecency. Crows will bring meals on time to a preacher being tracked down by a blood-thirsty Jezebel. A whale will give a submarine ride to one of God's evangelists. A mule will try to reason a man away from his willful backsliding and dogs will lick Lazarus' sores!
What makes man's heart so hard for God to reach? The answer is right here on this page of the Bible. The answer is selfishness. The Bible says that this man was "...clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day..." - while an honorable but unfortunate man sat at his gate every day asking but for a crumb. How selfish and hard can men get? Ask the American prisoner-of-war from Korea, He'll tell you. Oh, yes, the human heart will so often put the animal to shame. That's why this man went to hell.
Now there's a second truth that Jesus presents in a very plain fashion. It's the truth about death. He says that rich men die as well as poor men, that politicians will die and voters will die - that scientists will die and the ignorant will die, that athletes will die and. the sick will die. This is the way it is written on this page of the Bible: "...and it came to pass, that the beggar died..." And the very same verse records this fact: "...the rich man also died..." He couldn't bribe death. His influence couldn't cheat the undertaker. All of his financial assets couldn't demand a special deal. Death is a "common-denominator." That is what Jesus is saying here. And it is interesting to see what Jesus says about these two men in death. He says about one man: "...the beggar died, and was carried by angels..." He says about the other man: "...the rich man also died, and was buried..."
One man's honors began after death while the other man's honors ended with the burial committal in the cemetery. To one man death meant a glorious release, to the other man it meant the end of every privilege he had ever enjoyed. His life had become worthless a long time before they ever buried him. He might have found life in feeding the poor, in binding up the wounds of the sick, in sharing his wealth with the underprivileged, but he buried himself in his purple and fine linen and the heaped-up food on his table and behind the locked gates of his private estate. He was "dead" inside a long time before some physician pronounced him dead on the outside. I want to ask you, neighbor, in this hour: "What will the record say about you.' Will a band of angels come to gather you home or will they simply bury you?" That's what you must decide.
Don't deceive yourself! Death is more than a chapel-service. It's more than a beautiful casket and a new suit of clothes. It's more than a head-stone. Death is a report card. It's a final auditing. Its the figures on the score board. In this hour I want you to think. I want you to answer this question: "How will I die?" One man can die in purple but be rotten inside, the other man can die full of sores on the outside but be clean as a whip on the inside. They say: "Clothes make the man." Don't believe it! It's what is behind those clothes that counts.
And there is a third lesson that Jesus writes so all men may read. It's this. The justice of God cannot be limited to this life. There's another world whether men want to believe it or not. The Bible says: "Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after." -I Tim. 5:24 Here's an example of that truth. One man begged for bread in this world and the other man begged for water in the next world. As long as there is a God in heaven there will be "an evening-up process."
Folk so often get an idea from what they see on this side of eternity that it pays to be a rogue, that a good man gets a raw deal, that it is smart to be crooked and that the only law to live by is to get all you can and hold on to all you get and let the next fellow look out for himself. King David was so troubled about this that he wrote about it in one of his Psalms. Let me read it to you.
"As for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked ...They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men... Their eyes stand out with fatness; they have more than heart could wish. They are corrupt... And they say, How doth God know? And is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning... When I thought to know this; it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end." -Ps. 73:2-17
Jesus pulls back the curtain and lets us take a look into eternity. Here on this page of God's Book is the echo of eternity: "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things - but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented." -Luke 16:25 One man took the "good things" of this world and used them selfishly and sinfully to his damnation, the other man took the sorrows and heartaches of this world and made them lead him to God and Paradise.
If I had to, I would rather beg on this side of the grave than on the other side. The word here is "remember!" Don't think you're getting away with anything. God is keeping the books. If we suffer we shall reign. If we shut God out of our lives here, He will shut us out of Himself in the life to come. You've got to look farther than the grave, neighbor! Look into eternity in this hour, and then, and then only, give me your final answer on how you want to live.
And there's something else that speaks to us from this page in the Bible. It's this. Changes have to be made on this side of the grave. The only "second chance" is the "second chance" you get in this life and not in the next. I don't know whether the rich man made a will before he died or not, but I know he tried to make one after he reached eternity. He said: "I'd like to contribute something toward the gospel. I'd like to warn my family not to come here. I'd be in favor of sending Lazarus back to life and let him preach in the same city where I lived for so many years when I was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day," He said: "I pray thee... that thou wouldest send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment." -Luke 16:27
There'll be plenty of people in hell with a missionary spirit. They never had a dime to give toward spreading the gospel in this world. They said the church was always begging for money. It matters not to them that two-thirds of our world are hungry and diseased. It doesn't disturb them that 55 per cent of the hospital beds in America are filled by mental patients and there is an immediate need for beds for 329,000 other cases. They think it is a waste of time and life that fifty-two martyrs have given their lives for Christ in Colombia alone since 1915.
These folk never think of the gospel in their purple and fine linen and sumptuous living, until it's too late. Then they want a special miracle! My friend, let me tell you that the only special miracle that God will ever provide for our salvation was done for all of us when He gave His Son to die in our stead on the cross of Calvary. Take a tip from me - you had better do your supporting of preachers on this side of the grave when you are having the chance!
Christ would have us know one more thing. "There is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence." Mankind has bridged most distances. Perhaps in our lifetime man will bridge the distance between earth and Mars or the Moon with his rocket ships and nations will be racing to establish air-bases on other planets.
Let that be as it may, one thing is certain, no false doctrine, no wishful thinking no ingenuity of man, no new translation of the Bible will even build a bridge between hell and heaven. Men's hearts would have to change first. And this man was just as selfish after death as he was before. It was still "cool my tongue" and "send him my house." There's no heaven in this man's soul. There may remorse but there's no repentance. There is torment but there's no confession. Death does not change a sinner. A funeral sermon may preach a dead man into heaven, but that's only preacher's talk. Men's sins follow them into eternity.
How wonderful in this hour that on this side of the grave any man who would change sides may do so! It's up to you in this moment. There aren't enough devils in hell to keep you from becoming a Christian if you want to, and there aren't enough angels in heaven to keep you out of a lost eternity if you are determined to squander your soul. Christ opened up the way. Only in eternity can it ever be said ". . . that neither can they pass to us that would come from thence."
Today you may change sides. And with all my heart I urge you to do so. I want you to do now what you will wish you would have done one minute after you reach eternity. This is the moment of your choice. To you the Creator has given a free will. Yours is the responsibility to exercise that will for good. Eternity is a long time in which to remember. Don't wait until "the gulf is fixed" - and you are forever a lost soul.