February 20, 2018

The Great Reversal

Luke 16:19-31

In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.

—  Luke 16:23

In this parable of Jesus, the rich man lived in luxury. He never knew the harsh pangs of hunger or the weariness of working his fingers to the bone. He lived in a gated community to which beggars came daily. In those days it was commonly thought that wealth like his was a blessing from God because he was close to God.

Lazarus was a beggar who sat at the rich man’s gate. He was covered with sores, and stray dogs came to lick them. The rich man probably wouldn’t appreciate having to walk by Lazarus whenever he left or returned to his gated mansion.

The rich man and Lazarus were worlds apart on this earth, but they had one thing in common: they both died. Death brought them before the face of God, who judges all. And the roles were reversed for these men. The rich man found himself in torment with no relief, and Lazarus lived in the comfort and loving care of God.

The name Lazarus means “God is my help.” We need to acknowledge that we need God’s help and guidance in the choices we make each day. Jesus calls us to care for people in need, using the resources God has given us. Just as God has cared for us, we can care for others. We can seek justice and lift up the disadvantaged and oppressed. As the season of Lent reminds us, we can follow the way of Christ, dying to ourselves for his sake—and finding full life.

Lord, help me to die to my possessions, my ambitions, and my hidden sins, recognizing that life is found only in you. Amen.

About the author — Reginald Smith

Dr. Reginald Smith is senior pastor at Roosevelt Park Community Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he has served for seventeen years. He has also served as a pastor in Paterson, New Jersey. He and his wife, Sharon, have three daughters, Janelle, Katrina, and Mariah.

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