The Rich & The Poor 2 — A Reversal Of Fortunes
Chan Gin Kai
In our last article, we learnt from the rich man and Lazarus about our blindness to disparities and tendency to discrimination. Today, we shall explore how things can change around quickly at death.
The Greatest Equaliser
So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. (Luke 16:24-25)
The wide disparity between the rich man and Lazarus on earth was only surpassed by the vast chasm between them in Hades.
It didn’t matter that the rich man had received his “good things” when he was alive. Everything became worthless when he was in agony in fire. The sufferings of Lazarus and all his “bad things” didn’t matter anymore when he died. All of them were over when “the angels carried him to Abraham’s side” (Luke 16:22).
The rich man was never really ignorant about Lazarus. He would have seen Lazarus at his gate. He even knew Lazarus’ name. But he had ignored Lazarus’ plight.
The rich man now looked at Lazarus with envy. When they were alive, Lazarus had longed “to eat what fell from the rich man’s table” (Luke 16:21). In Hades the rich man longed for Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool his tongue.
It was a surprising reversal of fortunes.
We take pride in our possessions and enjoy our creature comforts. We love getting one-up over others and bask in the glory of our achievements. But really, how long do they last?
Life on earth is transient and the possessions we have are fleeting. Yet we are so enraptured by the baubles we have amassed. We compete with each others over worthless trophies, forgetting that everything crumbles in the face of life’s greatest equaliser… death.
Death erases our every victory, deletes our every pleasure. All that we have on earth disappears as we face our final Judgement.
Do we store up for ourselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21)?
The Biggest Regret
And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’” (Luke 16:26)
Oh, how the mighty have fallen, and how great is the regret.
The rich man’s request for even a little relief from his torment could not be answered. The great chasm prevents anyone from crossing over to help him. It was too late.
Our clock started ticking the moment we were born. Haven’t we all complained that time passes too quickly? Days fade into months and years fade into decades. Before we know it, the relentless march of time has stolen our youth and precious opportunities.
We always think there’s time. But we can’t procrastinate repentance, and we mustn’t delay our return. God longs to be reconciled with us, and he eagerly awaits us. But we take God’s patience for granted, and we imagine we still have time. The inevitable will arrive, sooner than we think. At death, it will be too late.
In hell, there will be no respite, no relief, no return. All we’ll have is an eternity of regret.
The Mightiest Miracle
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:27-31)
When the rich man lost hope for himself, he thought of others for the first time. He begged for Lazarus to be sent to warn his brothers.
Abraham replied that they have the Law and the Prophets (aka the Old Testament) and they only needed to listen to them. The rich man knew that his brothers didn’t care about the Old Testament and hoped that the rise of Lazarus from the dead would impress them into repentance. Abraham replied that it wouldn’t work.
Jesus raised a man from the dead (interestingly named Lazarus too), but that didn’t convince the Pharisees (John 11). Instead, they plotted to kill Jesus.
The mightiest of all miracles is the resurrection of Jesus. That in a way, was an answer to the rich man’s request. But Abraham was right. If people choose to be stubborn towards God’s words, miracles will not convince them either.
We claim we’ll trust God more if He answers our prayers. We think we’ll feel Him more if He moves more powerfully in our lives. The fact is, He already has. Most of us here have already found God, because He reached out to us. He sacrificed Jesus for us, and saved us from eternal condemnation. If all these are not enough to convince us of His love, nothing else can.
I've mentioned earlier that the mightiest miracle is Christ’s resurrection. I’ll like to change my mind and propose a new answer… the mightiest miracle is God’s love. I’m a sinner and I am worthless. I’ve disappointed God countless times and I’ve hurt him. It takes an incredible miracle to love me.
Death will come and all we have will become worthless. Are we prepared? Have we focused on what really matters?
Read more about ‘The Rich & The Poor’:
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves actively in the Central Christian Church and describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.