A Parable of Priorities
Sermon Summary

This message looks at the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. It is not just a parable about judgement after this life, but is meant to showcase the importance of priorities in this life. The reason is our priorities in this life determine many things about our lives here and now, but also have an impact on our eternity. If we have been unwilling to allow God to have a priority place in our lives on this earth and we’ve made everything about self, then we loose now and eternally. Jesus wanted His hearers to understand the tragedy of living life totally for selfish gain. In fact, He preceded this parable with the statement that a person cannot serve two masters, he must choose. If a person chooses to allow the world to be his master, that master will set the priorities. If a person chooses to allow God to be his or her Master, then God helps them find the right priorities in life.

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Do priorities in your life just happen by default or have you actually spent time to review your priorities and plan what things make the top of the list and which things move down on the list? Explain.

2. Jesus said a person cannot serve two masters, but will have to choose between loving God and loving money. I believe Jesus chose money to represent any thing in the world that a person allows to become their priority over God. With that in mind, ask yourself this question: How can I live in the world of physical things which can be seen and touched, and yet keep the unseen spiritual things of God a priority? Discuss this dilemma.  
1 Tim 6:17  Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
1 Tim 6:18  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
1 Tim 6:19  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

3. Explain why the rich man in the parable was not in torment simply because he was rich and the poor man Lazarus was not in heaven just because he was a poor man. Hint: Priorities have something to do with it!
Prov 28:5  Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.
Prov 28:6  Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a rich man whose ways are perverse.
Psa 40:16  But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, "The LORD be exalted!"
Psa 40:17  Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.

4. The saying, “God helps those who help themselves” has been a popular saying for many generations and is thought by some to be in the Bible. It is actually an ancient saying from Greece. Read the following Scripture verse and discuss why “God helps those who cannot help themselves” is actually a more Biblical concept.
Rom 5:6  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
Rom 5:7  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.
Rom 5:8  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Full Sermon Notes

Let's pray! Father God we are gathered here because we do believe! We believe and we know Your Word is the Word of Life! Your words give us wisdom for living life in this old world and Your words give us hope for life after this life is over!  And we know that hope was brought to us through the living Word Jesus Christ! Thank You for being willing to live and die so we might live now and forever in Your presence! Your love for us has always been a priority. God help us to make you our priority! Teach us today and let me simply be a tool in Your Hands, Your mouthpiece, carefully hidden behind the Cross so You receive all the Glory and honor. In Jesus Name, I pray and I believe! Amen!!

How beautiful the worship this morning and how beautiful the pictures of faith we saw painted this morning! The individuals who were baptized have made a decision to rearrange their priorities and allow Jesus Christ to become their Savior in eternity and their Lord in this world!

Today we come to a parable many times considered a parable of judgement. But it is so much more than that! It is a parable about priorities and how those priorities effect your life here on earth as well as your eternity. Let me put it this way...

When a person makes the decision to follow Christ Jesus, Jesus begins to show them a whole new way to live and it's the most freeing and most rewarding life that can be lived in this world. And no matter how terrible the circumstances, a follower of Christ still has the advantage because of who walks with them and in them and because of the new priorities that guide their life. Jesus spoke often of the stark difference in priorities between those who live in the Kingdom of God and those who live in the Kingdom of this world! You might remember a few weeks ago I shared a message with you about the lost treasures of the kingdom.

The treasures of God's Kingdom are people, not things!! Andrew preached a sermon a few weeks ago on the model prayer, better known as the Lord's Prayer. The very fact God wants us to talk to Him shows us what a treasure we are to Him. And last week Jay shared a message about the parable of the Good Samaritan. A message that shows us how our treasures and priorities should be the same as God's. Relationships! Our relationship with God, family, friends and even people we've never met, but who may be in need of our help!

Jesus was in the midst of sharing parables about priorities and the wisdom of having the right kind of priorities when He said the following...

Luke 16:13-15
13 “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.
15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.

In other words, the priorities of your master will become your priorities. If your master is God, His priorities will become yours. If your master is material wealth, that master will cause your priorities to default to self, a selfish, self-absorbed, self-promoting self!
When Jesus said we can't serve two masters He was alluding to the fact that as human beings we will serve something, it's our nature. The only choice we have is what we will serve. Bob Dylan put it this way in a song years ago...

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young turk
You may be the head of some big TV network

You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You're gonna have to serve somebody,

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a construction worker working on a home
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome

You might own guns and you might even own tanks
You might be somebody's landlord you might even own banks.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You're gonna have to serve somebody,

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Malcolm O. Tolbert put it this way in his commentary on this passage. These are powerful words. I just couldn't write them any better, so I will just quote Dr. Tolbert...

“Life can go in one of two directions, but it cannot go in both. We can find our values and goals within the narrow limits of birth and death and in the things which are susceptible to vision, taste, and touch. On the other hand, we can give ourselves to goals that transcend the demands of body and ego. If we make things our gods, we shall spend life and energy acquiring, guarding, and selfishly using them. But if we make the Creator of all things our God, we shall be liberated to devote ourselves to higher and more meaningful values!”

That's so powerful and so true!!
Now we get to the parable of priorities that Jesus used to teach the results of the different priorities. I guess you could say it's also a parable of judgement as we see the consequences of a life lived only for self and for no one else. Let's see what it has to say.

Luke 16;19-31
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.
20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores
21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.
23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
24 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.’
25 “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.
26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house,
28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “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.’ ”

Boy the lessons in this parable!!
First, you must understand...

The rich man wasn't in torment because he was rich in material goods!

The poor man wasn't in heaven because he was poor in material goods!

The rich man was where he was because riches were his god! He was in torment because his priorities had been so upside down. The rich man had opted for worldly riches rather than spiritual riches. And let me tell you how important worldly riches are in heaven...

They use gold to pave the streets! They  walk on it!! Listen, it's not wrong to have wealth, but it's wrong to allow that wealth to have first place in your life. It's wrong to place your trust in that wealth instead of placing your trust in God's provision.

It's wrong when you cling to things more than you cling to the things of God!! And why is it wrong? Things are temporary and can never meet our deepest needs because our deepest needs are spiritual! Also, when material things are your god, then the needs of others will always seem like a threat to you. Remember the Charles Dickens story of Scrooge. He hated the poor because he thought they just wanted a hand out and sought to steel his hard earned money. This must have been some of the reason the rich man ignored the crippled beggar at the gate of his mansion every day. And why do I say "crippled beggar?" It says the beggar was laid at his gate every day. Somebody had to take him back and forth. Probably a friend or family member! They must have been so poor, the most they could do is put old Lazarus at the rich man's gate so he could eat the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Wow!

And you may not know this, but back in the day they didn't have paper napkins and it wasn't easy to wash cloth napkins, so the rich people would bake an extra loaf of bread so they could wipe their hands while they were eating. These scraps would be thrown out to the dogs and this is what Lazarus was living off of. Disgusting, I know, but true!
Now we don't know much about Lazarus from this parable, but here's one thing to consider. We do know his name and not the rich man. This is significant.

While we know the names of some of the most notorious and evil people in history, typically, a wicked man's name is soon forgotten in a community, while a good man who loved and served others is long remembered. God's Word says...

Proverbs 10:6-7
6 Blessings crown the head of the righteous, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.
7 The memory of the righteous will be a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.

And did you know what the name Lazarus means? It means "God helps!"
Have you ever heard the old saying, "God helps those who help themselves?" Know what book of the Bible that's found in? It's not! It originated in ancient Greece.

And here's what God's Word says...

Romans 5:6-8
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Now here's the irony in the parable. The rich man was rich in worldly things, but poor in spiritual things. However, he evidently did not realize that he was bankrupt spiritually and believed he was perfectly fine. Perfectly fine to ignore the starving, bleeding cripple at his front gate. On the other hand, Lazarus was poor in worldly things, and even understood that he was poor in spiritual things. But here's the amazing thing: When a person humbles themselves and realizes they are spiritually poor and bankrupt, God is then able to make them spiritually wealthy. Why? Because, as Andrew shared with you a few weeks ago, God's Word says that if we seek we will find, and if we knock the door will be opened and if we ask we will receive. Jesus also stated this in His famous sermon on the mount...

Matt. 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Why does it say blessed are the poor in spirit? Because if someone realizes they are poor in the spirit, they are open for God to make them prosper spiritually! Those who think they have it all together and don't need God miss out on the abundant spiritual life God wants so badly to give to them...

Matt. 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

No matter what your priorities in life, life will sometimes be difficult and even tragic. However, those who have allowed God to be a priority in their life will be comforted by His precious Holy Spirit, His power and His presence. What does it take for this to happen? A little humility goes a long way...

Matt. 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

How about a desire for the things of God?

Matt. 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

How about a little mercy?

Matt. 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Do you know why God can't be merciful to those who won't show mercy? Because the pride that keeps a person from showing mercy will prevent that person from humbly admitting they need mercy. And remember this, God will not violate the free will He gave you to choose. You can reject Him, but..

Matt. 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

No you might say, "but Pastor Larry I'm not so pure. I'm a sinner and have failed in miserable ways. There's no hope for me!"
Yes there is!!!!

Sometimes people tell me they feel so far away from God, to which I might reply, "Guess who moved!" It wasn't God! In fact, if you're running from God, He is keeping up with you. You can't out sprint God. He is pursuing You, but He won't over take you! He won't tackle you! He won't force you to turn around.
So why is He pursuing you? Simple. So He can be right there for you if you ever decide to stop running and turn around! Wow! That's love! So stop running and thinking God doesn't love you anymore. He does, and listen to me closely...
If the desire to be right with God is there, any hunger for righteousness, then the seed of purity is there. Grant God permission to begin His purifying work in your heart and mind! When you do this, things will begin to change in your life and God might even give you a really important job in this life...

Matt. 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Wouldn't it be great to be known as a peacemaker? A person of peace?
But Jesus adds a warning. Remember, this world is not our eternal home and as followers of Christ we must remember there will always be opposition from the world. Why? Our priorities are different!! Listen...

Matt. 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matt. 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Matt. 5:12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

So here's your question of the day: Will your priorities be the priorities of God or the priorities of the world. It really makes a difference in this life and the life to come.

And, when your priorities begin with God first, the other things will fall into place. Jesus stated this beautifully...

Matt. 6:31-33
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Now I want to close with this eye opening and fascinating aspect of this parable of priorities. And what a lesson this should teach us. It's amazing how your priorities begin to change once you realize you've had them all wrong. The sad thing is some people don't realize this until it's too late!

Even in torment the rich man first thinks of his own needs. I need water. Let Lazarus dip his finger in the water and come and cool my tongue. But it was not possible, so the rich man finally begins to think about someone other than himself...

Luke 16:27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house,
28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “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.’ ”

And how sad but true! Even in Jesus' day,  when people saw the miracles, they still would not believe. Why? Their priorities looked like this…
Me, Myself and I.
Miracles of proof didn't change this and it wouldn't for people today. It's a heart thing!

They were more concerned with satisfying the appetites of the flesh than satisfying the spiritual hunger that cried out inside them. But there is hope for those who are willing to wake up! For those willing to admit their priorities have been misplaced. Hey, we've all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God! All of us. But if you
believe in your heart that Jesus lived a flawless life and then allowed Himself to be sacrificed so He could cover your sins with His precious blood, it's not to late for you.

And if you're willing to commit your life to Jesus and allow Him to rearrange your priorities, your life and eternity will change in wonderful ways. That's a decision you will never, ever regret! I can promise you that!

Let's pray!