Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses nineteen through thirty-one of the sixteenth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will again find Jesus speaking about a certain rich man. If you read this chapter from the beginning you will notice and discover that it begins with Him speaking a certain rich man and a certain steward which this rich man had. As you come to this portion of chapter, however, you will again find Jesus speaking about a certain rich man. This time around, however, it was not about a rich man and a steward, but rather about a rich man and a beggar who was laid outside his gate. At the opening and outset of this chapter you will find steward of the rich man being accused of wasting the master’s goods, and becoming anxious within himself concerning the accusations against him, as well as the actions which would be taken against him. This would include—and would certainly not be limited to—removing and taking the stewardship away from him. Within the parable, however, we find this steward resolving within himself what he would do in order to put himself in the good grace of those who owed debts to his master. Jesus describes how this steward reached out to all those who had an outstanding debt which was owed unto his master, and provided them with an alternate way to settle the debt which was owed. This steward—as Jesus would describe within the parable—would act with shrewdness, tact and wisdom in that he would personally handle the outstanding debts which were owed to his master, in order that his master might recover that which he had lent out to those who had asked. In the end, the rich man praises the steward for his shrewdness, tact and wisdom in how he handled the outstanding debts which were owed unto him. What’s more, is Jesus goes on to describe how the children of this world are wiser and more shrewd than the children of light. Jesus then goes on to speak and talk about our own interaction with stewardship, and how we handle those things which aren’t ours and don’t belong to us. Jesus would go on to warn us against serving two masters, and loving money and the riches of this world. What’s more, is that Jesus would also go on to warn against mishandling little and thinking we could be trusted with much, as well as mishandling that which doesn’t belong to us, and thinking we could be trusted with what could very well be our own.
As you continue reading this passage of scripture you will find that Jesus again transitions to speaking about a rich man who was not only clothed in purple, but also lived luxuriously and lavishly in this life. This is actually quite interesting when you consider a certain passage which is found in the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ. Suffice it to say—before we transition into that particular passage found within the prophetic book of the Revelation or Jesus the Christ—this certain rich man was not only clothed in purple, but lived luxuriously and lavishly in this life. Undoubtedly this rich man indulged himself in the pleasures and delicacies of this life and was sure to satisfy his own needs, desires and wants. In fact, as I sit here this morning and consider the parable of this rich man and the poor beggar which was placed outside his gate, I can’t help but be drawn to the reality of the words which Jesus spoke which the apostle Matthew recorded for us in the twenty-fifth chapter of his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ. In fact, I would dare say that if we want to truly understand that which is written and that which is found in this particular parable we must at least turn and direct our attention to the words which are found—both in the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, as well as the New Testament prophetic book of the revelation of Jesus the Christ. I am convinced that what we find in each of these passages could shine an even greater light on to what we find and read within the words which Jesus spoke in this parable. Within this parable we find Jesus once more speaking about a rich man—although this time Jesus didn’t speak about a rich man and a steward, but rather a rich man and a beggar who was placed at his gate. Jesus spoke the parable concerning the rich man who lived his life lavishly an luxuriously, was clothes in purple, and undoubtedly enjoyed all the pleasures of this life. The poor beggar named Lazarus who was placed at his gate would have desired to eat from the crumbs which fell from this rich man’s table. This version rich man enjoyed all the pleasures of this life and undoubtedly was never without, and was never in want, whereas the poor beggar named Lazarus struggled with starvation and sores upon his body. What’s so intriguing about this parable is that we are never given the name of the rich man, but we are given the name of the poor beggar who was placed at the gate of the rich man. The rich man would die without his name being mentioned, whereas this poor beggar had a name, and had his name spoken within the parable.
Along these lines of the rich man being nameless as set against and contracted against the name of this poor beggar being known, we find within this parable that when both the rich man and Lazarus died, this rich man found himself in hell and in torments, while Lazarus found himself being ushered into and unto e bosom of Abraham. What is so peculiar and interesting about this parable is that prior to the death of both men there is no indication that this rich man did anything to help this poor beggar who was placed at his gate. Undoubtedly this rich man was aware of the presence of this poor beggar at his gate, and maybe even passed him while traveling outside of and away from his estate. Please don’t miss this, for while the name of this rich man is not mentioned—either in this life, or even in death—the name of this poor beggar was mentioned in both life and death. Please mark this reality and mark it well, did there is not a doubt in my mind that each and every day we encounter people all around and before us who clearly and obviously have needs within their lives. There is not a doubt in my mind that each and every one of us has encountered and perhaps continues to encounter those before and those around us who are in need and in want. As I sit here this morning and read the words which Jesus the Christ spoke within this parable, I am quickly drawn to the tremendous reality that the name of this rich man was not mentioned a single time—either in this life, nor in the next life—and there is very little that is known about him. The only thing that we know about this certain rich man was that he was obviously rich, that he was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. Aside from these three distinct realities—rich, clothed in purple and fine linen, and faring sumptuously—we know absolutely nothing about this rich man. What’s more, is that outside of and apart from his material wealth and possessions and how he lived his life, the name of this rich man wasn’t mentioned once within this parable—neither in life, nor in death. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this tremendous and incredible reality, for it clearly demonstrates the reality that it is possible to be rich, it is possible to be clothed lavishly, and it is possible to live our lives lavishly and live our lives luxuriously, and yet there is nothing that is known about us—either in this life, or in the next. It is possible to have all the money in the world, to live our lives lavishly, and to be clothed in fine garments, and yet we are doing nothing more than living our lives in obscurity without any mention of our name, or even who we are.
What I find to be so absolutely incredible and intriguing about this parable which Jesus spoke on this particular occasion is that while the name of the rich man was not known in this life, nor in the next, the name of this poor beggar was known in both. At the very outset of the parable Jesus speaks about the rich man and his being clothed in purple and fine linen, and faring sumptuously, whereas Jesus would go on to speak about this poor beggar who was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desired to be fed with and from the crumbs from his table. There is something else that is known about this poor beggar outside of and apart from his need and condition, and that is his name. It would have been one thing for Jesus to speak this parable and describe both the rich man and how he lived, and this poor beggar and how he lived, and not mention the name of either individual, however, this simply isn’t the case within the parable. If you read this parable you will find that as set against and contrasted with the rich man, the name of this poor beggar was given and provided. THE BEGGAR HAD A NAME! THE POOR BEGGAR HAD A NAME! What’s more, is that I am convinced that this rich man knew the name of this poor beggar who was laid at his gate, for in death, in hell and in torments we find this rich man crying out to Abraham to have Lazarus dip the tip of his finger in cool water and place it upon his tongue for he was in torment. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this, for with these words we are given a clear indication concerning this poor beggar, and that in this life he was known by name unto this rich man. There is not a doubt in my mind that this rich man was not only aware of the fact that there was a poor beggar laying outside his gate, but he was also aware of the name of this beggar. Oh, I can’t help but wonder what it was like when this rich man first learned the name of this poor beggar who was laid at his gate. I wonder what it was like when this rich man learned that this poor beggar actually had a name, and was more than simply his need and condition. Oh, if you are reading the words within this writing, I need you to catch this with everything that’s in you, for there came a point within this rich man’s encounter with this poor beggar when he realized and recognized that this poor beggar was more than simply his need and condition, and actually had a name. There is not a doubt in my mind that there came a point within the life of this rich man when he encountered the name of the beggar at his gate, and discovered that this man was more than simply a poor beggar full or sores and starving to death.
This actually leads me to an incredibly powerful truth that must be carefully understood both in this life, as well as in the next life. I am sitting here this morning and I can’t help but be drawn to the tremendous and incredible reality that within this parable the poor beggar’s name was mentioned, whereas the name of the rich man was never mentioned. I can’t help but think about and consider the tremendous fact that the name of this poor beggar was mentioned—not only in this life, but it was also mentioned in the next life. This is a reality which I am completely and utterly convinced we need to recognize and understand, for it brings us face to face with the tremendous reality that the needs which we encounter on a daily basis are more than simply a need and a face. It is so easy to look upon the various individuals we pass by and encounter on a daily basis and merely know them by their faces, or even by their condition and need, and yet we never take the time to recognize and understand that these individuals are people and human beings just like us—people who have names and have stories. In all reality, I have spent three plus years working in two major cities within the United States—first, the city of Philadelphia, and second, the city of Boston. In each city I have taken the train in in order that I might get to work each day. Upon walking from the train station to where I work I have passed by perhaps hundreds of men and women who have been sitting on the sidewalks or stoops of buildings and have had a plastic or paper cup in their hands begging for something from someone—anyone really. I have passed by individuals who have laid cardboard boxes down on the ground in doorways in order that when they sleep outside, and when they sleep on the ground they wouldn’t have to sleep on the dirty ground. I have seen men and women who have used painters blankets to cover themselves up at night in order that they might stay and remain warm. I have seen men and women carry what is most likely their entire livelihood on their shoulders in backpacks, or perhaps multiple backpacks, and even in shopping carts which they wheel around from place to place. Even as early as this morning as I was a walking to my local Starbucks I passed by a couple who were fast asleep in the doorway of a local business. This couple quite honestly looked so peaceful, and I couldn’t help but look upon them and consider the fact that they had each other to cope and deal with that they experienced in this life. This is not true of everyone who I come across while walking to work, or even walking from work on a daily basis, for there are countless men and women whom I walk and pass by who appear to have no one and who appear to be all alone. They don’t have a girlfriend, or spouse, or someone they care about to be with them in this life, and are forced to endure the trials and struggles of this life alone and without the help, love, care and support of others. What an incredible tragedy it is to be in this life and have absolutely no one who can either participate in the struggle with us, or walk with us in the midst of the struggle which we face. This couple which I saw lying together in this doorway was actually quite remarkable and interesting, for this is not true of everyone whom I encounter on a daily basis.
I am sitting here this morning and I am drawn to the fact that the needs which we encounter on a daily basis have a name, and are more than simply their face and the condition we find them in. Time after time I walk along the same road in order to get to Starbucks before work each morning, and time after time I walk along the same road to go to the train station as I come from work, and each time I do I witness and encounter different men and women who are outside on the sidewalks looking for someone to help them and someone to take an interest in them. I see countless men and women who are looking for someone to meet them in the place of their need and in the place of their want. With that being said, I have to admit that there are certain times when I see the same faces each and every day—both in the morning, as well as in the late afternoon after work. There are times when the same faces and the same people are before me as I walk to and from work, and even as I walk on my break. With that being said, I have to admit that I rarely take the time to think about and consider the fact that these men and women are more than simply their needs, their condition, their wants, and their struggle in this life. The individuals I witness and experienced on a daily basis are more than simply a need and a condition, but actually have a name. If there is one thing the parable of the rich man and the poor beggar reveals it’s that the poor beggar has a name. What’s more, is that not only does the poor beggar have a name, but the poor beggar’s name was known both in this life, as well as the next. I am convinced that we recognize and understand this tremendous reality, for how many times do we think about—much less even consider the fact that the needs before and around us have a name? How many times do we actually take the time to think about and consider that the needs before and in front of us actually have a name, and are more than just a face, a need, a struggle, and perhaps even a condition? What’s more, is how many times do we spend more time and emphasis learning the names of the rich and the famous and we have absolutely no room and space for the names of those who are truly in need? I remember a show that used to be on the television bearing the title “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” and the entire premise of the show was to document and describe the lives and lifestyles of the rich and famous in this life. What’s more, is that there is even a list that is out entitled “Forbes 500,” which is a list that describes the five hundred wealthiest people in the earth. This is actually quite tragic and alarming, for it appears that we as a culture and society spend more time learning the names and learning the lifestyles of the rich and the famous, and we spend very little time learning the names of those before us who actually have needs, and those whose names are often ignored and overlooked. In all reality, I would dare say that we do a great disservice in this life when we focus all our attention on the names and the lifestyles of the rich and the famous, the powerful and the wealthy, and we care absolutely nothing for those who spend their lives in need and in want. Oh how our lives would change dramatically and drastically if we devoted it to learning the names of those individuals who are truly struggling in this life.
I am sitting here this morning, and I can’t help but think about and consider what it would be like to document the lives of those who are in dire need in this life—those who are more often than not marginalized and victimized in the here and the now. Please note that I am not speaking of seeking to make them into a public spectacle, and to somehow violate their privacy. What I am speaking about is actively taking an interest in the lives of those before and around us who have very real and very specific needs, and who spend their days essentially “at the gates” of the rich and the powerful. What would happen if we spent our days and our time traveling to the places where the needs of people are really present, and actually took the time to not only learn their stories, but also learn their names? What would happen if we spent our time traveling within the cities before and around us and truly desired to learn the names and stories of those whom we encounter each and every day? I fully recognize and understand that there might be some individuals who would not want their needs exposed and broadcasted in this manner. I fully recognize and understand that there might be some individuals who would have absolutely no desire with their names, their faces, and their stories being put on camera, and some might actually prefer to be anonymous. Even as I am sitting here this morning and thinking about and considering this, I can’t help but wonder what the purpose of this would be. I mean, as much as I wonder what the purpose of learning the stories and lifestyles of those on the streets of our cities are like, I struggle with the purpose of a show bearing the title of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” What possible purpose could there be for a show that documents and describes the lifestyles of the rich and the famous, and what possible edification could we receive from such a show? What’s more, is that I can’t help but wonder what possible encouragement and what possible purpose there is in learning the names of those on the “Forbe’s 500” list in this life, and even in the next. With that being said, if I were to ask you to list twenty names on the Forbe’s 500 list, could you do it? What about naming 15 on the Forbe’s 500 list? What about naming 10 from the Forbe’s 500 list? Alright, I’ll give you the option of naming at least five whose names are in the Forbe’s 500 list. Could you do it? Do you even know a single name on this list? If I am being honest with you who are reading this writing, I can say that I do not know a single name on this list, nor was I ever taught their names in school, or throughout my lifetime. I was never encouraged to learn the names of those who are on the Forbe’s 500 list, and quite honestly, I don’t think I ever will. I might out of curiosity Google the list and look over the names on the list, but I wouldn’t devote those names to memory, or commit myself to knowing and learning their names.
The more I think about and the more I consider this particular parable, the more I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to document the stories from the streets and to truly understand the names of those individuals who spend their days in dire need and in search of those who will help them in any way they can. Quite honestly, I am convinced that we can help these individuals out more than we let on, and more than we actually do. We may be content throwing a single dollar their way, or perhaps even our loose change, and that might appease our conscience and make us feel good in the moment, but the truth of the matter is more often than not we can do so much more than we actually do. I am finding myself wondering what would happen if we actually followed these individuals who spend their lives on the streets and actually learned their stories, and actually learned their lifestyles. What would happen if we gained permission from some of these individuals on the streets in order to spend time with them—not merely doing a photo op or video grab—but truly getting to know them and learn who they are and their stories. The poor beggar in this parable was more than simply a poor beggar laid at the gate of a rich man, and was more than just a man whose body was full of sores and who starved each and every day desiring the crumbs from this rich man’s table. This poor beggar had a name, and his name was not only known and mentioned in this life, but it was also mentioned in the next life. What’s more, is that this poor beggar’s name wasn’t mentioned in death by Abraham at first, nor was it even mentioned by the angels in heaven, nor even by the Father Himself. The name of this poor beggar was mentioned in death by the rich man at whose gate he lie day after day full of sores and desiring the crumbs from the rich man’s ‘table. It wasn’t the angels in heaven, nor even Abraham himself who first mentioned the name of this poor beggar, but it was the rich man himself who mentioned his name. I am completely and utterly convinced that there is a tremendous truth that is contained within this parable concerning the names and stories of those before and around us who live their lives in need, in want, and in pure and utter lack. What if we committed and devoted ourselves to learning the names and the stories of those individuals on the streets, and didn’t merely seek to learn the names, the stories and the faces of the rich and the famous in this life? What if we actually took the time to learn the names and stories of those whom are before and all around us on a daily basis and took a genuine interest in their lives? What would happen if we recognized and understood that these individuals are more than simply a paper cup in their hands, or cardboard boxes laid on city stoops, or painters blankets, and the like? What would happen if we actually took the time to invest in the lives of these individuals rather than and instead of focusing on ourselves, and even on the lives of the rich and the powerful, the famous and the wealthy?
With all of this being said, I mentioned earlier in this writing concerning two distinct passages which are found within the New Testament—the first passage is found in the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and the second found in the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew. Before I present you with these two passages I must preface them both by describing how the passage found in the New Testament gospel of Matthew describes the sheep and goats being separated and divided on the right hand and on the left hand before Jesus the Christ in glory, and the fundamental difference between the two. This passage found within the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew perfectly describes the tremendous need we have in this life and on a daily basis to live our lives beyond ourselves, and to actually invest ourselves in the needs, the lives, and the stories of those individuals who find themselves in tremendous need and want within this life. What’s more, is that when you understand who and what the goats represent, you can then understand the words which are found in the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation concerning another who was clothed in purple and who lived luxuriously. I invite you to consider if you will the words which are found—first in the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, and second in the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Consider if you will the words which are found in each of these passages:
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? OR naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:;34-46).
“And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither: I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color,and decked with gold and previous stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthy ness of her fornication: and upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition. And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as of yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beat, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 17:1-18).
The words which we find in each of these passages not only describe the separation of the sheep and the goats, but they also describe the great whore who was clothed in purple and scarlet, decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, and having a golden cup in her hand which was full of abominations and filthy ness of her fornication. Within the passage concerning the great whore, we find that she caused the kings of the earth to commit fornication, and how the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication. I can’t help but be reminded of this great whore when I read about the rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and who fared sumptuously, and see somewhat of a comparison and similarity between the two. Undoubtedly this woman—this great whore—cared absolutely nothing for the needs of those before her in this life upon the earth, and did absolutely nothing to bring relief and help in the midst of their situations and circumstances. Undoubtedly this woman cared about nothing else but herself, and even the kings of the earth followed in her footsteps and cared nothing for the needs of those who were before and all around her. That which separated the sheep from the goats was simply and solely in what they did and didn’t do to the least of these. We dare not, we cannot, we must not miss and lose sight of this tremendous reality, for to do so would be to miss out on that which is truly found within the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. What we need to realize and recognize when reading this particular parable is not only that this poor beggar had a name, and that this poor beggar was in serious. Need and in dire situations, but what we do and how we respond when we encounter a similar need and a similar individual within our lives. What do we do when the needs of others are laid at the gates of our lives? How do we respond and how do we react when the needs of others are laid at the gates of our lives and we are confronted with it day after day? I know that I myself pass by the needs of those who are laid at the gates of the city of Boston each and every day. What’s more, is that I would even dare say that the same needs are laid at the gates of the city of Cambridge, and are more often than not ignored and overlooked. What are we doing with the needs of men and women which are being laid at the gates of our cities? How do we react, and how do we respond to such needs when they are presented before and unto us? Are we really willing to do what is necessary to help minister to and meet the needs of those who are before and around us, and actually move beyond ourselves and work with what really matters and what really counts? There is a reason the goats were separated from the sheep, and there is a reason why Jesus spoke this parable, for it was intended on bringing us face to face with what we do with the needs of those who are before and around us, and how we truly do interact with “the least of these” which are before and around us each and every day.