TO CHEW ON: " 'But Abraham said, "Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented." ' " Luke 16:25
The story Jesus tells of the rich man and Lazarus speaks to a range of topics, like treatment of the poor, the after-life state, and human skepticism. It also illustrates another Bible theme: Reversal.
My Thompson Chain Bible has a list of verses that show reversal—defined as "Changes in position because of God's intervention."
- From as far back as Old Testament prayers and psalms, Bible writers express the belief that God has the ability to generally turn things around: "He puts down one, / And exalts another" - Psalm 75:7.
- God can reverse the fortunes of rulers. This is illustrated in the story of Nebuchadnezzar where, shortly after Nebuchadnezzar congratulates himself on his position and power, he is afflicted (by God's hand) with mental illness - Daniel 4:28-33 (see also Psalm 107:41; Isaiah 40:23; Ezekiel 21:26).
- God can also reverse the fortunes of cities - Isaiah 26:5.
- Jesus spoke often of the reversal characteristic of the Kingdom of God: " 'But many who are first will be last, and the last first' " Matthew 19:30. (See also Mark 10:31; Luke 13:30).
- Referring to kingdom in specifics, Jesus skewed our idea of fairness in the story of the workmen, where the one-hour-workers got paid as much as the all-day-workers - Matthew 20:16.
- Another kingdom reversal comes in the area of stewardship, where Jesus said: " 'For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away' " Matthew 25:29.
- And in our passage we see the after-life reversal of the one who was poor, sick and despised during his life on earth - Luke 16:25.
Does this mean we should impoverish ourselves and make our lives difficult in order to have a better heavenly destiny? Hardly. The writer of my Bible's notes offers these thoughts:
"Wealth does not automatically condemn one to hell, nor does poverty in this life guarantee eternal joy. One's destiny depends upon one's relationship to God, which is often reflected in the attitude toward material possessions" - J. Lyle Story, Study notes on Luke, New Spirit-Filled Bible, p. 1422.
- Practically, this story and our look at reversal remind us to distrust what we see.
- We are challenged to understand there is more to the circumstances and conditions of people than what we see (and refrain from judging).
- And we can ask ourselves are there ideas, beliefs, and convictions within us that will someday cause us to awaken to a surprising reversal?
PRAYER: Dear Father, I know You see past my surface into my soul and spirit. Help me to see myself as You see me. And when I pray for the world, help me to keep in mind how capable You are of reversing things. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.