Scripture Reference: Luke 16:19-31
Two people in this parable find themselves separated from each other. They are separated by man-made systems that were built during their lives and now they find themselves separated by a great chasm in the afterlife.
We are told in verse 19 that “the rich man was dressed in purple and fine linen and (that he) feasted sumptuously every day.” By contrast, in verse 20, is the injured and starving poor man, who was apparently dumped at the gate of the rich man.
The rich man was not only in great health, but he was dressed in the finest clothes and ate all he wanted and more. Purple and fine linen were reserved for the wealthiest and highest in status. It’s likely the poor man did not even have a change of clothes. We also know from this story that the rich man ate very well.
In Greek, the word, translated as “‘sumptuously’ denotes brilliance and splendor.” The word used for “feast” is a word that denotes special occasions.1 So, while the poor man starved, the rich man had Thanksgiving dinner every day.
There are occasions on which some splurge on an expensive restaurant. We pay a premium to feel special and to dine in an atmosphere of opulence. In these moments, the night out becomes more than a shared meal, it is a dining experience. We pay a premium to feel special for a moment. The white tablecloths, fine china, linen napkins, and silver settings take us away into another world. In this case, we encounter a man who splurges in this way every night. It has been said that looking at one’s spending will prove one’s priorities.2 Looking at the rich man’s spending, it is clear that his priority was in separating himself from the needs of others and setting himself up for comfort and overindulgence.
What is it that separates us from each other in this life and what bearing do these separations have in the life to come? I believe the deciding factor on how our life in the hereafter is affected is the heart behind our behaviors.
We know there will always be poor people. Jesus said so in Matthew 26:11. Does being poor automatically create a connection between you and God and does being rich automatically consign you to eternal torment? Not a chance. I can say that with complete assurance because I know that our salvation is granted through faith in Jesus Christ. That means that poor people who come to God through faith in Jesus Christ are saved by their faith, not by their poverty. Rich people are saved also, through their faith.
This parable is not directed toward rich people simply because of their wealth. It is directed specifically to the Pharisees. More generally applied, it is also directed toward any who think their social status on Earth has solidified their place in heaven. They use their social status to separate themselves and others from God.
There is separation. Separation of classes and separation between rich and poor, humble and proud, heaven and hell. The Pharisees separated themselves from everyone else, setting themselves up as the gatekeepers of God’s Word and of God’s temple. They interpreted the law to justify themselves and create a barrier between themselves and the rest of God’s people.
In their pride and love for money, the Pharisees were as guilty as the rich man in the parable, in that they gathered wealth solely for personal gain. Like the rich man, the Pharisees retained control and power over others and, like the rich man, they oppressed the poor and needy.
Here is our main point which serves as an important warning, there is separation in many things in this world but the worst kind of separation is that which eternally separates ourselves or others from God.
Eternal separation from God is only an extension of the separation we created here on Earth. God does not separate Himself from us, we separate ourselves from God. Once we die, the chasm we worked so hard to create becomes one that is impossible to cross. Our calling is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We carry out this calling by connecting others to God.
We have to answer two questions to clarify our main point and to keep from this eternal separation. how do we separate ourselves from God and how do we separate others from God?
First, how do we separate ourselves from God? We separate ourselves from God by becoming unteachable. Some of us have grown up in church and feel like we have heard it all. We have studied and listened and have come to the point that we don’t feel we have any more to learn. So, we start shutting down. We reason that with so many interpretations of Scripture, what use is it to listen to preachers and teachers? We decide we know enough, we have heard enough, and decide it is time for us to live according to our own understanding. Following this line of thinking, some have stopped going to church.
Some have let hurt feelings take them out of the fellowship of the disciples of Christ and in so doing have removed themselves from the place of worship, corporate prayer, shared smiles, warm hugs, friendly handshakes, and loving smiles.
We become unteachable in separation from the things of God. Separation leads to isolation. Isolation leads to destruction. Whether it is isolation from other people who have the Holy Spirit of God within them or isolation from God’s love, isolation is deadly. If you are too ill to get out of the house, make sure someone with the Spirit of God within them is visiting you regularly. If ours is the only voice to which we are listening, we will become and remain unteachable.
We separate ourselves from God by becoming unreachable. We become unreachable by creating impenetrable barriers with our pride. We create unpassable chasms by dulling our senses with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, pornography, possessions, food, and activities, among other things. We find it difficult to take time to listen to an invisible God amidst the noise of the constant temptations around us. So, we don’t stop. We don’t notice that our soul is poor and starving at the gate because we are too busy feeding our flesh and giving in to distraction.
Second, how do we separate others from God? How we treat others has an eternal bearing because it is a matter of the heart. Our hearts have separated from the love of God and we have extended that separation to others.
We have separated ourselves into white, black, Hispanic, and Korean churches. We have pushed people away from our tables of fellowship, pushed them out of our churches, and placed them out of their minds. Yet, they are no less precious children of God than anyone else. All of God’s children are highly valued.
The outcast, the unloved ones, the humble and lowly tend to be separated in our society and yet find a connection with God much easier than those who are well off. Why? Because they are hungry and they know it! They are starving for fellowship, thirsting for righteousness, seeking to know more of God and learn more about how to please God. The outcast who has found the love of God through Jesus Christ has made it past the judgmental glances and words of the Pharisees to find freedom. They have heard words of acceptance, love, and deliverance from their Savior Jesus Christ, and have gratefully run into the presence of God.
The torment of eternity comes to the faithless and the proud whose hunger is fed by the things of the world. They have great celebrations, the best of everything, the biggest churches, and the best houses. On the outside, they appear well off, while in reality, their spirits are isolated and empty. Their chasm has been created and unless they start finding ways to connect themselves and others to God, their souls face eternal separation.
The worst kind of separation is that which eternally separates ourselves or others from God. Make a decision now to stop separating yourself from God. Stop separating others from God. The time to connect to God is now. The time to connect with other children of God is now. Invite God in. Invite others to come. Just as you are. Just as they are. Drop the barriers. Lay down the pride. Be teachable. Be reachable. Pray to God and enter through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
- Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Gospel of Luke. Edited by Daniel J. Harrington, Kindle Edition ed., vol. 3, Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 1991.
- Sethi, Ramit. “How You Spend Money Reflects Your Priorities.” Business Insider, 19 February 2019, http://businessinsider.com/how-you-spend-money-reflects-priorities-2019-2. Accessed 26 September 2022.