Rich Man, Poor Man: The Power of Being Kind

by Kenneth R. Jenkins
(Savannah, GA USA)

Luke 16:19-31
I would like to which to preach on the subject from our Scripture that was in your hearing, a familiar story, a parable told by Jesus, “RICH MAN, POOR MAN: THE POWER OF JUST BEING KIND”.

There’s an observance on November 13th of every year called World Kindness Day. According to Wikipedia, World Kindness Day is to highlight good deeds in the community focusing on the positive power and the common thread of kindness of good which binds us. Kindness is a fundamental part of the human condition which bridges the divides of race, religion, politics, gender and location.

What if, the rich man in the parable that was in your hearing would have been kinder to Lazarus? Should the rich man show more mercy to Lazarus? To some, the answer would have been yes because it is a positive way; that common thread of kindness which binds.

The “players” cast in this story starts with Jesus, the master storyteller who tells this story so elegantly and so masterfully giving us details to every “player” in this story.

Then we have our two main characters, The Rich Man, who we do not have a name for, and the other main character, Lazarus the poor man. This is a tale of two men and what their fate will take them both.

Let’s take a look at this rich man. First, this rich man was

1)THE HAVES, A MAN OF MEANS. This rich man had expensive taste and wore expensive clothes and probably had rich friends sipping on expensive champagne and wines treating life as a party every day. He probably was living in a high price, high rise somewhere like Miami or New York. But does this rich man knows what Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” This rich man doesn’t know further down the path of his life that his time of all the rich parties, friends, and all the glitz and glamor that goes with it will soon come to an end. The rich man represents those who had the truth. In Galatians 3:7, it tells us this, "Knowing ye thereof that which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” Then, there’s...

2)THE HAVE NOTS, A MAN WITHOUT MEANS. Lazarus, is a beggar that’s sitting in front of the rich man’s house. Lazarus would have eaten any scraps from the rich man’s table. This poor man we don’t know if he had family in order to help him and during that time there were no social services to assist those in that condition. There were no shelters to house those who fell in the cracks of society but a poor man who was hungry and physically sick.

Leviticus 25:35 tells us, "If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you”. As you see from this story, the rich man did not treat Lazarus as a person but treated him as if he was nothing. There’s a type of love that depicts this and that’s brotherly love, a love for one’s fellow man as a brother. The Word of God tells us that, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” Proverbs 17:17. The next events between these two men will change their lives forever. Please note that the crumb of food depicts God’s Word that’s found in Jesus Christ

3)DEATH OF TWO MEN. There were two deaths Jesus mentioned in this parable; two deaths with two different circumstances.

A) Lazarus, the same man who sat at the rich man’s gate, begging for food and had sores on his body suffering, died and the angels carried him to be with Abraham. The bosom of Abraham as in the King James Version means loving care and protection. The poor man was close to Abraham; this depicts the righteousness of God or the safety of God.

B) The Rich Man. However, the rich man died and was buried and when awakened, he was in hell. The rich man depicts the Jewish nation but today who has the truth or as it says in Revelation 3:17, “You say, ‘I am rich, I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing’. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” What the rich man realizes is that he sees in the distance both Abraham and Lazarus yelling at them wanting Abraham to have mercy on him sending Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool off his tongue because he was suffering in that fire. While the rich man was in hell, he did not receive that mercy in which there was as the Bible describes as “great chasm” or “great gulf” that is so great, he or anyone else will be able to cross it and so, the rich man will be a permanent resident in hell.

4) The lesson. There is a lesson here we all must learn that a truly repentive life is a changed life. There goes to show you that we should show compassion for others that are in need. What a lesson well taught! If and only if the rich man had learned that lesson before putting down poor old Lazarus. If the rich man would have learned this lesson in the first place, he wouldn’t end up in hell. The lesson here to whoever is listening at the sound of my voice, love God, love others. Be kind to one another, it doesn’t matter who they are or color or gender or economic condition, be kind to one another.

ILLUSTRATION: A few years before he became the 26th U.S. president (1901–1909), Theodore Roosevelt got word that his oldest son, Theodore Jr., was ill.

While his son would recover, the cause of Ted’s illness hit Roosevelt hard. Doctors told him that he was the cause of his son’s illness. Ted was suffering from “nervous exhaustion,” having been pressed unmercifully by Theodore to become the “fighter” hero-type he himself had not been during his own frail childhood. Upon hearing this, the elder Roosevelt made a promise to relent: “Hereafter I shall never press Ted either in body or mind.”

The father was true to his word. From then on he paid close attention to how he treated his son—the very same son who would one day bravely lead the landing of Allied soldiers on Utah Beach in World War II.

God has entrusted each of us with influence in the lives of others. We have a deep responsibility in those relationships, not only to spouses and children, but to friends, employees, and customers. The temptation to press too hard, to demand too much, to force progress, or to orchestrate success can lead us to harm others even when we don’t realize it.

For this very reason, followers of Christ are urged to be patient and gentle with one another (Col. 3:12). Since Jesus, the Son of God, came in humility, how can we withhold such kindness from one another?

Mark Twain was once quoted, “Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

The question is, which is easier, to show kindness to others or hating looking the other way?

Now, let’s put the Bible to this: Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, KINDNESS, goodness, faithfulness...”

Let’s go one further in the Word: Ephesians 4:32 says to us: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

I am reminded from Lorrane Hansberry in her play, A Raisin in the Sun, when Walter Lee Younger, the oldest son and his mama Lens Younger was talking after Walter Lee was supposed to take money that was set aside for his sister Beneatha Younger’s for college but instead, gave it to a so-called friend of his.

“Mama, you know it’s all divided up. Life is. Sure enough. Between the takers and the tooken. I figured it out finally. Yeah, some of us always getting tooken. People like Willy Harris, they don’t never get tooken..”

You see, the rich men and Willy Harrises of this world don’t see compassion they see a way to find some excuse to show no compassion to anyone else; they’re only concerned about self.

There was a lady I wish I could have met and that’s Mother Teresa. She showed the world what Jesus is really like’ showing compassion to those who are in need no matter where she goes in different countries. Here is a quote I want to leave with you along with a Scripture that goes with her wonderful quote. “I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus”

Matthew 25:35-40 English Standard Version

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Amen.

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