Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Loving Your Neighbor Isn't Optional

The rich man had no concern for people in need.


Luke 16:19-23; 31 Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury.

20 At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.

22 “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and his soul went to the place of the dead.

There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side. 

31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Earlier in this chapter in Luke, we learned that Jesus wants us to use our money to benefit others, after being mocked, Jesus tells the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus to drive home the point.

The first character in the story is the rich man, this guy had it all, clothing, food, luxury, he even had a home that was nice enough to have a gate. He had the "American dream" type of lifestyle.

The second character in the story was a very poor man that had nothing but sores and hunger pains, he wasn't living the dream, he had to deal with sores all over his body and constant pains.

We don't know much about the rich guy, we just know that his main sins are neglect of the poor man and making an idol out of his wealth. He didn't realize that Jesus taught us that people matter more than money and that we should use money to win people to faith in Christ.

Jesus was very serious about loving our neighbor.

Matthew 25:42-46  For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger and you didn’t take Me in; I was naked and you didn’t clothe Me, sick and in prison and you didn’t take care of Me.’ 44 “Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?’ 45 “Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’ 46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The decision to believe that Jesus is God's Son and that he came to earth to pay for the consequences of your sin is your most important decision. The next decision is a natural followup to the first, loving your neighbor in the same manner that God loved you, the two are so closely related that it is almost impossible to separate them. The Apostle John had a hard time with the idea, he said:

Is that even possible?

1 John 3:16-17 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?
Friend or foe my neighbor deserves my love and compassion because of the undeserved love that I received from God through his son. Not loving the people that God has placed around me is not an option.

Lord, help me to love the way that you loved me.