Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 13 (1898)


Ms 81, 1898

The Rich Man and Lazarus


June 23

Portions of this manuscript are published in TDG 183.

“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.” [Luke 16:19-21.] 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 1

There was a marked contrast in the lives of these two men. The rich man was a Jewish nobleman. He was clothed in purple and fine linen. His robes were such as kings and nobles wore. He fared sumptuously every day. It was not an occasional feast of good things; it was his usual custom. But Lazarus lay at his gate, “desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.” [Verse 21.] 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 2

The rich man was not of the class to which the unjust judge belonged, who neither feared God nor regarded man. He claimed to be a son of Abraham. He did not treat the beggar with violence. He did not tell him to take himself away because the sight of him was disagreeable. He even went so far as to think that if the poor, loathsome specimen of humanity was in any way comforted by beholding him, the rich man, when he entered his gates, he might remain. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 3

But the rich man was selfishly indifferent. He did not study what he could do to relieve the condition of the beggar at his gate. Lazarus was in great need of help; for he was without friends, home, money, or food. Yet he was allowed to remain in this condition day after day, while the wealthy nobleman had his every want supplied. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 4

There were no sanitariums in those days, to which the sick might be taken. The suffering and needy were brought within sight and hearing of those to whom the Lord had entrusted means, that they might receive help and sympathy. Thus it was with the beggar and the rich man. But the one who was abundantly able to relieve the suffering of his fellow creature, lived to himself, as many live today. A neglect to impart of our means to the needy and suffering imposes a weighty responsibility upon us. All covetousness is condemned as idolatry. All selfish indulgence in food and clothes, while there are those who are hungry, naked, and homeless, is an offense in God’s sight. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 5

Everything with which the rich man was surrounded, his round of amusements, the praise and flattery of his friends, minister to his selfish enjoyment. The pleasure loving society which he chose was very amusing and entertaining, and so engrossed his mind and occupied his time that he forgot the God of eternity. He had knowledge and talents, but he did not improve them. In entire forgetfulness of the final account he must render to God, they were devoted to pleasure. He had every opportunity to understand the Word of God and practice its teaching, but he failed to do this. The all-important thing was neglected. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 6

God had made the rich man a steward of His means, and it was his duty to attend to just such cases as that of the beggar. The command had been given, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself.” [Luke 10:27.] The rich man was a Jew, and he should have known the commands of God. But he entirely forgot that he was accountable to God for the way in which he was using his entrusted means and capabilities. The Lord’s blessings rested upon him abundantly, but he used them selfishly, to honor himself, not his Maker, as if by his own might and power he had acquired his possessions. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 7

In proportion to his abundance was his obligation to use his gifts for the uplifting of humanity and the relief of the needy. This was the Lord’s command, and he should have realized constantly that all his treasures were only lent to him, and that the tithe of all was to be returned to the Lord, besides gifts and offerings which were to be made to help just such ones as Lazarus. But he did not think of the tithe, which he should have rendered to God to acknowledge that he was as much under obligation to God for all that he possessed as was the beggar to him for the crumbs which fell from his table. Every day he was robbing God. He lent money for usury and took interest for what he loaned, but he gave no interest to God for what had been lent him. He used for self the money that should have been appropriated to the service of God. He was God’s property by creation and by redemption, but he was so engrossed in the society of his friends, he had so many things to amuse him, that he lost all sense of his accountability to co-operate with God. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 8

The time came when a change took place in the condition of the two men. The poor man suffered day by day, but he patiently and quietly endured. Had he become importunate, had he made himself conspicuous by any outward demonstration, he would not have been allowed to remain beside the rich man’s gate. As it was, some of the fragments which otherwise would have been given to the dogs, were given to him by the servants. In course of time, he died and was buried. There was no one to mourn for him, but by his patience in suffering, he had witnessed for Christ. At his death he is represented as being carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 9

Lazarus represents the suffering poor who believe in Christ. When the trumpet shall sound and all that are in their graves shall hear Christ’s voice and rise to life, they will receive their reward. His faith in God was not a mere theory, but a reality. His patient suffering was a test of his faith. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 10

Abraham’s bosom was used by the Jews to symbolize heaven. In this parable Christ gave a lesson to all who should live on the earth. He used language which would be intelligible to His hearers, meeting the people on their own ground, and within the sphere of their knowledge. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 11

The rich man fell sick, and as he suffered with a burning fever, he found that all his possessions could not bring him relief. He had failed to lay up treasure in heaven, and although surrounded with relatives and friends, with servants to anticipate every wish, he found no consolation. Then he understood what he should have known before, that earthly treasures cannot bring relief in sickness, or give fatness for the future life. It was now beyond human power to relieve his wants. Unprepared he had come to this hopelessness. He remembered Lazarus, and in his suffering called continually upon him to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his burning tongue. His conduct in his sickness was a great contrast to the patience and resignation manifested by Lazarus in suffering. A realization of his neglect tortured his diseased imagination, and he thought that he must be helped by the man he had neglected. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 12

He longed for Lazarus to minister to him. His ideas of the future life were expressed by his pleadings for help. As he suffered from disease, conscience made itself heard, and he prayed the only prayer that he could have been expected to pray. The petitions which had been made by the beggar troubled him, but he did not pray to God, but to Abraham. “Father Abraham,” he cried, “have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue.” [Luke 16:24.] 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 13

Thus the rich man showed that he placed Abraham before God, and relied on his relationship to Abraham for salvation. He depended on Abraham to relieve his tortured soul and cool his parched tongue. But although he claimed to be a son of Abraham, he was separated from Abraham by an impassable gulf, a character wrongly developed. Had Abraham been in his place during his lifetime, he would have looked with the deepest interest on Lazarus. But the rich man had carelessly neglected his suffering brother, and at the last there was a great gulf fixed between him and Abraham. It was the gulf of disobedience and transgression. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 14

Abraham obeyed God, following His Word in obedience and faith. In his old age God gave him Isaac, a son of promise. But to test him the Lord asked him to offer his son as a sacrifice. “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest,” He said, “and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” [Genesis 22:2.] In faith Abraham prepared to obey; but the Lord was satisfied, and stayed his hand, saying, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” [Verse 12.] But the rich man had refused even to impart of his abundance to the Lord’s suffering creatures. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 15

The thief on the cross offered his prayer to Christ, as to the Lord. “Remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom,” he said. [Luke 23:42.] And at once the response came, Verily I say unto thee this day (as I hang on the cross), thou shalt be with Me in Paradise. But the rich man prayed to Abraham, and in the parable Abraham is represented as answering, “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted and thou art tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that they that would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” [Luke 16:25, 26.] 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 16

Character is formed during probationary time, when grace is abundantly provided and offered to all men. If they do not realize their need, and fail to take hold of Christ’s grace by faith, if they waste their opportunities in self-pleasing, they are by disobedience deciding their destiny for eternity. By their own course of action, they fix an impassable gulf between them and God. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 17

“Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham, but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” [Verses 27-31.] 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 18

When Christ gave this parable, there were many in the Jewish nation in the pitiable condition of the rich man, using the Lord’s goods for selfish gratification, preparing themselves to hear the sentence, Thou art weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, and art found wanting. The rich man was favored with every temporal and spiritual blessing, but he refused to co-operate with God in the use of these blessings. Thus it was with the Jewish nation. The Lord had made the Jews the depositaries of sacred truth. He had appointed them to be stewards of His grace. But they exalted themselves, and gloried in the fact that they were children of Abraham. God sent His Son to warn them, but they would not receive Him. Standing among them Christ declared, “When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.” [John 8:28.] 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 19

To the Jews who believed on Him Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.” Obedience decides the fitness of any for discipleship. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [Verses 31, 32.] 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 20

The unbelieving Jews cavilled at these words, and said, “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man.” [Verse 33.] This was a falsehood, for they were at that time under the Roman yoke; but in order to oppose Christ, they uttered what they knew to be a lie. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 21

Christ might have presented before them the true condition of things in regard to this, but instead He said, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. ... If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed, (that is, according to the flesh); but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.” [Verses 34, 36-38.] 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 22

These words cut like a sword to the very citadel of the soul, and the Jews said angrily, “Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.” [Verses 39-40.] 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 23

Jesus recognizes no virtue in lineage. He taught that moral and spiritual connection supersedes all natural connection. Piety and true greatness exalts a nation. The Jews claimed to have descended from Abraham, but by failing to do the works of Abraham, they proved that they were not true children of his. Only those who are spiritually in harmony with him are reckoned as of true descent. Christ recognized the beggar as one who Abraham will take into the very heart of friendship, although he belonged to a class looked upon by men as inferior. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 24

Human sympathy should be cherished in every heart. It is an attribute of God, and is never to be banished. “All ye are brethren.” [Matthew 23:8.] God has laid upon men the responsibility of giving sympathy to their fellow men, of helping the needy, the wounded, the bruised. Many are demoralized by their own course of action, but who of the human family can understand, as God understands, the cause of their misery. There are in our world today many wounded, cheerless hearts who need relief. The Lord has agencies for brightening the lives of these disconsolate ones. We may each put our talents out to usury by lifting the clouds, and letting in the sunlight of hope and faith in Him who “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16.] 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 25

Christ has shown us that there is a time coming when the positions of the rich who have not made God their dependence, and the poor who have made God their dependence, will be reversed. Those who are poor in this world’s goods, yet who are patient in suffering, and who trust in God, will one day be exalted above many of those who hold the highest positions this world can give. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 26

The Lord deals not with us as men deal. He gave His Son at an immense sacrifice, that He might win us to His service; and with Him He gave all heaven. This He did to show the estimate He placed on the beings He had created. And He bears long with us. He shows no favoritism. If the one to whom has been entrusted many talents uses them to glorify God, the Lord will say to him, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” And if the one who has fewer talents, fewer riches, fewer opportunities, does his best, the Lord will say to him, “Well done,” as heartily as to the one who made more talents. [Matthew 25:20-23.] 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 27

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the great Teacher rolls back the curtain, showing that God is the foundation of all faith, all goodness, all mercy. God has demonstrated His love in a marked manner, and has declared that all who will hear and will to do the will of God, shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God. He would be pleased to have all enjoy the blessings of this life and of the future immortal life. But in order to have these blessings, we must comply with the conditions: 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 28

“It shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments, which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all the nations of the earth: and all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kind, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 29

“Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face; they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. ... The Lord shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways. ... And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand or to the left.” [Deuteronomy 28:1-7, 9, 14.] 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 30

“But it shall come to pass that if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments, ... the Lord shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly, because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me.” [Verses 15, 20.] 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 31

“Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: a blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, ... and a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you.” [Deuteronomy 11:26-28.] 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 32

God has given men their choice. The richest banquets of spiritual as well as temporal blessings are prepared for those who perfect a character after the divine similitude. The Lord sends His messengers with the invitation, “Come, for all things are now ready.” But many refuse the invitation, presenting various excuses as the reason why they cannot come. Then the Lord says to His messengers, “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.” When they return, saying, “Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room,” he says, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.” [Luke 14:17, 21-24.] 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 33

The closing scenes of this earth’s history are portrayed before us in the closing of the rich man’s history. There are many who though church members are yet unconverted. These may take part in the church service, they may occasionally read a verse of Scripture for their testimony, they may chant the Psalm, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God;” but they testify a falsehood. [Psalm 42:1.] They are no more righteous in God’s sight than the veriest sinner. They do not praise Him with the heart or the understanding. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 34

The soul that longs after the excitement of the theater, whose mind is full of love for dress and parade, who delights in games and horse racing, cannot serve God. Self-love and self-gratification are the Alpha and the Omega of his life. He has no inclination to war against the lust of the flesh. He longs to indulge appetite. He chooses the atmosphere of sin. He is suddenly snatched away by death, and he goes down to the grave with the character formed during his lifetime in co-partnership with satanic agencies. In the grave he has no power to choose anything, be it good or evil, for in the day that a man dies his thoughts perish. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 35

And when God’s voice wakens the dead, he will come from the grave with the same unholy appetites, and passions, the same likes and dislikes, that he cherished when living. If he has been a drunkard, he will rise with the same love for strong drink. Between him and the righteous there is a great gulf fixed; for God works no miracle to re-create a man who would not be re-created when every opportunity was granted him, every facility provided him. He could not be happy in the royal family, for he has not accustomed himself to find pleasure in contemplating God. During his lifetime, he took no delight in Him, found no pleasure in His service. Thus with his own hands he formed the chasm which nothing can bridge. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 36

Those who are represented by the rich man are abundant now, as they were in the days of Noah. Then men would not retain God in their knowledge, but measured themselves among themselves, and compared themselves with themselves, each seeking to excel the other. They would not pray to God, it was too much against their manner and customs. The Lord was to them as One afar off. They took no notice of Him, saying in their hearts, He seeth not, and hath no knowledge of our inventions. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 37

Today there is a class in our world who are self-righteous. They are not gluttons; they are not drunkards; they are not infidels; but they refuse every invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb. They will not drink the water of life. They desire to live for themselves, not for God. He is not in their thoughts; therefore they are classed with unbelievers. Were it possible for them to enter the pearly gates, they could have no right to the tree of life, because when God’s commandments are laid before them, with all their binding claims, they say, No. They could not serve God in heaven, because they do not seek to know Him here. They could not live in His presence, and they will feel that any place is preferable to heaven. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 38

God works in nature, gently but continuously, and thus He works in human hearts! He seeks to influence aright those for whom Christ has died. To learn of Christ means to receive His grace, which is His character. But those who do not appreciate and utilize the precious opportunities and sacred influences granted them, are not fitted to take part in the pure devotion of heaven. Their characters are not molded after the divine similitude. By their neglect they make a great gulf between themselves and the highest education, the highest, holiest service. 13LtMs, Ms 81, 1898, par. 39