Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 14 (1899)


Ms 6, 1899

The Poor Rich Man


January 31, 1899

Portions of this manuscript are published in UL 45. +Note

“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; and moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.” [Luke 16:19-21.] 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 1

All this rich man possessed had been entrusted to him by God, who had made him his steward that he might minister to the homeless and the naked. In proportion to the means entrusted to us we are to impart to those in need. The Lord holds us as debtors to those around us. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 2

Had the rich man been a faithful steward, he would have shared his abundance with those who needed medical attention, wholesome food, clean garments, and spiritual enlightenment. But he used his all in self-service. He clothed himself in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day, forgetting the duties resting upon him as God’s steward. He did not help those suffering around him. He was responsible to God for the use of his means, and in the beggar who lay at his gate an opportunity was presented for him to show his love to God and his neighbor. But he left the beggar to receive attention from dogs better cared for than he was. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 3

The rich man should have regarded it as a privilege to do all in his power for the beggar. Loathsome as was the appearance of the one who needed help, it was the rich man’s part to do what he could for him. The more afflicted Lazarus was, the more sympathy he should have received. The rich man could have relieved his wants without suffering the least inconvenience himself. And even if he had had to practice self-denial, he would only have been following, in a limited way, the example of the Majesty of heaven, the King of glory, who gave him a probation that he might be a co-laborer with God in relieving the necessities of humanity. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 4

This is the work devolving upon all who have means. Every man will be called upon to render an account for the use of his entrusted means. Those who have abundance, and yet refuse to obey God’s commands bring a reproach upon their Lord, and will be judged according to their works. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 5

The doctrine of an intermediate existence was held by those who were listening to this parable. Just before Christ began to speak the parable, some of the Jews had been talking earnestly together, objecting to some of the points in Christ’s previous lesson and asserting that after death the departed spirits would converse with each other. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 6

Christ knew of the confused ideas held by the people, and he gave them a most wonderful lesson. Meeting them on their own ground, He framed His parable so as to inculcate important truths through their preconceived opinions. “It came to pass,” He said, “that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” [Verses 22-24.] 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 7

Christ held up before the Jews a moral looking glass, wherein they might see themselves in their true relation to God. He used the prevailing opinion to convey the idea he wished to make prominent to all—that no man is valued for his possessions, for all he has belongs to him only as lent by the Lord. A misuse of these gifts will place him below the poorest and most afflicted man who loves God and trusts in Him. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 8

Christ desired His hearers to understand that it was impossible for the rich man to obtain any help after death. “Son,” Abraham is represented as answering, “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 beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that all they which would pass from hence to you cannot, neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” [Verses 25, 26.] Thus Christ presented the hopelessness of looking for a probation at the close of the only time given in which to choose sides, in which to prepare for the judgment. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 9

The rich man had not abandoned the idea that he was a child of Abraham, and in his distress he called upon him for aid. “Father Abraham,” he prayed, “have mercy on me.” [Verse 24.] There is nothing in the parable to show that the prayer was offered to God. The rich man had a religious theory, but it went to further than a belief in Abraham. But Abraham was in his grave. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 10

The rich man represents the Jewish nation. The highest men in the nation worshipped Abraham, not God. They put their dependence in the fact that they were children of Abraham. “We be children of Abraham,” they said proudly, “and were never in bondage to any man.” [John 8:33.] When the crisis came, it was revealed that they had divorced themselves from God and had placed their trust in Abraham, as if he were God. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 11

Christ longed to let light shine into the darkened minds of the Jewish people. Infinite sorrow filled His heart because He could not impress them with the truth. Their minds were so filled with error that it seemed that no thing could enlighten their darkened understanding. Their spiritual condition was as pitiful in the sight of the heavenly universe as was the physical condition of the beggar in the parable. They would not do what they knew to be right. By refusing to come to Him who was the Light of the world, they were cutting themselves away from the source of all true light. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 12

Though surrounded by all the luxuries of life, the rich man was so ignorant that he put Abraham where God should have been. But if he had appreciated his exalted privileges, if he had responded to the divine call, and allowed God’s Spirit to mold mind and heart, he would have had an altogether different future. So with the nation he represented. If they had responded to the divine call, their future would have been entirely different. They would have shown true spiritual discernment. They had means sufficient to bless and enlighten the whole world. But they so far separated from the Lord’s arrangement that their whole life was perverted. They failed to use their gifts as God’s stewards, in accordance with truth and righteousness. Eternity was not brought into their reckoning, and many perished in their sins. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 13

Christ knew that at the destruction of Jerusalem the Jews would remember this lesson. And it was so. When calamity came upon Jerusalem, when the prophecy that the mothers would eat their own children was fulfilled, when starvation and suffering of every kind came upon the Jews, they remembered these words of Christ and understood the parable. They brought their suffering upon themselves by their proud resistance of the Redeemer. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 14

The rich man was eulogized by his fellow men for his riches. But though riches will clothe a man with costly raiment, though they will enable him to fare sumptuously every day, they will not gain salvation for him. The rich man passed by want and suffering on the other side. Thus his character was formed to do good to himself, but not to others. When it was too late, he realized his folly, and thought of his brethren, who would go on as heedlessly as he had done, living to please themselves. Then he made the request, “I pray thee, therefore, father, that thou wouldst send him (Abraham) to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto 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.” [Luke 16:27-31.] 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 15

When the rich man solicited additional evidence for his brethren, he was plainly told that should this evidence be given, they would not be persuaded. This request cut a reflection on God. It was as though the rich man had said, If you had more thoroughly warned me, I would not now be here. In his answer to this request, Abraham is represented as saying, They have been sufficiently warned. They had eyes, but they would not see the light. They had ears, but they would not hear the truth. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 16

This also was a representation of the Jewish nation. They had been given every spiritual advantage. Special instruction had been given the children of Israel in regard to their treatment of their brethren who had fallen into decay, the stranger within their gates, and the poor among them. When gathering in the harvest, they were to leave some of their fruit and grain for the poor to gather up after them. They were not to seek to gain everything for their own advantage, but were to remember those in need, and share with them. And God promised to bless them in accordance with their deeds of love and mercy. But like the rich man, they put forth no helping hand to relieve the temporal or religious necessities of suffering humanity. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 17

“They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. ... If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” [Verses 29, 31.] Thus He who is the Light of the world spoke to the Jewish nation. Christ’s last and crowning miracle was the raising of Lazarus, after he had been dead four days. The Jews were given this wonderful evidence of the Saviour’s divinity, but they rejected it, and Christ’s words were vindicated. Lazarus rose from the dead and bore his testimony before them, but they hardened their hearts against all evidence. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 18

The law and the prophets are God’s appointed agencies for the salvation of men, Christ said. Let them listen to these evidences. It is not evidence piled upon evidence that will convince men and lead them to repent. If they do not listen to the voice of God in His Word, the testimony of a witness raised from the dead would not be heeded. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 19

Those who obey Moses and the prophets will require no greater light, but if they refuse to receive the light, and fail to appreciate the opportunities God has graciously granted them, they would not hear if one from the dead came to them with a message. They would not be convinced even by this evidence, for those who reject the law and the prophets so harden their hearts that they will reject all light. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 20

The conversation between Abraham and the once-rich man is figurative. The lesson to be gathered from it is that every man is given sufficient light for the discharge of the duties required of him. The responsibilities of a man are proportionate to his opportunities and privileges. God gives to every one sufficient light and grace to do the work He has given him to do. If men do not do that which a little light shows to be their duty, greater light would only reveal unfaithfulness, neglect to appreciate the blessings given. This increase of light would only be more light to be disregarded. “He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in that which is least, is unjust also in much.” [Verse 10.] Those who refuse to be enlightened by Moses and the prophets, who ask for some wonderful miracle to be performed, would not be convinced if their wish were granted. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 21

The parable of Lazarus and the rich man shows how the Lord regards the two classes represented by these men. Men may have earthly honor lavished upon them, they may have the means of gratifying every desire, and yet they may possess no true riches. In the parable, the rich man’s possessions did not win him to Christ, the source of all true wisdom and riches. They did not fill his heart with tender sympathy for those suffering around him. The contrast between him and the beggar did not impress him as it should have done. He went on in his own way till it was too late for him to turn back. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 22

This parable shows us the way in which these things are estimated in the unseen world. There is no sin in being rich, if riches are not acquired by injustice. The rich man is not condemned for the riches he has. But condemnation rests upon him if he spends in selfishness the means entrusted to him, building grand houses, buying costly furniture, spreading a luxurious table. Far better might the money thus spent be laid up beside the throne of God in doing God’s service. Death cannot make any man poor who devotes himself, soul, body, and spirit, to seeking eternal riches. But the richest man who hoards his treasure for self cannot take any of it to heaven. He is weighed in the balances and found wanting. He has proved himself to be an unfaithful steward. During his lifetime he had his good things, but he was forgetful of his obligations to God. He failed to secure the heavenly treasure. He did not appreciate the honor God bestowed on him by making him an agent for His great firm. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 23

The rich man, who had so many privileges and such great advantages, is presented to us as one who should have cultivated his gifts so that his works should reach to the great beyond, carrying with them improved spiritual advantages. It is the purpose of redemption, not only to blot out sin, but to give back to man those spiritual gifts lost because of sin’s dwarfing power. Money cannot be carried into the next life; it is not needed there; but the good deeds done to win souls to Christ, the faithful investment of God’s entrusted treasure, these are carried to the heavenly courts. But those who selfishly spend the Lord’s goods on themselves, leaving their needy fellow creatures without aid, who do not advance God’s work in our world, dishonor their Maker. Robbery of God is written opposite their names. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 24

Poverty is not a sin unless by recklessness men bring poverty upon themselves. And even then, if they repent, they will be pardoned. He who is represented in the parable as having no riches, no comforts, no earthly enjoyments, had a title to a home in heaven. So today those who have faith in Christ as a personal Saviour, even though they may occupy a humble place in the world, are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ to an immortal inheritance. They have an insurance policy to eternal life. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 25

After enumerating the privileges of those who work on the plan of addition, constantly adding Christian attributes to the character, the apostle Peter declares that God will work on the plan of multiplication. “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue; whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. ... Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fail. For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” [2 Peter 1:2-4, 10, 11.] Here is our life insurance policy. Shall we not work on God’s plan to secure it? 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 26

Man is ever dear to the heart of God. The Creator of the world comes graciously near and still nearer to all those in every nation who receive Jesus as a personal Saviour. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 27

The Lord permitted the rich man and the poor man to live in this world as their home. But the rich man is described as looking upon himself as the owner of the capital entrusted to him. Though so greatly blessed, he did not return even the interest of his money to the Lord. He forgot, or did not care to remember, that he was responsible to God for all he possessed, because God had placed means in his hands to be expended aright. He thought he was superior to those who were poor. All his wants were anticipated. Physicians stood ready to hasten to his assistance to remove every disagreeable sensation caused by his own dissipation. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 28

He had all that money could procure, but he did not possess the riches that would have kept his account right with God. Much perfume was lavished upon his person, but the fragrance of a consecrated life was entirely lacking. The atmosphere surrounding his soul was a savor of death unto death. His love for pleasure and display kept him in a state of forgetfulness of God. Surrounded by companions who pleased and amused him, he lost sight of the fact that he had a soul to lose or save. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 29

At length there came a summons which he could not neglect. He is commanded by a power he cannot question or resist to quiet the premises of which he is no longer steward. The word goes forth, Cut down the unfruitful tree, that it may no longer cumber the ground. A wonderful change takes place. The once rich man is reduced to hopeless poverty, for the robe of Christ’s righteousness, woven in the loom of heaven, can never cover him. He who once wore the richest purple, the finest linen, is reduced to nakedness. The day has come when these garments must be laid aside. His probation is ended. He did not make his calling and election sure, and he is bankrupt for eternity. He brought nothing into the world, and he can take nothing out of it. His poverty is irredeemable. 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 30

Christ lifted the curtain, and presented this picture before priests and rulers, scribes and Pharisees. Look at it, ye who are rich in this world’s goods, and are not rich toward God. Will you not contemplate this scene? That which is highly esteemed among men is abhorrent in the sight of God. Christ asks, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” [Mark 8:36, 37.] 14LtMs, Ms 6, 1899, par. 31