The rich ungodly man
and the poor man Lazarus…
“And David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep.” (1 Samuel 25:4)
The Gospel is preached to the poor, not to the rich…
We are studying the kind of people with whom the godly woman likes to have fellowship. In our text, it is mainly David who is the subject of our study. David was already anointed as the king of Israel, but the authority was not yet given to him; Saul was still the king. And Saul was persecuting David. We have seen in our previous study that all those who want to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted either physically or psychologically and emotionally, or in both ways. Those who belong to Christ are separated from the sinful system of the world to be Christ’s own. They do not think and live like the world, but they have the mind of Christ, and they walk according to the Spirit of life. This is the kind of people with whom the godly woman likes to have fellowship, and she is not ashamed of them. Ungodly people hate those who are Christ’s and they consider such people “as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things” (1 Corinthians 4:13)… Their possessions are their god, and they worship their wealth. Whether they are poor or rich, they worship their possessions. This love of money is the root of all evil (cf. 1 Timothy 6:10). The poor believes that if he has money then he will be happy, and his ambition is to have money; thus he becomes a thief or a greedy person. The rich also believes that if he had more money then he would be happy, and his ambition is to have more money; thus he also becomes a thief or a greedy person, and he withholds his mercy from those who are in need, or he thinks that he will be considered a righteous man for giving money to the poor without having a changed heart… God who knows the hearts says that these people are never happy: “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10) The Kingdom is for those who are poor in spirit, whether they are materially rich or poor (cf. Matthew 5:3). God has chosen the poor, not the rich: “Hear, my beloved brethren: Has not God chosen the poor as to the world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to them that love him?” (James 2:5) Indeed, whether a person is poor or rich, when he is born of God and has become poor in spirit, he will then stop relying on his own possessions, and he will give up all his own possessions to become Christ’s disciple (cf. Luke 14:33). Thus, after conversion, all Christ’s disciples will be poor, i.e. they will not be relying on their own riches but on Christ alone, because all what they had is now Christ’s. This is indeed richness in faith, for faith relies on Christ and not on one’s own possessions. They are poor, but they make many rich, and they have nothing, yet they possess all things (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:10)… Therefore the majority of those who are Christ’s were originally the poor: “Blind [men] see and lame walk; lepers are cleansed, and deaf hear; and dead are raised, and poor have glad tidings preached to them” (Matthew 11:5). Just as walking is a miracle for the lame, and the cleansing is a miracle for the lepers, and hearing is a miracle for the deaf, and coming back to life is a miracle for the dead, in the same way the Gospel is for those who do not rely on their riches (are poor). This is because when one has nothing to boast of when he is saved, then the whole glory more clearly goes to God instead of the saved person’s wealth which is often falsely considered as having any value in his Salvation. The Apostle Paul explained this truth very deeply to the Corinthians when he wrote by the Spirit: “For consider your calling, brethren, that [there are] not many wise according to flesh, not many powerful, not many high-born. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world, that he may put to shame the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world, that he may put to shame the strong things; and the ignoble things of the world, and the despised, has God chosen, [and] things that are not, that he may annul the things that are; so that no flesh should boast before God. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who has been made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and holiness, and redemption; that according as it is written, He that boasts, let him boast in [the] Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31) This is why God has chosen the poor as to the world, as James 2:5 says. I know that this truth hurts many people today to whom a false gospel was preached and which they have received… I know that many people today, after reading what I just wrote, will go away grieving, just as a rich man once went away grieving after hearing similar words from the Lord (cf. Matthew 19:22)… Today people think that it will bring a greater glory to God if a rich man is saved… They think it will bring a greater glory to God if a famous man is saved… All these people are ignorant about the true Gospel which is preached to the poor, as Jesus said… It is only this true Gospel that gives the whole Glory to God alone, and thus he who boasts will boast in the Lord alone.
Going to a broken cistern that can hold no water…
Now, this man Nabal was rich, and he was shearing his sheep. This meant new income. In those times, when people were shearing their sheep, they used to have a great feast and invite friends (cf. 2 Samuel 13:23). In this occasion, Nabal also was having a great feast (cf. 1 Samuel 25:8,36). David, who was in the wilderness, was in hard material conditions with his men, as he was fleeing from the face of the king Saul. Although David and his men took the responsibility of protecting the flocks of Nabal in Carmel (see 1 Samuel 25:7,15,16) and had every right to collect a compensation from Nabal for the good that they had done to him, and yet David does not go to Nabal as a person who has a right, but as a person who asks for a favor (cf. 1 Samuel 25:8). This is the man about whom it is written: “I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after my heart” (Acts 13:22). Although David later, in his anger, claimed his right, but at first he approached Nabal as a man asking for a favor; and this is an Old Testament taste of what would be fully revealed in Christ who said: “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return, and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of [the] Highest; for he is good to the unthankful and wicked.” (Luke 6:35). Indeed, David was a man after God’s heart; he protected the flocks of Nabal without waiting for anything in return as something due…
So David chose a good time to send to Nabal, as he was shearing his sheep and had new income and could help David… Or was it really a good time?… Actually, there is no good time to approach a broken cistern that keeps no water… Whether you go to that cistern in summer or in winter or in spring or in fall, you will not find water to drink… It is the same when you go to a man who does not know God, although he is materially rich… Although Nabal was ready to spend on his pleasures and to invite friends to eat and drink, and yet he had no money for the Lord and for His servants; he’s a broken cistern… The rich ungodly man stores up treasure for himself and lives for himself and is not rich toward God (cf. Luke 12:21). He invites to his feasts those who can and will repay him, because he worships money and he does not love those whom he’s inviting… But the Lord said: “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, nor thy kinsfolk, nor rich neighbours, lest it may be they also should invite thee in return, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call poor, crippled, lame, blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they have not [the means] to recompense thee; for it shall be recompensed thee in the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14) This is about giving the poor from the best that we have, as what we have wholly belongs to Christ who loved those poor and gave Himself for them and for us, and not just His possessions… We should love people, and not only give them many things; indeed, man can give without love: “And if I shall dole out all my goods in food, and if I deliver up my body that I may be burned, but have not love, I profit nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3) We should give with love, and not just give. If my friend needs a laptop, for example, and if I have many laptops or I have the ability to give him a good laptop, but I give him only a bad one, a junk laptop from among my worthless laptops, then how is this a gift done according to the love about which the Lord was talking when He told us to invite the poor to our feasts?… We should love people, and not just invite them to our feasts so that we may get repayment. We should give sacrificially and not just give in order that we may be repaid in return… This is about organizing a great feast and working diligently to make that feast a successful one, and putting all our effort to present the best to our guests, having chosen our guests from the poor and crippled and lame and blind who cannot repay us… And when they come, we should be their servants and not their masters, as many have the habit to do; we should not have that state of mind that makes us think that we are doing something that deserves something in return or that we are doing a favor to those poor. They should not feel like they are beggars, or else we will be glorified as the source of their good instead of God… Dear reader, if you’re in Christ, then I am sure you are getting what I am saying… The Lord said: “Thus ye also, when ye shall have done all things that have been ordered you, say, We are unprofitable bondmen; we have done what it was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10) This was the thing that would be expected from the rich man towards the poor man Lazarus if that rich man repented, for “[there was] a poor man, by name Lazarus, [who] was laid at his gateway full of sores, and desiring to be filled with the crumbs which fell from the table of the rich man; but the dogs also coming licked his sores.” (Luke 16:20-21) Note that Abigail did just this with David; read with me: “And Abigail made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two skin-bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched [corn], and a hundred raisin-cakes, and two hundred fig-cakes, and laid them on asses.” (1 Samuel 25:18) And she said to David: “And now this blessing which thy bondmaid has brought to my lord, let it be given to the young men that follow my lord.” (1 Samuel 25:27) She gave him those goods not as his benefactress, but as his bondmaid; she didn’t think that she has any merit for doing that good work, because she thought that she was an unprofitable bondmaid and that she has done what was her duty to do (cf. Luke 17:10) by sharing that blessing (she calls it a blessing) which she received from the Lord and which she should share with others. The king David didn’t feel humiliated by her merciful act, because she didn’t do it with self-righteousness as many people do it today; they have received their reward in full (cf. Matthew 6:2), but Abigail receives her reward from the Lord in due time.
Who is honored in worldly feasts?
As worldly feasts are prepared by worldly people for the satisfaction of their worldly pleasures and for those who can repay them (thus again working to satisfy their worldly pleasures), so it is their pleasures and those rich men who are honored in those feasts. The Pharisees who were lovers of money (cf. Luke 16:14) loved “first places at suppers” (Luke 20:46). They loved first places at suppers, because they loved that honor which is given to the rich, and they loved money, because they loved that worldly glory which you can buy with money… This is the pride of life (the seeking of worldly glory by relying on worldly means) about which John wrote: “Love not the world, nor the things in the world. If any one love the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:15-16) Therefore the Lord Jesus said: “When thou art invited by any one to a wedding, do not lay thyself down in the first place at table, lest perhaps a more honourable than thou be invited by him, and he who invited thee and him come and say to thee, Give place to this [man], and then thou begin with shame to take the last place. But when thou hast been invited, go and put thyself down in the last place, that when he who has invited thee comes, he may say to thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have honour before all that are lying at table with thee; for every one that exalts himself shall be abased, and he that abases himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 14:8-11) We should seek the glory of poverty as to the world and not the glory of riches: “But let the brother of low degree glory in his elevation, and the rich in his humiliation, because as [the] grass’s flower he will pass away.” (James 1:9-10) Like the Pharisees, Herod also is an example of a person who sought the worldly glory of riches: “A strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee” (Mark 6:21). Those were the men honored in his banquet… Meanwhile, John the Baptist was in prison and had no place in his banquet… “But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces!” (Matthew 11:8) It was in this banquet that John was beheaded… It is in such banquets that the righteous who doesn’t rely on his riches is beheaded… “Go to now, ye rich, weep, howling over your miseries that [are] coming upon [you]. Your wealth is become rotten, and your garments moth-eaten. Your gold and silver is eaten away, and their canker shall be for a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as fire. Ye have heaped up treasure in [the] last days. Behold, the wages of your labourers, who have harvested your fields, wrongfully kept back by you, cry, and the cries of those that have reaped are entered into the ears of [the] Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived luxuriously on the earth and indulged yourselves; ye have nourished your hearts [as] in a day of slaughter; ye have condemned, ye have killed the just; he does not resist you.” (James 5:1-6)
Those are the people who are honored in worldly feasts: the ones who are rich and powerful and successful in the worldly sense… But how bad it is when the same thing happens in the Church, the place where the principles of the Heavenly Kingdom (read Matthew 5-7 and all what we have seen above) should be applied! “My brethren, do not have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, [Lord] of glory, with respect of persons: for if there come unto your synagogue a man with a gold ring in splendid apparel, and a poor man also come in in vile apparel, and ye look upon him who wears the splendid apparel, and say, Do thou sit here well, and say to the poor, Do thou stand there, or sit here under my footstool: have ye not made a difference among yourselves, and become judges having evil thoughts? Hear, my beloved brethren: Has not God chosen the poor as to the world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor [man]. Do not the rich oppress you, and [do not] they drag you before [the] tribunals? And [do not] they blaspheme the excellent name which has been called upon you? If indeed ye keep [the] royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well. But if ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law and shall offend in one [point], he has come under the guilt of [breaking] all.” (James 2:1-10) Indeed, brethren, if a man has an expensive car and a large house in which he only needs three rooms (these are just evident examples), then this doesn’t mean that he’s more blessed, as the Jews used to think, or that he deserves more honor for being successful supposedly by the blessing of God… On the contrary, this means that this is a disobedient man who could have chosen to buy a less expensive car and could give the rest to the poor, and he should have contentment, choosing to have only what is necessary, for “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” (1 Timothy 6:8). It is really sad that many people do not understand these basic facts included in the pure message of the Gospel, and that’s because they have been filled with that wrong teaching that tends to make money and possessions indirectly our gods… This is evidenced by the answers that come to many people’s mind when they read a question like the following: Would it be a sin for Jesus if He chose to be born in a palace instead of a manger?
The reason of worldly feasts
When a man has no true faith in God, he relies on worldly or personal means and not on God. Thus his happiness depends of the abundance or the lack of those means: when they abound, he is happy and makes feast… when they lack, he is sad… Such is the instability of the happiness that is in possessions… We see this around us: people are happy when they have more money or when they have more external or personal means to rely on… This is explained in a beautiful way in a Christian Confession which I read: “For without faith the nature of man can by no means perform the works of the First or Second Table. Without faith, it can not call upon God, hope in God, bear the cross; but seeketh help from man, and trusteth in man’s help. So it cometh to pass that all lusts and human counsels bear sway in the heart so long as faith and trust in God are absent.” (The Augsburg Confession, Article XX, Of Good Works). Lack of faith will lead to a reliance on humans and on human means. Thus the happiness of the natural man depends of those means: when they abound, he is happy and makes feast… In the days of David, as wool was one of the chief commodities in Canaan, so the shearing of sheep meant a great income. And with the abundance of wealth the happiness of the worldly Nabal comes, and so he makes a feast… But it should not be the same with the godly man or woman who has put his/her trust in God. Our joy should always be in the Lord: “Rejoice in [the] Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) Thus we can say with the psalmist: “Many say, Who shall cause us to see good? Lift up upon us the light of thy countenance, O Jehovah. Thou hast put joy in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their new wine was in abundance.” (Psalm 4:6-7) This is the only Joy which is stable. And when we make a feast for the abundance of material blessings from the Lord, let us always remember the words of our Beloved: “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, nor thy kinsfolk, nor rich neighbours, lest it may be they also should invite thee in return, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call poor, crippled, lame, blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they have not [the means] to recompense thee; for it shall be recompensed thee in the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14) This is the only right way to make a feast to the Lord’s Glory when we have abundance of material blessings.
We can’t serve two masters and have two reasons for our feasts; it’s either God or wealth: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and will love the other, or he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24). If you are truly Christ’s, then you have one Lord, Jesus Christ, and you have given up all your possessions to be Christ’s possessions used solely to His Glory: “Thus then every one of you who forsakes not all that is his own cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33) This is the only way to true happiness, free of fear: “Fear not, little flock, for it has been the good pleasure of your Father to give you the kingdom. Sell what ye possess and give alms; make to yourselves purses which do not grow old, a treasure which does not fail in the heavens, where thief does not draw near nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Luke 12:32-34) The only way to be able to give sacrificially without self-righteousness (for example, by selling precious things in order to help others, without making any mention to our left hand about what our right hand did — cf. Matthew 6:3) is by true faith which separates us from the false god called wealth to make us the children of the true God, the Father, and the servants of the only true Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus is our Joy, and in Him alone we rejoice.
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ