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The Deceitfulness of Riches 1


In everyday usage, the word “riches” means the same as wealth. It refers to some quantity of valuable possessions. Every wealth is limited in its influence to where it attracts significant value. An article of wealth that is highly valued in one part of the earth may turn out to be totally worthless elsewhere. Currently, the equivalent weight of the finest gold is a universal yardstick of any given wealth.

However, the wealth of this present world has neither value nor influence in the world to come. Its usefulness is strictly limited to this physical world. It can only be applied to this temporal life. It is such riches that are only applicable to our present lives on earth but have no direct benefit for our lives hereafter, that Jesus would have us to consider here. These are possessions that are strictly associated with the cares of this present life. Jesus warns that our handling of these riches could endanger the Word of God in our lives, destroy the Word in our lives, and destroy our eternal destiny.

“And it came to pass, that the beggar, died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bossom: 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 on 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”. Luke 16: 22-24

It is appointed to every human being to die someday. Each of us must quit this physical life someday. This is one appointment that is irrevocable and irreversible. There is no disappointment for any person in this matter. Our appointment with death is firm and final, whether we are physically poor or rich, black or white, young or old, male or female, good looking or ugly. There is nothing special or new in dying. It is normal for all. Every sensible person should expect to die someday and be adequately prepared for this inevitable appointment.

What is by far more important than death itself is what comes after it. The Bible says, “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Heb. 9:27. What should concern us is not death itself. For, that is already appointed to us. It is a principal feature of our design as human begins. And it is perfectly alright. What we should focus our whole lives on earth to prepare for, is the judgment that we must face whenever death strikes. At this judgment, sorting out of souls is carried out based on what each person lived for and pursued, with his or her life, while on earth. God simply recalls what your life sincerely sought after on earth. And in all fairness, He grants you the true desires of your heart while you lived on earth.

Only those who genuinely lived in pursuit of godliness are granted heaven, that being the desire of their hearts. They are given a place to live with God forever in godliness, which they loved to pursue on earth.

Those who cherished and sought after impurity, uncleanness, covetousness, lying, and all other forms of ungodly and worldly pleasures, are also fairly granted the choice they have made on earth. They have their part with the unbelievers in the eternal torments of damnation in hell. But it is here and now, on earth, that each of us must choose the eternal lot that shall be ours at the judgment after death. So, it is written:

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap: for he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption;  but he that soweth to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting.” Gal. 6; 7-8

There is no big deal in death. It is what you reap after death that matters. So, our concern should be that of how to sow in life in order to guarantee an eternal harvest of joy after death. If we are careless, wanton, stubborn, and rebellious, it is not God we are mocking. A person who ignores the commands of his or her Maker is only mocking his or her own life. And what an eternal mockery! And what folly! May we receive counsel ever to carefully number our days so that we may apply our hearts to wisdom, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

So, Luke 16:22 tells us that both the beggar and the rich man eventually died. Verse 23 now tells us what became of their lives after death. Notice that their state is reported in the present tense:

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bossom.”

The lot a person secures in eternity is irreversible, irrevocable and unreviewable. It is the ever-present status of his precious soul.

All that this rich man’s life on earth earned for him in eternity was a place in the torments of hell. And I am somewhat impressed that he is not complaining that he is being unfairly condemned. Neither is he contesting the judgment he has collected on his earthly life, in spite of his unbearable torments. He, however, bears two eternal burdens on his doomed soul. He now bears an insuppressible burden for mission; he has a burning passion for souls and would now do anything necessary to prevent his neighbors from coming to hell. He also bears an eternal burden for any form of relief he could obtain to alleviate his unbearable torments.

Unfortunately, everything in hell is too late. The inhabitants of hell are eternally hopeless, and their every wish is already lost. When they lift up their eyes in hope, every help they see is eternally “afar off.”  Only unbearable torments are ever nigh at hand.

The curious thing here is that when this rich man in the torments of hell lifts up his eyes, he first sees Abraham in eternal glory, and then Lazarus, in Abraham’s bosom.

Wait a minute! Is this not the same Abraham of whom the Bible reports in Genesis 13:2, that he was “very rich”? Have you ever met a man who handled such stupendous wealth that his menservants alone numbered in several hundreds? Abraham once single-handedly sponsored, and successfully prosecuted a war against a team of four kings (Gen. 14:14-16).  Yet, when this doomed, late rich man cries out in hell, it is to this very rich man of “blessed memory” now dwelling in eternal bliss that he directs his cries.

This means that it could not simply be because this man was rich that condemned him to hell. If possessing riches on earth were a sin in itself, Mr. Abraham Terah would have been a senior tenant in hell long ahead of the doomed man’s arrival there. Similarly, poverty on earth does not automatically qualify a person for heaven in eternity.

Apparently, the traditional belief prevalent among the Jews at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry was the exact opposite. It was believed erroneously that riches were a mark of God’s approval, and the rich were considered sure candidates of heaven. The poor were believed to be only having a foretaste of their eternal doom. The shocking truth that Jesus brings to us all is that the rich can go to hell, just as well as the poor and that the poor can make it to heaven just as well as the rich.

But the question of particular interest to us here is: what could lead a rich person into eternal damnation? Could riches in any way play a role in sending a person to hell? Jesus says the snare to avoid, is the evil of “the deceitfulness of riches.” This then must be the victorious way to handle riches in this life without sealing our eternal doom thereby. This then is “the lamp unto our feet and the light unto our path” in this life as we do business or work otherwise to earn and to spend wealth.

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