The stranglehold of self…

Luke 16:19-31

Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores.  As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.

 “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 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.

 “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’

 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’

 “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’

“But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’

 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’

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

 …‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’”…  A foreshadowing of what is to come perhaps, still speaking to his disciples but referencing the positions held by the Pharisees.  And this tale speaks to the coming reception to his own death and resurrection.  Christ’s death and resurrection were accomplished to bring an opportunity for remission from sins and with that an opportunity to be free from the stranglehold of self.  Unfortunately for the rich man in the story, self refused to change.  His attitude after death in torment was no different from that prior to death.  There was no repentance only commands and still a sense of superiority.  Send Lazarus… let Lazarus… He lived in luxury and did nothing to assist the less fortunate because it was all about him.  When self reigns supreme, one does not even see the rest of the world as it is. 

 A story was told recently of a couple coming to a high-end restaurant to join with a group for some common purpose.  They arrived very late and were seated.  The others in the group had already eaten an appetizer and had just been served the main course.  When the couple were asked if they would like to order or if they needed more time to look over the menu, they asked if anyone else had already ordered!  Blinders on…self-absorbed, what would be apparent to the rest of us was not to them.

 Self can be a stranglehold on an individual, blinding them to an accurate awareness of reality.  Blinding them to their own need for repentance, their own need of God.  We are warned continually of the danger of doing what we want as opposed to the will of God.  We are warned often of the constant rising of self in opposition to the Lord.  We are reminded to be on the alert for this, to be focused on Christ, to be in an intimate relationship with Him that allows us to be outwardly focused rather than inwardly focused.

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