by Jesse L. Smith
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Life had never seemed to be on the side of Lazarus, and as an old man he looked back on the years he had lived and saw nothing but brokenness, rejection and pain. All those he once knew and loved had long since abandoned him, and now he lived only to drown out those tormenting memories. The very will to live long since passed from Lazarus, and in his mental and emotional turmoil he left off caring for his own body. Huddled in the garden of a wealthy man of the city, dogs would often sniff at and lick putrefying sores all over his emaciated form. The rich man who owned the garden was well aware of the situation, but was rather amused by it all and found it a source of entertainment as he ate lunch at his outdoor table. Seated at the table in flowing robes before a meal that could feed many, he would occasionally toss some bread to the dogs surrounding Lazarus. The dogs would ravenously eat the bread and the rich man would smile at the anguish it produced in the hunched beggar…
How can anyone believe in a God that allows such suffering and injustice in the world? After all if God were truly Just wouldn’t the roles of Lazarus and the rich man have been reversed? Where is the justice in allowing a cruel sadistic man to have such great wealth and security, while a poor and lonely old man is licked by the dogs? The answer to that question is simply that when it comes to Justice – God is much more concerned about our Eternal Destiny than he is about this vapor in the wind we call Life. This truth may be difficult for us to grasp, but those who are ‘rewarded’ in this life often face a very dark eternity. King David wrote, “Arise O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, who are your sword: From men who are your hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly you fill with your hid treasure.” –Psalms 17:13-14 The rich man in the parable of Lazarus spent eternity in hell – but Lazarus was comforted of God and the angels for the rest of eternity.
Oftentimes it is difficult for us to understand the justice of God because we are not looking at that justice in the light of Eternity. What is seventy or eighty years compared to infinity? I remember being fascinated with the concept of ‘infinity’ while taking Calculus in high school. It turns out that ANY number relative to infinity will always reduce to zero! That means for all the pain and suffering that you could experience in this life, that will all be reduced to zero compared to the Eternal paradise that you could spend with God. On the contrary, even if you are the wealthiest, healthiest, and most powerful person ever to have lived, how will that measure up to an eternity in hell? From God’s vantage point – where you spend eternity is far more important than anything that happens to you in this life.
Why is it that God often gives people destined for hell great wealth? This is the justice of God, as He in His Goodness will bless even the most despicable of human beings. At the same time however, God knows that wealth has a way of hardening people’s hearts, and prevents them from entering into the Kingdom of God. Wealth can give people the illusion of self-sufficiency, and this illusion prevents them from surrendering their lives to God. Jesus said, “Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” –Matthew 10:24 On the opposite end, God knows that those who are poor are not as inclined to trust in their own power, and therefore it is easier for them to surrender their lives to God. This is why it so often is the case that God has called the poor of this world “rich in faith.” –James 2:5
It is sometimes hard to comprehend the Love of an infinite God who is also a Spirit. But even though our days of flesh and blood are few – He also deeply cares about those days. Jesus said that not a single sparrow falls to the ground without touching the heart of God, and that all of the hairs of our head are numbered. The evil things that happen in our world grieve the heart of God – and were never intended to be part of His original design. The word ‘sin’ literally means ‘bent’ – and perfectly describes the distorted nature of an otherwise beautiful world. God’s burning desire for all of us is to be rescued from this bent world, and sometimes we must suffer in order to be rescued. Scripture says in Hebrews 12:6, “For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and disciplines every son whom he receives.”
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