The Rich Man Who Wants to be Jacob Marley

Why Bother? They didn't listen to Moses and the prophets.

Luke 16:19-31 (ESV)

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

“Marley was dead.” Thus begins one of the greatest literary works in the English language. Charles Dickens goes on to tell a wondrous tale of repentance and redemption. Ebenezer Scrooge discovers the error of his miserly ways and finds new life.

Unfortunately, the theology in A Christmas Carol is flawed. Christ is notably absent from the story and Scrooge’s redemption is entirely works based. Moreover, as this passage shows, warnings from those in the afterlife don’t happen because they wouldn’t work.

“If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

But some the assumptions of A Christmas Carol are accurate. There is an afterlife and Scrooge would not have fared well.

Actually, Dickens toned it down a bit. The rich man in this parable has it much worse.

Another thing Dickens gets right is that redeemed people find true happiness. Ebenezer Scrooge had nothing but sorrow, and his pursuit of wealth was the cause. That’s a perfect illustration of how sin doesn’t work. Total joy comes to those who seek to serve the Lord.

God is love. – 1 John 4:8b (ESV)

Think about what “love” means here. It’s agape (αγαπη) in the Greek, which means sacrificial love. In other words, God makes a priority of our well-being.

You definitely want to be on this guy’s side.

Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. – Westminster Confession, Shorter Catechism #1

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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