In Luke 16, Jesus talks about a rich man and a man named Lazarus. It is interesting that Jesus gives us the name of one man—Lazarus—but he does not give us the name of the other man. He simply calls the other man “a rich man.” We don’t know exactly why Jesus did this, but I think that Jesus wanted to express that the financial wealth that the rich man possessed was the main thing that could be said about him.
Jesus tells us in verses 22–23 that when Lazarus died, he “was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side,” whereas the rich man ended up in Hades. This is not to say that all wealthy people will end up in Hades. For even though Jesus says in Luke 18:25 that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” Jesus says right after that in verse 27 that “what is impossible with man is possible with God.”
The Emptiness of Wealth
By God’s grace, I have had the privilege of planting a church in South Munich, Germany, in a suburb called Gruenwald, which is financially the wealthiest place in all of Germany. Sadly, there are people in Gruenwald who find their identity only in their financial wealth. If they are successful financially, they feel like they are doing great and they feel important and special. However, when things go sour financially and they lose their financial wealth, there is not much left in terms of identity.
I believe that this dynamic is why Jesus in Luke 16 just calls the man “a rich man” and does not even mention his name, for apart from his financial wealth there is utter emptiness in the man’s life.
Our True Identity
Where do you find your identity? Where do you find your strength and your hope? If you find your identity in anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ, then you will be in the end utterly forsaken. It is only in Jesus Christ and through a personal relationship with Jesus that you find true and lasting identity and value. All those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are already perfectly loved and accepted and valued on the basis of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. Trusting in an idol eventually leaves you with emptiness and eternal despair, whereas trusting in Jesus provides an eternal and secure identity full of hope, faith, and love.
It is important to remember in daily life that as believers, all that we have and all that we are is by God’s grace, and that as children of God, we are already perfectly loved by the One whose judgment truly matters: the Lord and King Jesus Christ.
Having that firm foundation and identity in Christ liberates us to live our lives to the glory of God, no matter the ups and downs we face. Soli Deo gloria!