Everyone wants to succeed in life. When we work hard and our efforts are rewarded, life seems good. When others notice our success, they often attribute it to our intelligence, talents, or luck. The more wealth and status we gain, the greater respect we receive from people.
Some view life as a game, with winners and losers. The winner gains increasing rewards. The loser languishes out of sight, a victim of his own imperfections or lack of motivation.
In Luke 16, Jesus told the story of a winner and a loser. A rich man enjoyed every luxury, dressing in the finest clothes and eating the choicest foods. He entertained guests lavishly, and his servants met his every need. Anything he desired was his for the asking. His great possessions and prestige ensured his continued good fortune. High-ranking people sought him out, and others envied his success. Clearly, everyone viewed him as a winner, and the praise and admiration he received fed his pride.
Completely unnoticed, a poor man named Lazarus begged for alms at the rich man's gate. Covered with sores, and suffering pain and humiliation, he wished that he could eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table--the food usually eaten by dogs. But the rich man did not pay attention to losers, and Lazarus obviously fit that description.
Though the rich man had countless friends and pleasures, the only joy and hope Lazarus found was in his relationship with God.
He did not resent the rich man's wealth and abundance, nor did he complain about his own poverty and suffering. He would have been immensely grateful for the smallest gift of food, but the rich man never spoke to Lazarus or responded to his need in any way. He had no time to waste on losers.
Eventually, Lazarus succumbed to his pitiful condition, and the angels carried him to paradise, where Abraham welcomed him. The rich man also died, and was no doubt given an elaborate funeral, with many mourners in attendance. However, immediately at his death, he found himself in hell, suffering torment.
In the far distance, he could see Lazarus, enjoying the rewards of a life lived in obedience to God. Although the rich man had shown no mercy or compassion to Lazarus during his life, he now requested that Lazarus bring the comfort of a drop of water to his burning tongue.
As Jesus revealed eternity's view, the rich man was ultimately the loser, and poor Lazarus was the true winner. In a moment's breath, the picture of these two men's lives was suddenly turned upside down. The game was over.
This life speeds by, and as we grow older, we cannot understand how it could have passed so quickly. As the end of the game approaches, should we not consider what our eternal status will be? After we take our last breath, it will be too late to turn to God and to make changes in our lives. Will we be winners or losers then?
© by Howard W. Stevens