Poverty At the Gate of Wealth
Luke 16:19, 20
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:…

Here is a picture which we recognize in England in this nineteenth century quite as readily as it would be recognized in Judaea in the days of our Lord; it is that of poverty and wealth in very close association. It is not only a picture to look upon but a problem to solve, and one of much urgency as well as great difficulty.

I. POVERTY AND WEALTH IN CLOSE JUXTAPOSITION. As the rich man of the parable could not enter his house without seeing Lazarus lying in rags and sores at his gate, so are we unable to pass our days without being impressed with the fact that "the poor [even the very poor] we have with us," and indeed all around us. Lazarus lies at our gate. Not only have we the professional beggar, who has adopted "begging" as his means of livelihood, but we have the whole army of the unfortunate, who have been incapacitated by some means, and who cannot "work that they may eat;" and we have also another large and equally pitiable multitude of the ill-paid, who cannot earn enough by the honest industry in which they are employed to sustain themselves and their families. And so it comes to pass that in England to-day, side by side with competence, with wealth, with inestimable affluence, is poverty walking in rags, lying in loneliness, shivering with cold and hunger, working without reward that is worthy of the name. It is a sad sight in a Christian land; and it is not sad alone, it is alarming; for such extremes are full of evil and of peril.


1. The dangers attending great wealth? It leads to luxury, and luxury favours sloth, indulgence, a false standard of the worth and purpose of life, a proud heart, and a haughty bearing. In circumstances where there is no necessity for energetic and patient labour, and where there is every opportunity of enjoyment, many evil weeds grow fast, and there the best flowers that grow in the garden of the Lord too often languish. Or who can doubt:

2. The perils of extreme poverty? These lead down by a straight and steep path to servility, to craftiness and cunning, to falsehood, to dishonesty, to envy and hatred. And who can fail to see:

3. The evil influence on the State of these two extremes? Here there can be no true brotherhood, no proper association and co-operation; here is separation from one another, a division as great as that which is interposed by the high mountain range or the broad sea; nay, greater than that! Many English people see more and know more of the inhabitants of Switzerland than they see and know of the denizens of the streets of another part of their own parish. It is the uninteresting and objectionable poor at their gate who are the "strangers."

III. ONE MITIGATING FEATURE. This juxtaposition of poverty and wealth provides an opportunity for the exercise of sincere benevolence and of the highest Christian wisdom. To the Christian heart there is a plaintive plea which cannot be unheard or disregarded, even though Lazarus be kept out of sight and hearing by judicious arrangements. And to the honest patriot there is an inviting and urgent problem to which, far more than to the questions of fortifications and armaments, he will give earnest heed, viz. how to bring about an approachment, an intermingling, of all classes and conditions of men, a better distribution of the great resources of the land.

IV. THE TRUE HOPE OF ADJUSTMENT. Whither shall we look for a better distribution of the riches of the land?

1. Almsgiving can only touch the fringe of the difficulty.

2. Economic changes may have a valuable part to play in the matter; but we are not yet agreed as to the best course to take.

3. Beneficent legislation will certainly bring its large contribution; it can do two things: it can

(1) educate the whole nation, and so provide every citizen with necessary weapons for the battle of life; and it can

(2) do much to remove temptation from the path of the weak. But it is:

4. Spiritual renewal which must prove the main source of social reconstruction. Change the character, and you will change the condition of men. And the one force which will effect this is the redeeming and regenerating truth of God, made known by the holy lives and in the loving words of the disciples of Jesus Christ. - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:

WEB: "Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day.

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