So Persuade Me!
But Don't Ask Me to Work.
"If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." --Luke 17:31
The rich man was in hell. He deserved to be in hell because of his wicked and unbelieving life. Jesus said that those who showed no mercy would receive no mercy, and his life had been selfish, wicked, and self-serving.
In hell, he does not repent. Although rich and successful by worldly standards, he never took responsibility for his behavior, and pretended that religion was a matter of opinion, that everyone had his own view, and that such things were not at all clear enough to worry about.
So in hell, he is overcome by pangs of self pity. "I am tormented in this flame," he moans to Father Abraham. It is the lament of Cain, "My punishment is greater than I can bear!" But, like Cain, he still does not accept responsibility.
"Father Abraham," he whines. "Send someone back to warn my six brothers, so they will not come to this awful place."
"But they have the Scriptures," says Abraham.
"But they will repent if someone rose from the dead," the rich man protests. [In other words, they were not properly warned. Religious principles were unclear, and everyone had different ideas as to what was true. No one should expect the brothers to repent on the basis of the evidence they had. God is not fair.]
"Not at all," said Abraham. "If they will not hear the law and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rose from the dead."
The implications of Christ are crystal clear. The scriptures are all that a person needs to know how to stay out of hell. To tell a person to read the Bible is the greatest evangelistic witness a person can give.
Too often even the church has bought into the idea that the message is not clear. As a result they begin to neglect the instrument of enlightenment. They turn to psycho-therapy, entertainment, snappy music, and other devices to attract people. They may travel miles across the country to some center of "revival," where they may see people barking like dogs, slithering like snakes, mumbling like idiots, or muttering and peeping like the heathen, but they do not read their Bibles. When they read the Bible, they do not read for understanding, but as an device for gaining some kind of cultic experience. They long for some dramatic miracle to convince the ungodly, and forget that Jesus said that if people will not hear the story of the Bible, they will not be convinced by miracles.
To the rich man, the law and the prophets were too dull, too ordinary, too trite, too old-fashioned, and too God-centered. How could old stuff like that tell anyone how to go to heaven? Besides, even the church people disagreed about what the Scriptures say. It's just too confusing and it is unfair to expect me to sort it all out.
The attitude of this rich man shows his bias and justified his damnation. A man will spend from 12 to 16 years after high school and spend thousands of dollars to gain a license to treat a person's sore throat.
The arguments for Christianity can be mastered by any man of average intelligence if he will put his mind and devotion to it. But the modern man dismisses it all on the basis of what he hears from people as ignorant as he is. He gets impatient if he has to listen to a 45 minute sermon once a week. He will spend hours reading the books of anatomy, but the only knowledge he has of Scripture is what he may have picked up as a child when it was "crammed down his throat." He will read the medical journals, but will not read St. Augustine, Athanasius, or St. Bernard; not to speak of John Calvin. He is content to take someone else's word for what they said. He will prescribe a treatment only after a drug has been tested exhaustively; but he will accept spiritual advice from colleagues who are as ignorant of spiritual things as he is. He is proud, ignorant, and very rich; and will whine his way into hell. "But you didn't send someone from the dead to warn me."
The illustration I used above may be applied to many other professions. Only a fool would hire a man to build a great bridge, unless he was sure that the builder was a qualified engineer, who had studied for years to master his trade. Computer programmers spend years learning the art, but trust their souls to those as ignorant of God as they are.
When he said, "Let them hear the law and the prophets," Jesus was giving testimony against the eclectic attitude of the ancient world, and of ours. "What is truth?" Pilate asked, sneering. But it didn't get him off the hook, or out of hell. Read the Bible. If you don't get it, read it again, and ask questions of those who have studied it. Of course people disagree. Do all doctors agree on how to treat a sore throat? Do we then reject the study of medicine? The maladies of the soul are at least as important as a sore throat.