Of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Shedd says it “is one of the most solemn passages in the whole Revelation of God.” And he asks, answering his own question: “What would our merciful Redeemer have us learn from this passage? . . . The lesson is this: The man who seeks enjoyment in this life, as his chief end, must suffer in the next life; and he who endures suffering in this life, for righteousness’ sake, shall be happy in the next” (underlined emphases are mine). We must acknowledge that poverty, suffering, and pain are nowhere in the Bible promoted as good. The lesson, here, is not that we should live lives of extreme ascetism and promote suffering either for ourselves or others. Rather, Jesus’ concern has to do with those whose chief end is current enjoyment with no consideration of eternal matters. And the suffering that he commends is for righteousness’ sake, i.e., for doing good. Hear the Scriptures:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed” (1 Peter 3:14).
Now, honestly, it is difficult for us to look so enthusiastically toward heaven when we must live in the present. Shedd helps us: “Look up to God for grace and help, and deliberately forego a present advantage, for the sake of something infinitely more valuable hereafter.”
After a long and weary strife,
After a struggle ‘twixt death and life,
How sweet to feel the tempest cease,
The angry billows sink to peace,
And perfect calm begin.
After the heart’s deep agony,
After its yearning for sympathy,
How passing sweet will be the rest
Within the arms, upon the breast,
Of Christ the Comforter. -- Maud Fraser (1922)