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LAZARUS AND THE RICH MAN

 

Luke 16 records the story Jesus told about an unnamed man who was very, very rich and Lazarus, a weak and dying man whose relatives, who were not rich, brought everyday to lie at the rich man's front gate. There, in keeping with the customs of the day, it was expected that he would be given some food from the rich man's table. But this expectation was futile. Day after day he lay there in his pain and increasing weakness, and not even a crust of bread was given to him.

Like many in today's society the rich man in this parable displays no awareness of spiritual realities. Focused on his material possessions and gaining his entire satisfaction and fulfilment from them, he is oblivious to the existence of God and the reality of life beyond death.

With his godless perceptions he does not even consider that this feeble and filthy man lying outside his mansion has any worth, that this wretched man whom he ignores is precious and valuable to God. With more than ample means to relieve Lazarus's suffering, this rich man's ego-centric, self-sufficient arrogance is evident in his failure to reach out in compassion. He does not know, he does not even take into consideration, that the One who made him also made the one he thus despises.

Rich though he is, he is not as rich as Lazarus. Lazarus has nothing: but he also has everything, for he has faith in God. When he died he went immediately to the same place as Abraham, the father of all who have true faith.

But the rich man, when he died, went to the place of judgement. What he did not know in life he now knows in death: that there is a spiritual dimension, and God and heaven and hell do indeed exist. Too late he realizes that the whole godless orientation of his life, with its accumulation of wealth, with its comfortable luxury, counts for nothing in the presence of the Almighty.

The one thing which is of ultimate and eternal value he did not have: the one thing that Lazarus did have. Suddenly he remembers that his five brothers are just like him - godless, faithless - and, fearing for them, begs Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to warn them to repent.

Abraham's response is instructive: the brothers, like the rich man, had the written Word of God, and did not believe. Nor will they believe if someone rises from the dead.

Thus Jesus anticipates his own resurrection, and thus he predicts the unbelief that will deny even that proof that all of his claims about his divine identity are true.

May we all listen to the message of this parable.

 

Scriptures: Luke 16:19-31; Job 31:15; Galatians 3:7; Romans 1:4; 10:9.

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2004, 2010