The parable of Lazarus & the Rich Man is the account of a very rich man who lived a life of extreme luxury. Laid outside the gate of this rich man’s house was an extremely poor man named who simply hoped “to eat what fell from the rich man’s table”. The rich man was completely indifferent to Lazarus, showing no sympathy or compassion whatsoever. Eventually, they both died. Lazarus went to heaven, and the rich man went to hell.
The context of this parable is that Jesus was condemning the Pharisees for their love of money as well as for the lack of mercy to the poor. The Pharisees were “pious” in that they knew the old testament laws and liked to flaunt their holy behavior and actions, but they were completely without compassion and love to those around them. This parable was a warning to them that the way they were living would be rewarding only on earth, but eternally they would not be shown grace or compassion because they had already received their reward on earth.
In this parable Jesus talks about what the lives on earth were like for the two, what kind of eternity each would have, the inability to cross over from one place (Hades) to another (in the bosom of Father Abraham), and the sufficiency of scripture to be a warning to those on earth of what will happen to them after death.
I am not a Bible scholar, a theologian or a seminary graduate – but I do not think that Jesus is using this parable to condemn being wealthy per say. I read it more of a warning that if your riches and wealth are so important that you are unable to see need of other human beings and are unwilling to show generosity, your spiritual life and relationship with Jesus will suffer. Jesus tells us over and over again through the New Testament how the love of money can separate us from God. He tells us over and over again how the poor, sick, orphaned, widowed, etc. are special to Him.
Before I move on – I think it’s also important to say that it’s difficult to acknowledge this – but for the purposes of this scripture I believe all of us are wealthy. This scripture doesn’t apply only to those with a certain minimum amount of assets and liabilities, but to anyone who has more than what they need to meet their individual needs in a given day.
So who is the Lazarus in our lives? It’s unlikely that there is a sick/lame/starving man laying outside your front door, so here are some ideas to help open your eyes to who I believe Jesus would see as those in need of love, generosity and compassion:
- Needy illegal aliens who avoid the social welfare system for fear of being deported
- Divorced moms with kids who are living below the poverty level but are too proud to ask for help
- Families where the breadwinner is sick or shiftless or missing
- The poor in third world countries who are out of sight and out of mind
Obviously this list is only a tiny sample, but it is really just meant to get us (me) to begin thinking of and seeing the people around me, and many of whom I come into regular contact with, and finding ways to share what God has blessed me with.
Lord, thank you for your blessings. Give me a heart for the poor and suffering. Please strip away the calluses that I build up to protect myself from their pain. Let me love the poor as Jesus loved them..