The Politics of the Rich man and Lazarus

Its been a while since I have blogged and I thought I would get things started again by looking at a common Biblical story that has some significant ramifications in how we see one another and the role of society in general:

Luke 16:19-
19"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In hell,[c] where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
25"But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'
27"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
29"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
30" 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
31"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'

This story, if read without understanding its context, seems to imply that the poor will go to heaven and the wealthy will suffer. However, this story is much deeper than that. I will try to be as concise as possible, but hope that this will challenge you as it did me:

1. The rich man wastes what God gives him. He eats in abundance daily and dresses in a provocative manner. Purple cloth was not only expensive, but it was the "armani" of the ancients and was a sign of wealth. The previous stories of the Shrewd manager and prodigal son also deal with stories of waste.

2. Lazarus means "the man who God helps". Despite his status in life, God demonstrates his compassion with him.

3. The word "even" is not in the Greek as it describes the dogs. It is better described as "but" the dogs came and licked his sores. This is not an act of evil, but an act of compassion from the dogs who actually have components in their saliva that helps to heal wounds. The comparison is that the despised dogs actually have compassion on Lazarus, when the rich man does not.

4. In heaven, the rich man knows Lazarus name but still does not address him or give him dignity. He is unrepentant, even in heaven. He does not apologize for his neglect of Lazarus, only for his torment. The rich man does not argue his innocence, only that Lazarus be ordered to give him relief. This speaks to the highly entrenched roles of societal status in life and death.

5. The rich man desires to become a "lazarus"! He is now in the position of desiring to be helped by God. There is no opportunity for Lazarus to bless him as the consequences of the rich man's action and attitude prohibits this.

I realize that this story is often about "heaven and hell", but it speaks to being stewards to the things that God has for us and taking responsibility for our neighbors. In the book of James, the author states that our wealth will testify against us if we waste an opportunity to bless those in need (James 5:3)

Lets think about this a little. Don't allow your mind to overlook our own obligations and stewardship. Don't go pass this, just let this dwell for a little while and ask God to open your eys to the Lazarus that around you.

May God Bless

Pastor M Traylor
Dr. M TraylorComment