12 March 2020

Lazarus and the Rich Man - Repentance, Forgiveness, Thankfulness

“There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen, and who lived each day in luxury. At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, who was covered with sores. As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his sores.

Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and his soul went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side.

The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’

But Abraham said to him, ‘My son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. And there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’

Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’

But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’

The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’

But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded, even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Luke 16:19-31

The sin of the rich man in the parable of Lazarus was not that he had been given great wealth, even though has no gratitude, no sense of obligation, and thereby no empathy.   He thinks that it is all because of his own merits.

 No, his sin is that he allowed his preoccupation, his obsession with worldly possessions, to blind himself with his pride to the suffering of Lazarus, his poor brother, who sat every day on his doorstep.  And he gave him nothing, not even a look or a kind word.

It was only in the torment of the afterworld that the rich man's eyes are opened.   And looking across the great gulf he finally sees Lazarus, with the holy Abraham. And the first thing that the rich man does is to beg for comfort for himself, and ask Lazarus for a favor. He feels no repentance, never once saying that he is sorry.

For even as his eyes were opened, his heart remained hardened, obstinate, and he remained firmly in the grip of his sins.  It was his sins that were the chasm that separated him from true life— the door to his torment was locked from the inside.

So too, nations that have been blessed can blind themselves to their excesses and offenses, while taking credit for the blessings that have been given to them.  And so they misuse their power and wealth and great fortunes, granted to them by God, to oppress and subjugate others, satisfy their own vain purposes and passions. They would mount themselves aloft, and rule over all.

And in their hardened hearts they hold their selfishness aloft, profanely, as the greatest good, the exceptional— even as they oppress and plunder and murder.

Until at long last God humbles them, and breaks the backbone of their power.
"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

C. S. Lewis
Let us thank God then, for both our consolations and our trials, which cause us to pause and reflect, and keep a righteous understanding of who we are, and whom we serve.   For both good and ill come with the ease of His good Providence, and from the endless ocean of His incomprehensible love.

Truly one has come back from the dead and spoken, spoken plainly to us, we who abuse the weak, and murder the prophets, to silence His word.

If only we can open our prideful minds and hardened hearts, and listen, and find life.