The Rich Man and Lazarus

19th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture St Luke 16:19-31
There was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted in luxury everyday. Purple, the color of the robe, was for the high priest and were very costly.The word used for feasting, is a word that is used for a glutton, and he feasted in exotic foods everyday.

In doing so, he did not practice the 4th commandment:“6 days you shall labor, but the 7th day is a Sabbath, a day of rest. It is a day of praising the Lord”Not only did he not obey the Sabbath, but he did not let his servants do it either.

Now in a country where the common people were fortunate if they ate meat once in an entire week, we see this rich man's actions as a figure of self indulgence and selfishness in addition to gluttony. At that time, people did not have silverware, knifes, forks, spoons, or napkins. Food was eaten using one's fingers, which were cleaned off with huge pieces of bread that were then thrown on the floor. It was that bread that Lazarus was waiting for. The rich man is a picture of wealth and luxury.

The second man was named Lazarus. It is strange that only Lazarus is given a name. Lazarus means “God is my helper.” Lazarus is pictured as a beggar covered with ulcerated sores all over his body. He was so helpless that he could not even ward off the street dogs, unclean animals that pestered him constantly. Lazarus is the picture of helplessness and object poverty. Such is the scene in this world that abruptly changes to the next world. There Lazarus is in glory and the rich man is in torment.

What was the sin of the rich man? He had not ordered Lazarus off his property, nor sought even to remove him from his gate, and he had no objections to Lazarus eating from his floor around his table.Nor did he kick him each time he passed by him. He accepted Lazarus as part of the landscape. He thought it was a perfectly natural event that Lazarus should lie in his pain, hungry while he wallowed in his luxury.

Someone once said, “It is not what the rich man did that got him into hell, only that as he looked at Lazarus he did not see a suffering human who was in need of medical care and food. He did nothing to help him.”

As he looked up from the fires of hell, seeing Lazarus in the arms of Abraham, he pleaded with Abraham to send Lazarus to his warn his brothers. Abraham refused, saying, “During your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us 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.” Yet the rich man pleaded to send Lazarus to his father’s house to warn his brothers. Abraham said they had Moses and the prophets, and if they wouldn’t listen to them, they will listen to no one. The rich man continues to plead to Abraham that if someone from the dead speaks to them they will respond. Once again Abraham replied that neither will they believe or be convinced if someone were to rise from the dead.

The challenge for all of us, not only the rich, is to see the needs of others regardless of what situation and respond according to our God given abilities. Jesus made a strong statement regarding wealth and possessions. Wealth and possession demand our loyalty and they can replace the Lord in our lives.

In this life Lazarus laid in the street outside the home of the rich man. When he awoke from death, he was in the arms of Abraham in heaven. The rich man lived in luxury and when he awoke from death, he was in eternal torment in the fires of hell.

In our great nation, the wealthiest in the world, 14.5 % of the population, 49 million people, struggle to put food on their tables. 15.9% of those 49 million are hungry children. (These statistics are from the Bread for the World organization.) I know we help in our community to help feed the hungry, yet I don’t think we really understand the scope of the hunger problem.

May our Lord shed new light on the needs of our neighbors, so that each of us might give just a little more to fight hunger in our community, our nation, and around the world.

Let us pray!