Lk 16: 19 – 31
Note: Last month I briefly introduced the Parable of ‘The Rich Man and Lazarus.’ We will now look deeper into this story. I suggest that you read this text once more.
St Basil (died 379 AD)writes: “Aren’t you behaving like a thief when you consider yours, the riches of this world, while these riches have been entrusted to you for stewardship.”
19“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores.
One man sporting the most expensive clothing and the other clothed in nothing, but sores. Only metres apart, one feasting sumptuously and the other longing for the bread the guests used to clean their fingers. Both were fully aware of the other’s existence and all that separated them was a gate. This describes South Africa and is repeated the world over.
In truth the tragedy of the story is that Lazarus is invisible. He has been erased from the rich man’s mind – deleted in the way that people of privilege delete the homeless from their personal landscapes.
At the centre of this totally unfair situation lies the fundamental belief that that we are owners of wealth rather than stewards. We should manage our wealth for the benefit of ourselves and others. “You shall love yourself, your neighbour and your God.”
22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. One was buried. Nobody bothered to bury Lazarus. He is regarded as less than human.
The arrogance of the Rich Man continues even in death. He orders Abraham and Lazarus to comfort him. “Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue.”
26Between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.
This is not a new development. Our story opened with a description of this chasm. Now, it is just that much bigger. If we do nothing, nothing will change.
“Your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall be quickly healed. If you remove oppression from among you, if you offer your food to the hungry, and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness. (Is 58: 8 – 10)
The Rich Man pleads, “I beg you to send Lazarus to my father’s house – to us the members of the kingdom – that he may warn them.” The chasm is not just between two people, it includes all humanity, my father’s house, the Kingdom of God.
Abraham replies, “They have Moses and the prophets; the Scriptures, they should listen to them.”
He ponders, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets…. They will never be convinced?” Sounds ominous! I do not think so.
‘Lazarus’ means, God helps. God will help us to change. Start with a cup of cold water. (Mt 10: 42)
I will let St Basil have the last word. When someone steals another person’s clothes we call him thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not?
The bread in your cupboard belongs to the person who is hungry. The coat hanging, unused, in your wardrobe belongs to the person who needs it. The shoes rotting in your cupboard belong to the person who has no shoes. The money which you are hoarding belongs to the poor.