Prophetic Parable for Our times
Lord Jesus parable: ‘The Rich Man and Lazarus’ is a prophetic parable for our times.
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So 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.’ “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. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “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.’” (Luke 16: 19-31)
Pampered and prosperous Rich man:
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.” (Luke 16:19) There is no indication that he was leading immoral life or doing illegal things or exploiting others. He was simply selfish and unconcerned and not a criminal or wicked. The self-centered people in Sodom were like this rich man. However, the people in Sodom without restrain, moral bindings, ethical values and faith could have a pathetic downward spiral.
Selfish people of Sodom:
“‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. (Ezekiel 16: 49, 50) The heady and haughty mix or cocktail of arrogance, unconcern, and surplus (over supply) led them to do detestable things. In spite of economic progress and abundance display of prosperity, the mindset has not changed. Honour and Horror killing in the name of caste where arrogance can lead to. Unconcern has to be seen through the prism of recording videos of crimes rather than helping the victims. Too many restaurants, too many things to eat, too many pubs has resulted in media reports of drunken driving, death on roads. It should be remembered Eve and later Adam did not eat the forbidden fruit while they were starving, it us just to enjoy surplus.
In other words, it was a deadly combination of Lust of eyes, Lust of flesh and Pride of life. (I John 2:15) That eventually invited the wrath of God, the city of Sodom was destroyed.
Deprived Poor man
He is recognized by name while the rich is not. Strangely, he does not have an address – a residence or home. No ration card or Adhar card or any other ID. For practical purposes he does not exist. Covered with sores as he did not have an insurance cover for his health. There was no medical help available for him. In fact, he was longing for food that falls from the table of rich. He was there to scrutinize the scraps of food in the garbage. For that, he had to compete with dogs – not pet dogs but street dogs. The dogs licked his sores. That means, dogs showed dignity to the beggar than a fellow human being.
Attitude of rich towards poor: Three aspects
There was no attitude of caring, sharing and providing dignity to others.
The pavement dwellers from the rich man’s balcony were clearly visible. This beggar was annoyance. Even today, the rich want the slums to be out of sight, poor to be invisible in the city. In an honour and shame culture, India has to be displayed as city with malls, skyscrapers, space power, nuclear power and quest for water from moon. For these, getting pizza in fifteen minutes is progress. Police or ambulance arriving few hours later in rural areas is not newsworthy and such news should be banned from media.
This man was overfed and was not willing to share. However, this man wanted to dictate the other person eats. The menu would be dictated by this man. Eggs were withdrawn from mid-day meals provided in the schools in on State of India. Only 25 percent are vegetarians. Most of these vegetarians do not send their children to schools where mid-day meals is served. However, they want to dictate what others eat.
The rich man was unconcerned, did not have sympathy or mercy on that beggar named Lazarus. It was easy, simple and possible for the rich man to provide one good meal for the beggar. It would have hardly made any difference in this home budget. Graciousness and generosity is not a natural human virtue. This rich man thought he was fortunate, lucky and even divinely blessed that he need not be concerned about less fortunate, marginalized and deprived. He did not understand, God has placed this man right there to test his character. The rich man failed miserably in the character evaluation.
Non apparent factors
The non-apparent or unseen or invisible things is brought to focus at the end of earthly life. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.” (Luke 16:22) What a contrast? The rich man died. There were dignitaries, elaborate burial process, elegant procession, gold paneled coffin box, may be gun salute and a talk of the town news. The burial place was marked, marble memorial built, name inscribed and decorated around with flowers.
The beggar also died. The corpse was removed by the Municipality workers, obviously carried on a garbage van. No one was there to shed tears or be aware of. However, the bible records the angels came to escort this poor man. The rich man was superciliously, outwardly, materially and apparently rich. The beggar was rich in faith, hope, patience, contentment, fear of God and endurance.
No argument or defense
The rich man was sent to hell. The rich man did not have guts to say, “I am innocent” or question why he was there. He knew what his sin were: Neglect of spiritual life, selfishness, priority of worldly things and unconcern for others. He was also not surprised to see beggar Lazarus was besides Abraham. That shows, the rich man was well aware of his fallacies but failed make amends in his life on earth. “In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So 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.’” (Luke 16:23, 24)
Appeal for water
The rich man in hell was able to feel the pain or agony, recognize others like Lazarus and Abraham (conscious and alive), he had tongue, felt thirsty and was able to speak. He pleaded just for a drop of water. Now, in the present world also water has become a precious commodity. Many people do not have access to drinking water. There the rich man was thirsty in hell and did not have access to water, leave alone the idea of fridge water or fizzy drinks. The reality of hell could be denied by people. Yes, no one wants to be there. However, to ensure not to be there, happens here in this world. It would be too late. The gates of grace are open only now, today. In this world, there is no next moment of guarantee.
Appeal or intercession for others
The rich man had good intention towards others even in hell. He did not want his five brothers to be with him there. He thought at least his brothers should be in a better place. He had refined polite character and decent intent by worldly standards. However, not worth in God’s spiritual standards. Another fact is that the rich man was concerned for his circle of family and not bothered beyond that. His priority was his family should not come to this terrible place called hell. Abraham said that dead Lazarus for a mission trip to earth to warn his brothers is not possible. The logic is, if people on earth could not read and listen to the Law of Moses or warning of prophets, they will not even if a person raises from dead and speak to them. (Luke 16:29-31)
Contrast of concern
The rich man had great concern for his brothers – relatives. It was there even when he was thrown in Hell. However, on the earth he did not have concern for his neighbor. He was able to see him daily, may be longed for the disappearance of poor, beggar from his sight. If the rich man had a fraction of concern he had for his brothers in Hell, towards the beggar or poor, his spiritual life could have been retrieved and redeemed.
Today, the world is running after riches, power, influence and possession. The purposeless priorities of life. Astonishingly, many could even possess that. There is glamour, attraction to these. The rich man had abundance and surplus of these. The poor Lazarus deprived of all these worldly things, had certain things that the world can neither give nor snatch from him. Faith in God in the midst of fatal attraction to wealth and pomp; hope in the context of utter hopelessness; patience in the midst of pain and torment; and love for God in most unlivable situations. What are my heavenly possession in this earthly life? That is what that ultimately matters in eternity.
(A sermon preached on 10 July 2016)