Luk 16:19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that 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.
In this parable there’s a rich man who lived in luxury and a poor man named Lazarus who lived at the gate of his home. According to the thinking of the day, people in destitute situations like Lazarus were being punished by God for the sinful ways. Rich people were being rewarded for their righteousness. So it would seem at the beginning that Lazarus is the bad guy in this story and the rich man the good guy. But then something strange happens. The rich man dies and is carried to Hades while Lazarus is carried to heaven with Abraham (the patriarch of the Jewish people).
It’s a great, unexpected reversal.
The rich man failed to care for Lazarus in his mortal life so he is punished in the afterlife. Why? In v.14 of this chapter we’re told the Pharisees are described as “lovers of money”. In the economy of God the wealthy (that’s you and me BTW) have a responsibility to share our resources to care for the less fortunate. It’s a key reason why believers then and now are directed by God to return a tithe of their material income to the temple (Jew) or church (Christian). God doesn’t give us money so we can keep it all for ourselves. The Pharisees had forgotten this and so were out of line with God. They are, of course, represented in this story by the rich man who ended up in a place of “torment”.
There’s more to this story, but it’s interesting how a fundamental dynamic at work in this story is the stewardship of money, the rich man’s neglect of the poor, and the consequences of that neglect. God takes very seriously how we use what he first gives to us.
Lord teach us to care for those in need with the resources you first give to us as a gift. This morning we particularly lift up Many Helping Hands, the homeless ministry of which we at Rejoice Lutheran are a key partner. Give us grace to reflect your care and concern for the poor. Amen.