The rich man and Lazarus…

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Luke 17:19 “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.

Jesus tells this story that would have shocked the original hearers/readers. The expectation in ancient Israel was that poor people were poor as a result of their wicked ways. Conversely, it was assumed that rich people were rich as God’s reward for righteousness. The fact that the poor man, Lazarus, was “carried away by the angels to be with Abraham” (akin to what we might call “heaven”) would have blown their minds as would the rich man’s misfortune in Hades. Two things come to my mind:

First, I hear this story as a warning to those of us “rich” in things of this world. From a global perspective, that includes me and you. I don’t think Jesus had a beef with the rich man because he was rich. Having resources was not a sin. The problem was the rich man’s failure to help Lazarus who was starving just outside the gate of his home. His indifference to Lazarus’ suffering is what condemned him.

Second, the people of Jesus’ day thought they knew who would be included in God’s kingdom and who would not. They thought they could make assumptions based on things visible to the eye. They were wrong. I expect Jesus has more surprises up his sleeve, which we will see come judgment day.

Lord Jesus give us humble hearts when it comes to things of eternity. Forgive us when we judge others based on things visible to the eye, for only you can see inside the human heart. Lead us to follow after you in humility, mercy, and grace toward others. Even those we perceive to be “bad people”. Amen.

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