September 25, 2016 - Lazarus and the Rich Man

Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man's table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.'
Abraham replied,
‘My child, remember that you received
what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.

Luke 16:19-31

This is not a warning to rich people.  And this is not confirmation that there is a hell.

If the rich man did anything wrong, it is hard to tell what it is.  We are not told he was even aware of Lazarus’s plight.

Jesus is making the same point he made with the Beatitudes and the blind man at Siloam.  In contradiction of the theology of his day, Jesus tells us God does not punish bad behavior with poverty and sickness, and He does not reward good behavior with wealth and health.  God has special concern for the poor and the sick – He hasn’t cursed them but, rather, they are blessed with His attention.  And, “woe to you rich, for you have already received your reward (Luke 6:24)”, or, as it is written here, “you received what was good during your lifetime.”  Jesus is using their flawed theology against them and mocking it.  If God is in the business of reward, as they assume, then they will have already received theirs.