‘They have Moses and the prophets’
The Rich Man and Lazarus (1)
[Luke 16: 19-31]
‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day’ (Luke 16:19). Here was one who lived the opulent dream fantasized by the wealthy grain merchant we studied last time. Having so much, why was he so indifferent to the plight of poor Lazarus at his doorstep, famished and covered in running sores?
The simple clue is his ostentatious consumption. He did not work, but feasted every day. He did not merely dress well, but in regal finery. He lived in a gated mansion, protected from the outside world. Some of the most pernicious effects of money madness are not only avarice and But also arrogance and a lack of compassion for the sufferings of the unfortunates around us.
St. John Chrysostom often preached on this parable because he felt it probed the root source of the horrible inequity between the halves and half-nots in Constantinople, the most affluent city in the world, where splendid lords and bejeweled ladies carefully stepped around the cripples, beggars and starving children in the streets as they strutted to their golden palaces and pleasure gardens.
St. John also issued a stern warning of the great reversal to come, as revealed in the parable by the the uncrossable fathom between the Rich Man, cast into the parching torments of Hades, and poor Lazarus, who in this world suffered sores and starvation, but now found himself taken up into blessedness of the bosom of Abraham. Alas, too late to heed words like those of St. Paul to his disciple Timothy
…the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. (I Timothy 6:10)
This is the only parable in which Jesus uses names, and for good reason. Lazarus is short Eleazar, which means ‘God is my help.’ The Lord heard Lazarus’ cry, but as for the nameless Rich Man, comes this reminder
If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard (Proverbs 21:13)
The other one named is Abraham, not simply because he is the Father of our faith, but also because he was the perfect example of hospitality, offering his table to the three who were angels unawares (Genesis 18: 1-8)
Why had the Rich Man not thought to be hospitable to Lazarus before it was too late?