In the Gospel reading of “the rich man and Lazarus” we hear a parable describing an unnamed rich man living a very lavish lifestyle. A lifestyle so lavish, it consisted of having the finest clothing, the finest food and the finest materialistic possessions one could have during those times. It almost seems the rich man was living the dream many of us dream of today, especially if we end up winning the lottery. Basically, the rich man was living a care free life only caring for himself and no one else. On the other hand, the parable begins to describe a man completely opposite of the rich man. This man being Lazarus lies poor and diseased before the entry gate of the rich man’s dwelling, so poor that he desires “to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table” (Luke 19:21). In the end both men faced what each and every one of us will have to face one day and that is death.
According to the parable when both men died they both ended up in very different places. But why? In the preceding few verses before this parable in Luke 16: 1-13, Christ goes into great detail in teaching His disciples about the stewardship of wealth. Blessed Theophylact interprets this teaching in the following way “The Lord here desires to teach us to use well the wealth that has been given to us. First we learn that we are not masters of our own money, for we have nothing that is our own. We are merely stewards of things that belong to another, namely, our divine Master, who entrusted those things into our hands so that we might use them well and as He directs. For it is the will of the Master that we use what has been given to us for the needs of our fellow servants and not for our own pleasures.” Therefore, being entrusted by God with wealth, the rich man used his riches not according to God’s will which would have gone toward helping poor Lazarus, but instead he used it to fulfill his own desires and pleasures. By doing so the rich man ends up in hades tormented and in pain, but Lazarus who was tormented in pain in this physical world is now comforted in the “bosom of Abraham”, which the church fathers describe as representing heaven. The rich man in this parable represents each and every one of us today. Many of us of course don’t live the lifestyle or have the wealth that the rich man had, but in reality compared to other countries around the world such as Ethiopia, Uganda and Bangladesh we cannot say that we are poor either. Today we have surrounded and spoiled ourselves not only through monetary wealth, but through technological wealth as well. So many of us, especially our youth are obsessed with social media, such as; facebook, twitter, cell-phones, laptops, hi-def televisions, etc… In the end, monetary wealth or technological has led many to lose their focus on their spiritual formation and relationship with Christ. As a result, our hearts and minds end up cold like the rich man and we begin to become indifferent to those who are in need. At the same time this parable should not be focused on only those who possess material wealth, but it exemplifies how each of us either rich or poor should have human compassion to those who are in need. How many of us have encountered a homeless person on the street? What is the first reaction or thought that comes to our mind? Usually we pre-judge, we tell ourselves mentally: “That person doesn’t need any money. He looks healthy. He’s probably an alcoholic or on drugs.” This might sound familiar to many of us and usually in the end we try as much as possible to avoid that person all together. Unfortunately, every time we freely choose to ignore someone if it’s on a sidewalk or someone who needs our financial assistance we are in reality ignoring Lazarus before the gate of the rich man and Jesus Christ himself. For in the end of days Christ will say to some of us “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Mt. 25:34-40).
In the end the rich man requests that Abraham send Lazarus in a resurrected body so that his brothers may learn from his mistakes and that they may change their ways. But Abraham tells him “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” Basically Abraham is telling the rich man “you had your chance, you had the chance during your earthly life to follow God’s commandments and instructions given to Moses and the prophets, but you decided to ignore them and as a result you must now suffer the consequences.” For the rich man it is too late, he has squandered and misused his wealth not according to God’s will but to his own will. But for his brothers they still have a chance, they have a chance to turn to God, to learn from their mistakes and to help those who are in need. The same can be said about us today. Today we have more than Moses and the prophets; we have the teachings of Jesus Christ, His New Testament and the teachings of his disciples. Do we choose to truly listen, exemplify and follow the teachings and commandments of our Lord? Do we choose spiritual wealth over material and technological wealth? Will we choose to read the Bible more than we talk on our cell phones? In the end we can choose to be Lazarus the faithful servant who never grumbled at his predicament or we can choose to be the rich man who turned a deaf ear to the commandments of God, but in the end we are like the brothers of the rich man who still have a chance. But the choice is ours, do we choose to change our lives and follow the teaching of the Gospel? Or do we ignore Gods’ divine authority and teachings and go down the easy road toward Hades? The choice is ours. What will you choose?
Fr. Victor Wronskyj