The Rich Man And Lazarus (Luke 16:19)
Jesus had just given a teaching on the right use of money. The Pharisees, seething from their exposed hypocrisy, mocked him. Unable to refute truth, they ridiculed him instead. Jesus responded with a parable. St. Luke titled it The Rich Man and Lazarus, but it could just as well have been called The Man Who Would Not Listen to the Voice of God.
The rich man, who lived a self-centered life, did not earn a name in this story. In contrast, the poor man -a hungry beggar covered with sores- was knighted “Lazarus”, which means “God is my help”. His hope had to be in God, for the rich man did not lift a finger to raise him up. Lazarus’ only solace was the dogs that licked his wounds. Though he trusted in the God of heaven, he found only misery on earth. While the rich man, with less love than the dogs, and with no trust in God, was steeped in comfort.
Indeed, this parable seems to hide the merciful hand of God, while revealing the Sovereignty of his Justice to an unfair world. It is a story about Eternal Recompense, about the impassable chasm between two destinies waiting to be chosen.
Lazarus’ life was the story of Job minus the happy ending. Yet, he never stopped hoping in God. The rich man was flooded with God’s blessings to the end, yet he never turned to their Source. Lazarus, who clung in faith to his God, found himself in the Bosom of Abraham, the father of his faith –he was found pleasing to God. The rich man, who sought only to please himself; found himself in the unending torment of eternal poverty -divorced from the Love of God he had spurned.
Jesus ends his parable with the rich man becoming the beggar: pleading for Lazarus to be sent to warn his five brothers, that they might repent of their selfish ways and avoid the torment of hell. “Then Abraham said to him, "If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead".
Moses and the prophets are the Voice of God, beckoning from millennia. If the pursuit of self, so blinds us to God’s Voice, then neither would the miracle of one rising from the dead pierce our darkness. Our sin, freely chosen, can do what Satan cannot: deny the power of the Cross and Resurrection.
Not only was the Voice of God’s Word calling the rich man to a life of Love, but God was shouting to him -in the Poverty of Lazarus camped at his door. The hardened heart can only be unlocked from within. And the proud, find the key of Repentance, too reviling to pick up. Pride will choose torment before submission to God. It will cover its ears, lest it hear the Truth and change.
This parable, this fiction of Christ, is both truth as well, foretelling a Darkness Yet Born: when the same Pharisees, would later, plot Jesus’ death after witnessing him raise a man from the dead. The Lazarus of his parable, was the namesake of his beloved friend -the Lazarus he was to call forth from the tomb. This Lazarus fulfilled the wish of the rich man pleading for a resurrection miracle to prove God’s Word to be true. And true to the Word of Jesus, it did not open their eyes. What pain our Savior must have endured; as he watched the Pharisees blindly cement their own tomb with bitterness, a torment of their own making.
My Lord Jesus, I pray you will rip from my heart all selfishness and pride. Its power is so fearsome that I hide it from my sight. Like a child refusing to look under the bed at night, I am afraid to shine light on my darkness within. Only you God are my help.
Lord, do not let me pass by the Lazarus’s you place at my door. Let me not pretend to not see or hear them. Let me not turn away my eyes, nor close my heart. Let me not fail the test. Lay bare my heart. Give me the courage to embrace your forsaken -even Lord, if I must let loose of my comfort, if I need to be made humble.
Holy Spirit, by your grace, make it so. Bring me into the Bosom of my Father. Make me into the likeness of his Son. Give me a listening heart that is drawn to your Poor. Give me eyes to recognize your Beauty in their face. Give me ears to hear your Call to Love.Father, oh that I might be known in Eternity by a new name: “The Lowly One who Listened to Voice of God”.