The Rich Man and Lazarus

In the parable from Luke that we read this Sunday the rich man is so absorbed in himself and his “good” life that he sees nothing else, not the poor man at his door nor his own inevitable death and judgment. Living in the bubble of the present, nothing else, no one else matters to him.

Jesus often warns against this kind of blindness. The scriptures are filled with similar warnings too. Psalm 49 says “In his riches, man lacks wisdom; he is like the beasts that are destroyed” (Psalm 49). Having too much can make you lose perspective.

It would be a mistake to see this parable directed only to the rich, however. That same psalm calls for “people both high and low, rich and poor alike” to listen.

You don’t have to be rich to be like the rich man in the parable. People who don’t have much can also be small-minded and shortsighted and self-absorbed and blind to those around them. Not only the rich, but we all can be self-centered and locked in our own small worlds, in love with success and blind to the poor at our gate.

The parable says that we’re destined for a life beyond this and how we live and how we help one another now is really what matters. We won’t be judged by how well we took care of ourselves, or the honors we have accumulated. We’ll be judged by how we reached out to one another, especially the poorest, the slowest, and those who seem to fail at life.

The rich man in the parable suddenly became aware of this. He finds himself left out, with not a drop of water to quench his thirst. The tables are turned.

Jesus’ parable reminds us that the kind of blindness the rich man has is very difficult to break down. “Send someone back from the dead to tell my brothers,” the rich man pleads. But even if someone comes back from the dead, they will not believe.

No matter how often we hear them, the parables of Jesus have their surprises. Did you notice that the rich man has no name in the parable, yet the poor man does? His name is Lazarus. Probably in his lifetime, everyone knew the rich man’s name, as one of the rich and famous. Probably few knew the name of the beggar looking for scraps of food at the rich mans’s door.

But God knew poor Lazarus’ name. He knew Lazarus on earth and beyond this life in heaven. Probably a good test: how many Lazarus’s do we know?

Lord,
source of all good,
good beyond what we have or can see,
give us wisdom to know you and your gifts
and to see others as you see and love them.
Like the blind man, we want to see.
Amen.

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