Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Rich Man and Lazarus

The Dogs Take Pity

In our Gospel reading for tomorrow (Luke 16:19-31) we find a stark contrast between a rich man and a poor man (wait . . . wasn't last Sunday's Gospel about a rich man? There must be a message here somewhere for us who live amidst such wealth that it takes $1.3 billion in net worth to make it to the Forbes 400 list.)

So, back to our story . . . there was a rich man whose name we do not have and a poor man named Lazarus. Their lifestyles were such polar opposites that we wonder if we have the nerve to look out our own back doors to see who lives in the shadows. The rich man could afford purple clothes, which in those days were usually reserved for those of very high rank (whence the saying "born to the purple"). But Lazarus, on the other hand, was physically disabled, poor, and so hungry that he would have eaten the crumbs under the rich man's table. The text goes on to say that the "even the dogs would come and lick his sores." Was this comforting or annoying to Lazarus?

Both the rich man and Lazarus died, and suddenly the rich man, who is in torment in Hades, is aware of Lazarus, who has been carried away by angels into paradise. The rich man had ignored Lazarus on earth, but now he has the audacity to ask that Lazarus be sent to tend to his needs. He doesn't ask for much -only that Lazarus dip the tip of his finger in the water and cool his tongue. The answer is no and we are left with Jesus saying that the tables are permanently turned. Jesus does not say that the poor man went to heaven because he was poor, nor does he say that the rich man went to Hades because he was rich.

Read the text for yourself and form your own opinions. Why do you think these two main characters in the story wound up the way they did?

In peace,
The Rev. Linda McCloud
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

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