The Rich Man and Lazarus

5th SUNDAY OF LUKE, Luke 16: 19-31

A number of messages can be drawn from the severe contrast this parable presents between the earthly lives of the rich man and Lazarus and also their experiences in the next life.

The first message is that there is a life after death and that what we do in our earthly lives will determine how we will experience eternity. It was not the rich man’s wealth as such that condemned him. The reference to Lazarus being carried by angels to “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16: 22) (Abraham was a wealthy man during his earthly life) confirms that wealth, when used properly and in accordance with God’s will, does not deprive a person of the eternal kingdom. Rather, it is the misuse of wealth, especially as a means to super-feed one’s egoism and self-centredness that results in the loss of the eternal kingdom.

Lazarus lived just outside the rich man’s door. Yet the rich man gave no consideration to helping him, not even to the extent of sharing with Lazarus the left-overs from his sumptuous table.

The rich man lived only for himself and the satisfaction of his own desires. The parable makes clear the consequences of this way of living. As well as poisoning the soul, it ultimately de-humanizes the person. This is confirmed by the fact that the parable does not even mention the rich man by name, thereby confirming that self-centred and egotistic living results in the loss of one’s true personal identity.

Much can also be learnt from Lazarus’ experience. No explanation is given as to why Lazarus suffered such misery during his earthly existence. Lazarus (whose name means “God is my helper”) confirms by his example that with God’s help, a person can choose how to respond to the afflictions of life.

When we see such afflictions in the context of eternity, in other words as experiences that will eventually pass away, and when we respond to them with patience and without grumbling and blaming God, then we will certainly convert them into an eternal victory.

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