Posted by David Gungor on 1 March 2017


Scripture: PRO.31:8-9 

God sends rain on the righteous, the common the rich and the poor. Trinity dancing in darkness, God’s love gives hope evermore

Luke’s parable in chapter 16 provides the perfect narrative expression of his own beatitudes and woes.

Luke 16:20 “Then he looked up at his disciples and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Luke 16:24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”

In the Gospel of Matthew the poor are spiritualized as follows:

Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

In Luke, it is incredibly straightforward. 

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

The parable of Lazarus is a dramatic reversal of fortunes, and it can seem odd. Is he being punished just for being rich? Most of us have been conditioned to listen to scripture through a self-centered lens rather then a theological one. We like to ask, “How is that about me? How does this apply to my life?” Scripture always and everywhere primarily speaks about God; and then, secondarily, about us.  We must remember, as in all of the parables, God is always the Savior. We are the lost coin, the lost sheep, the one in the ditch, the prodigal; we are the ones in need of saving. With that in mind, we approach the parable of Lazarus and the Rich man in Luke 16:19-26. 

What separates the rich man from Lazarus?  It is the vast chasm of those who have, and those who have not.

Who has the resources, the food, the money, the status? Who has their health, honor and belonging? These people are the privileged.

For many of us, it is uncomfortable to address issues like privilege because we feel like whatever we have, we have earned it. And when our own hard-earned life is questioned, we become hard of heart, defensive, and ultimately blind to our privilege.

How are you privileged?

Most of us would be content to remain in the dark about how unfair life can be for the poor. Once you are aware of and experience the trauma of the poor, of those on the underside of power, you now are held accountable for what you know. So most of us just don't want to know, and often choose to remain blind to those on the underside of power. This parable also holds accountable those who may not know the true pain of the poor.

This man had not only been rich and extravagant, he had been hard of heart. His wealth made him insensitive to the demands of the Law and the Prophets alike, that the covenant demands sharing goods with the poor.

The Talmud has a saying that “whoever turns away his eyes from one who appeals for charity is considered as if he were serving idols.”

In spite of the pharisees’ claim to uphold the Law, they reject the outcasts among the people just as the rich man has rejected Lazarus.

And this great chasm, THE CHASM of the heart, it separated them in life and in Hades. There is still a chasm, a great abyss. The rich man just doesn’t understand it.

Luke 16:24 – 28 “So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.  But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’”

The rich man doesn’t understand the chasm.

What is it the man wants in hell? He wants Lazarus to get him water. The rich man wants Lazarus to serve him. I once was on a flight where a man nearby snapped his fingers at a flight attendant to draw her attention, so that she would get him a drink.  In response to his snap, she said “I am not your servant, please don't snap at me.”

In their previous life, the rich man saw himself as better than Lazarus, and now, in hell, the rich man still sees himself as above Lazarus. The rich man’s plea reveals his continuing arrogance – he wants Lazarus to cool his own tongue, as though he were a servant, and to be sent as a messenger to his brothers.

The chasm is the rich man’s heart! It hasn’t changed, even in death and torment and agony. He’s still clinging to the old hierarchy. He still thinks he’s better.

May our eyes be opened to the chasms within our own hearts. Give us the strength to not only face our own privilege and the suffering of the poor, but also to do our part to ease that suffering.




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