March 16th, 2017: Luke 16:19-31.
Why was the rich man punished? Not for anything he did, but for what he failed to do. He seems not even to have seen poor Lazarus as he went in or out of his house. Another question: Why did Lazarus go to heaven? We are not told that he did a single good deed. All we know about him, apart from his poverty, is his name: Lazarus. It means AGod is my help.@ So this Lazarus is not just a poor man, but a poor man who believes and trusts in God. That is why he is carried by angels to Abraham=s bosom in heaven: not because he was poor, but because of his trusting faith in God.
The parable doesn’t say that at death the rich will become poor and the poor rich. Wealthy people who use their wealth to do good for God and others, experience happiness in this life and blessing in the next. Poor people who spend their lives in bitterness, envy, self-pity, and hate experience misery in this life, which may continue after death.
If the parable is a parable of judgment, it also contains good news. The judgment meted out to Lazarus B silent and passive throughout B tells us that the inarticulate, the weak, the poor, the marginalized and neglected, are especially dear to God. Lazarus, the man whom God helped, tells us that in the kingdom Jesus came to proclaim the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk and run without growing weary; those who hope in the Lord renew their strength and soar as on eagles= wings; the tone deaf sing like the Metropolitan Opera stars, René Fleming and Placido Domingo; the poor are made rich; the hungry feast at the banquet of eternal life; the sorrowful are filled with laughter and joy; and those who are persecuted because of the Son of Man receive their unbelievably great reward.
Somewhere in this church right now there may be a Lazarus: someone weighed down by illness, misunderstanding, injustice, loneliness, or poverty. The Lord is telling you: >Trust me always. I am with you. You are in my hands, now and always. And my hands are good hands.=
Also in this church there may be someone who is rich. You have worked hard for what you have. You are grateful for what God has given you. But there is still an emptiness inside. To you the Lord is saying: >Open your hands and your heart. There is a Lazarus at your door, maybe in your own family. Try to help that person. Sometimes all that is necessary is an affirming word, a kind gesture or a loving look. Remember, ‘whatever you do to one of these least sisters or brothers of mine, you do to me.’ Then one day I shall be able to say to you very personally the words I long to say to all my friends: AWell done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.@=