September 29, 2013
Sunday Between September 25 and October 1 Inclusive
Proper 21, Ordinary Time 26
Click here, Luke 16:19-31, for an easy to print or email Adobe PDF version of this note.
The story of the nameless rich man and the named beggar, Lazarus, (Hebrew for, "Our God has helped") is placed by Luke between Verse 16:14:
You cannot serve both God and Money.
and Verse 17:1:
Occasions for stumbling are bound to come.
seemingly as an illustration of both truths.
Begging on the streets and the extreme contrast between the rich and the poorest would be well known to Jesus' hearers. A reversal at the outset of the story is that the beggar is given a name and the rich man is not. That single fact ought to alert us that the story we are about to hear is going have surprises in it.
Notice that the story does not have a judgment scene in it. They both die, and the next scene is of the rich man in hell and the beggar with Abraham in paradise. Verse 25 states this situation is simply a balancing of what had gone before. But whereas BEFORE the rich man COULD have given Lazarus succor but did not; NOW Lazarus CANNOT aid the rich man. This revelation heightens the urgency of the need to act in this lifetime.
And note again, that the reason Abraham does not send Lazarus to warn the brothers is NOT because he cannot, but because (a) they already have all the warnings and teachings they need from Moses and the prophets, and (b) having already not listened to Moses, their hearing and hearts are hardened even to warnings from someone risen from the dead (And just who might that be? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)
It should also be noted that this story is often wrongly titled, "The Rich Man and Lazarus." It should be titled:
The Indifferent-Man-Who-Could-Have-Listened-to-Moses-and-the-Prophets-and-Followed-God's-Way-of-Life-and-Been-Welcomed-Into-Paradise-by-Father-Abraham-But-Chose-Not-To and Lazarus.
That is, the rich man and his brothers are NOT condemned because of their wealth, but because they were indifferent to the plight of Lazarus and did nothing to relieve his suffering.
This would not have happened if only they had not also been indifferent to the teachings of Moses and the prophets which clearly showed them God's concern for the poor.
It's not too hard to tell what the moral of this story is.
I wondered what it is in us today that deadens our hearing and hearts to its teaching?
Even - perhaps, especially - we who HAVE had someone rise from the dead to confirm the truth of the teachings of Moses and the prophets?
Note: Historical background information is primarily from Bruce Malina, et. al. (see link below), page 295.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce Malina, et. al., Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
Permission is granted for non-profit use of these materials.
Acknowledgement in oral presentations is not required.
Otherwise, please acknowledge source as, "David Ewart, www.holytextures.com."