Luke 16:19-31 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Rich Man and Lazarus
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.[a] The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.[b] 24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
As we read about the rich man, the picture is being painted of overflowing good things. From scrumptious food to fine clothing, this man had everything in abundance. Even the fact that Lazarus lay at “his gate” indicates this was a very large home and gives us clues to the picture Luke is painting. This is not just a picture of abundance; it’s a picture of overflowing abundance, the kind of bounty that can be deadening to our senses.
Often we use our abundance to deaden ourselves, to insulate ourselves from our pain, to cover our own sores with a thick balm of material things, mindless diversions or adrenaline-fueled distractions.
We can be so absorbed in our pleasures, so deadened in our comforts,
we don’t even notice the man covered in sores prostrate at the entrance to our lives.
And if we do catch a glimpse of this dreadful man, perhaps after a short time of being alone with our thoughts uninterrupted by our normal comforts, we usually don’t consider, not even for a second, that the tragic, wounded soul we’ve walked right on by with nary a glance on our way to work each morning is, first and foremost…ours.
Isn’t it striking how level the ground is in the Kingdom of God? Both of the characters in this story shared in the sufferings and the good things-equally. We are, at the end of the day, all human. As we learn to unwrap ourselves from our comforting bandages, we can begin to notice and feel our own dependency on God, our own places of aching sores, and our own need to be fed. And then, as we head out into the world one bright morning, we might notice our brother or sister sitting at the gate of our own life with outstretched arms reaching toward us.
Today, let’s read this passage a few times and consider its significance and application in our lives.
As you read, what captures your attention? Why?
Are there places in your life that are so filled to overflowing, even with good things, they are deadening your senses to the struggles of those around you?
Are these places creating a hiding place for you?
Do these places need to be cut back, eliminated, or merely held more open-handedly?
How will you respond to what God gives you in this passage today?