Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted every day. At his gate lay Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, who longed to eat just the scraps falling from the rich man’s table. Even dogs used to come and lick his sores. It happened that the poor man died, and angels carried him to take his place with Abraham. The rich man also died, and was buried. From hell, where he was in torment, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham afar off, and with him Lazarus at rest.
He called out,
Father Abraham, have pity on me, and send Lazarus, with the tip of his finger dipped in water, to cool my tongue, for I suffer so much in this fire!
My son, remember that in your lifetime you were well-off, while the lot of Lazarus was misfortune. Now he is in comfort, and you are in agony. But that is not all. Between your place and ours a great chasm has been fixed, so that no one can cross over from here to you, or from your side to us.
The rich man implored once more,
Then I beg you, Father Abraham, send Lazarus to my father’s house, where my five brothers live. Let him warn them, so that they may not end up in this place of torment.
They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ But the rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham; but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.
If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced, even if someone rises from the dead.
The point of the parable is not so much about hell and eternal damnation but about the effects and consequences of one’s lack of compassion towards the poor and the suffering. Lack of compassion hardens the heart and renders it incapable of love. Such incapacity can deprive others of their rights and dignity as human beings. Paradoxically the dogs in the story and not the rich man with capability to help, were the ones showing more compassion by licking Lazarus’ sores and soothing his wounds. If others’ hardships touch us so that we can empathize in their pain, then our feelings to want to help will be expressed in action. Lazarus continues to exist in hearts yearning for compassion—in refugees fleeing from injustice and violence, in children sold to slavery, in victims of natural calamities and neglect from governments, and in the millions who suffer hunger. Jesus invites us to see the link between wealth and spirituality. To love God is to use our resources to respond to the needs of the poor, and not the other way around—using God and religion to gain more money and power, as the Pharisees did, and as many still continue to do today.
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