In today’s passage, the rich man and the poor man were very different in life, but very alike in death. Who would have thought that this social loser, the poor man, would be welcomed and embraced by Father Abraham? Another point I draw to our attention is that the poor man only had a name, Lazarus. While the poor man was a nameless and homeless person on earth, he had a name and home in the next age.
Who was the rich man? Unlike Lazarus, he was unrecognized individually, and was a type for all “lovers of money” who ate and dressed well to the neglect of the poor man. Who knew and imagined that he was tormented in the dark world after he died?
Through our usual thinking way, we tend to assume that the unconditional love of God in the father of Abraham is for the well-off and successful life, like we are and we have. And the tough demand of Moses is for the losers who ought to shape up we have shaped up. However, Jesus reverses field, shaking the way it is and making an upside-down world.
Through the story, we are reminded that the unconditional love of God should be everyone, but especially for the poor, unnoticed, and undeserving. And the tough demand and stern obedience should be for everyone, but especially for the rich man who may be not used to obeying anyone and anything.
Today’s story does not ask anyone to do anything. Probably, we just might want to walk away by passing this chapter. You know why? It is because it is a hard and demanding story. And we avoid walking in the rich man’s shoes.
I understand each and every one may read today’s story differently. If we read ourselves into the rich man, we can use this story as a vaccination, a shot helping us to overcome the world-ideology or the propaganda—‘more’ will make us safe and happy. So that we can open our hearts and eyes to rediscover the neglected and the undeserved, and even take off our purple-linen-coats and invite the neglected and the undeserved to our feast and sit with them at the same table.
Or if we may relate ourselves with the five brothers, we can have today’s passage as a warning ticket that makes us think again, who is our God, as we have been struggling to live in a tension
between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of money. Lastly, if we find ourselves with the poor man, Lazarus, this story is a promise and reminder that the way it is now cannot be the same forever.
Yes, it is only a parable, but I invite us to think again and think more; and see differently and act prophetically. None of us is called to be a judge, and do not know for sure about the next age. But we surely know what the rich man should have done to make today’s story work differently.
Thanks be to God.