We had the story of Dives (Latin for ‘Rich Man’) and Lazerus as the Gospel today after the warning from Amos that Israel was about to be sent into exile because her people were rich and self important and took no care of the “state of Joseph”. Amos was of course correct and soon Israel was scattered among the Syrians.
I once heard a minister preach on the parable of Dives and Lazarus and say that shows that Jesus came for the poor, that the Gospel is only for the poor and not the rich. I was taken aback, especially as we were sitting in a church packed with fairly well off, confortable people. Should they all have left there an then? Obviously what this very young lady preached (not a Catholic church before anyone pops a blood vessel) was a load of old guff. Jesus calls all, rich and poor and the rich aren’t all doomed like Dives any more the poor are all graced like Lazerus. Anyway, as it happens Jesus’ close friend Lazerus was apparently a fairly rich man. It is not being rich that was Dives’ problem, it was how he lived with his wealth.
Dives was rich and there was no evidence that he was particularly nasty about it or that he had gained his wealth dubiously. But his very comfortable lifestyle had blinded him to the beggar at his very gate. He was too removed from the world Lazerus lived in to even notice his need. He may even have been a generous man with those who could do him favours in return.
Lazerus dies and makes it to the bosom of Abraham – heaven, where his suffering is ended. Dives dies and finds himself in the flames of the underworld. It doesn’t appear to be hell, nor purgatory; more like Sheol. Remember Jesus is making a point with the story. If he was in hell Dives wouldn’t get to speak to Abraham at all and wouldn’t care what happened to his kin and if he was in purgatory there wouldn’t be the chasm between them. Dives does care about the future for his five brothers (I’m sure that five is significant but I can’t remember how). Jesus reminds him that we all have Moses (the Law) and the Prophets to teach us how to live and if people are too proud and foolish to listen to them then they will not listen even if someone should rise from the dead. Well, aint that the truth?
This parable is not to encourage the politics of envy. Lazarus may have hoped Dives might give him some food and clothing, but he never tried to steal them, nor get others to steal on his behalf. If Dives had taken note of Moses and the Prophets he would have been open to God’s providential push, and Lazarus would not have suffered so much and Dives would have had the joy of giving and the reward of heaven.
We are all asked to give something to someone. We all have something, even if we are completely skint. Sometimes it might be the listening ear, or the time to send an email. It might be handing on clothes, books and resources to others who need them, or if you actually do have money, it might very well be to ensure those who don’t have enough to pay their bills. Ask God, He’ll let you know soon enough.