The Rich Man and Lazarus
22nd Sunday after Pentecost or 5th Sunday of Luke
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today, brothers and sisters, we have a parable with, as usual, two meanings, or a story meant for two audiences. The Lord gave many parables directed towards the Jews that explained to them what they were about to do, that is, crucify Him, reject Him and not even believe in Him after He had risen from the dead. But every single time He spoke a parable, He also spoke it to you and to me, to the soul of the Christian.
Every single one should be evaluated based on your life situation, what kind of person you are, what you do right, what you do wrong. This is how we read the Scripture so that it may teach us, so that it may purify us.
We don’t need to look for any strange, arcane, hidden meanings in the Scripture. Its right there apparent to see. If a person reads the Scripture – and you should – with prayerfulness, with heedfulness, with an investigative way of looking at it — what is wrong with me, what can be changed — then you will find these things quite, quite easily.
This parable about the rich man and Lazarus teaches some realities: about Heaven and hell, and life after death, because after all, they wouldn’t be speaking if they weren’t alive. There is also dogmatic teaching about the judgment that one should take note of.
Much of the world does not believe in these things, even people that call themselves Christians, even some among the Orthodox, don’t really believe in Heaven and hell. Perhaps they give such things lip service, but they do not believe in their hearts; they do not live their lives in accordance with their supposed belief.
So there is dogma in this parable for you to be careful to remember. And there is also the Lord’s teaching to the Jews that they would reject Him. But the most important part of any parable, the most important part really of any Scripture is : how can it be applied to you? Because after all, what good is the Scripture to your soul unless you understand it, assimilate it, live it? If the words on the page are never read or if they are read but without understanding, how does that help you? Yes, indeed, the Word of God is powerful. And the Word of God does enlighten but not if we don’t make the effort to understand it.
So there is this rich man; he’s clothed in purple and fine linen; he fares sumptuously every day, living a fine life with happiness, as much food and drink as he wishes, fine clothing; he was always warm, didn’t have a problem in the world. Just about anybody would say, “I’d like to have that kind of life”.
And there was a beggar named Lazarus which laid at his gate, full of sores, and he desired to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table and, moreover, dogs came and licked his sores. This is truly a man in a pitiable condition, meaning he wished for the crumbs, so he obviously was hungry, was sick all the time, cold, probably partially naked and ignored. I’m sure the rich man saw him many times, but he was an invisible person to the rich man.
And it came to pass that the beggar died and was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom. And then the Scripture says something quite tersely, as it does so often: the rich man died and was buried.
Have you ever wondered at how things are not how they seem? Many times something which appears very plain is actually very beautiful? Something which appears very wonderful inside is all rotten and corrupt?
Certainly when this rich man had his funeral, there were mourners; there were many, many people making a spectacle and probably speeches about what a fine man he was and how he would be missed and everything else. But as far as God is concerned, he died and was buried.
And if you notice, the rich man doesn’t have a name. This person who was famous in the world, who was well thought of, who people said speeches about, he didn’t have a name in Heaven because he wasn’t in Heaven. He was forgotten.
Lazarus, on the other hand, when he was buried, someone probably noticed, well, he hasn’t moved for a day, and they packed him up, threw him in a hole and that was the end of it. There was no ceremony for his burial. And yet Heaven rejoiced. And the angels were dispatched to carry him up, this one who could not walk. This one who only endured suffering in his life was immediately taken care of and comforted. Not everyone who dies, will have angels escorting them, but Lazarus did.
So the rich man, after his death, is in hell in torments, a terrible place. And so he sees Abraham and says, “Please, send Lazarus.” Oh, now he knows his name. I guess he did know who he was; I guess he didn’t care in his one and only earthly life. “Please, send Lazarus so he can dip his finger in water and cool my tongue.”
And Abraham explained something which was very important. And this is what your soul should understand in your daily life. He said, “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime received thy good things and likewise Lazarus evil things, and now he is comforted and thou are tormented.”
And then he explains that there is a gulf between them, meaning that after death you can’t repent of what you had done. The time of being alive in the flesh, this is the time for repentance. This is the time for the doing of good works. You can’t do any more when you’re dead. You can’t change what your judgment will be.
And Lazarus received bad things, and the rich man received good things. There is a principle here. This principle, there has been an attempt to blot out this principle in Christian life over the centuries, but it’s true, nonetheless.
The Lord Jesus Christ came in order to make us capable of eternal life. And the only way to be in Abraham’s bosom is to live as God taught us, using His strength, His power, His ability, His grace, but living good, following the Commandments, struggling for holiness.
There is no Christianity without struggling for holiness. There is no Christianity without good works.
If we want to have our reward here on the earth, then we will have it. And if we want to massage our egos or indulge ourselves in hating someone or be selfish about our money or have bad priorities and be more concerned about our job than about prayer or entertainments, we will have our reward here. All those things, the Lord will allow us to have.
And then when we die, the Lord will look into us and see, have we changed? Have we become like His Son? That’s the yardstick He will use. He will look and see: are we like His Son? We who take the Lord’s Body and Blood into our bodies and who have the Holy Spirit abiding in us, has it changed us? Has it made us more holy? Or are we just like everybody else?
This is a principle you have to live. You MUST understand. Not something that you’re thinking about per se, but a principle which affects all your living. There are consequences to all of our actions, even the smallest one.
Lazarus was completely unknown. Lazarus was an invisible person, completely unimportant in society. Nobody cared. He was so ignored that only the dogs paid attention to him. And yet, what he did in life was a great significance because it saved his soul, enduring the evil things patiently.
Everything that you do in life is remembered by the Lord, everything.
See how Abraham said, he had his evil things. The Lord didn’t forget any of it. He knew it all. The Lord also remembered all the good things the rich man was given. And what did he do with these good things: Nothing except feed his belly and have a bunch of false friends laying around, getting drunk with him.
Everything is remembered. The Lord has said, he who gives a cup of water to these little ones, it is as if giving it to Me. The Lord remembers all good and all evil that we have done in our life.
Now, this is not to say that the Lord takes all the good and all the evil and puts it on a scale and sees which one outweighs the other. Because right now, we should know, you can never do enough good to outweigh the evil that you do. The Lord desires you to struggle, to strive. And He will provide the good, and He will make you good.
This rich man didn’t understand this. This rich man lived a heedless life, and that was his greatest sin. Certainly he was guilty of not being compassionate to Lazarus, a person whom he knew, he certainly knew his name. But the root of his evils was heedlessness, the great killer of souls. Just be bopping through life, not caring about much except about the next thing, the next entertainment, the next meal, the next social encounter, whatever it is that strikes our fancy at the moment, things that are here today and are gone – not tomorrow they are not gone – they are gone the moment we experience them, and they’ve given us no benefit whatsoever.
But the Lord remembers them all.
So the rich man had compassion. He loved his brothers. He wished them to be saved, so he asked Abraham to send Lazarus to tell my brothers. There were are five brothers. This is not accidental. Does it remind you of any parable in the Scripture such as about the five oxen? How about the five senses? Abraham says, they have Moses and the prophets. And the rich man protests, says, if you send Lazarus they’ll hear. And Abraham says, if they don’t hear Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even from one who rose from the dead.
Now remember, these brothers are the five senses. They represent the way we live our life. But five senses can be thought of as encompassing our being, the things we like, the things we dislike, how we live, what we experience.
Our five senses must be persuaded. Now, if we don’t listen to the Scriptures, we won’t be persuaded even by one who rose from the dead. I think that is very evident in Christians’ lives. People say they believe in Jesus Christ, but they don’t really read much. They don’t really pray much. So it’s just a concept to them. It’s not very important. They don’t go to church much. They don’t fast very frequently. When someone says something evil to them, they are all angry and finding some way to get back at them. They are interested in climbing the ladder, selfish, looking for entertainment. They’re not any different than the rest of the world.
Does that describe anything in you? I think an honest person would say there’s some similarity. Perhaps not in all things but at least in something.
May God help you to live a life that’s heedful and careful. The Lord gives you many opportunities. We have the Scriptures available to read. We have the Services, which, to be honest with you, are often not well—attended. I’m not sure what’s more important. You must find ways to continually convince yourself, to persuade yourself, to follow the Gospel. If you don’t, then on the surface you will be a Christian, but inside you won’t have changed. The Lord gives you all these opportunities.
What a sad, terrible waste it is of this rich man to have gone to hell. The Lord gave him many, many things that he could have given to others, still have abundance for himself and done such good and been compassionate, given people comfort. He could have been, as it were, like Jesus Christ to them. But instead he used it for himself, and they all went away.
May God help you to live a careful life. Amen.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.
This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:
St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
· Mailing Address: Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070
· Rectory Phone: 972/529-2754
· Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Web Page: http://www.orthodox.net
· Redeeming the Time Blog: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/
This homily is at:
Archive of commentaries: http://www.orthodox.net/scripture
Archive of homilies: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons
To receive regular mailings of sermons, and scriptural and services commentary and other things throughout the church year, read our blog “Redeeming the Time” (http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime). You may also subscribe to the RSS Feed or receive its postings by email.
Our parish Email list ( http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church) also has all the latest postings from our website and blog; everyone is welcome to join.
All rights reserved. Please use this material in any edifying reason. We ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any way. We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only, including this paragraph and the URL of the text, to any electronic mailing list, church bulletin, web page or blog.