The Rich Man and the Poor Man
This story is proclaimed every year during Lent. So the priest is always wearing purple vestments. It seems a bit awkward in light of the rich man described as being dressed in purple. In the time of Jesus, purple clothes were worn only by royalty, the very rich, and the Senators of Rome.
Of all the parables of Jesus, this is the only one where a person in the story has a name. The poor man is called Lazarus, but the rich man is not given a name. Moreover, Lazarus does not say a word, while the rich man can’t seem to stop talking. He tries in vain to bargain with Father Abraham.
There are two morals of the story. One is about the reversal of fortunes of this life in the next. The other is about people who are too comfortable not paying attention even if someone should come back from the dead to warn them.
This is not a story about judgement of the rich man, but rather a story about mercy given to Lazarus, the poor man.
In the time of Jesus, almost everybody, including Jesus, was poor. Almost all the wealth was in the hands of a very select few. That remains a topic of political discussion even today. The question then is there ever a time when everyone receives justice for their misfortunes? According to the story that time comes in the next life.
During this political season, there is a lot of chatter about the so-called Middle Class. There seems to be a disconnect with our theoretical class-less society. According to our founding documents, we are an egalitarian society where all are created equal. That is certainly true. But, all do not live equally. The ideal whereby every person in this country is equal before the law is clearly an ideal not yet realized.
In the last few days, there has been some disturbing news reported in the local press. According to these reports, one in three persons in Idaho is not able to afford the essentials of life. Such things as food, housing, education, medical care are not sufficient for 37% of Idahoans. I’m not in a position to change those statistics, but there is something everyone can do.
We all can reflect on our use of the material benefits we enjoy. Are we responsible in our use of the good fortune of having at least enough to live comfortably and not luxuriously?
This is one of many subjects worthy of our attention, especially as we prepare for Easter. However limited our own resources, we can do a great deal by listening to these words of Jesus. The story is self-explanatory. Like Lazarus, words are not necessary. But actions will demonstrate our solidarity with those in our society who are just as loved by God as equal in his eyes as everyone else.