When we read the gospel of Luke 16:19-31, about the rich man and Lazarus, one begins to ask questions. This gospel passage does not tell us why the rich man suffered eternal damnation at the end of His life. The gospel does not tell us also the reason Lazarus was rewarded with eternal life.
The gospel of Luke 16:19-31 only tells us of a rich man who truly enjoyed His life while on earth. It also tells us of the poor man Lazarus. This poor man longs to eat even the scraps that falls from the table. Later, they died and the rich man undergoes punishment in the eternal fire, while Lazarus receives eternal reward.
Does this gospel mean that poverty is now the easiest access to a heavenly reward while wealth is the easiest access to hellfire? This is not true because Jesus has many rich people as friends. Matthew 27:57 described Joseph of Arimathea as a disciple of Joseph and a rich man. Jesus praised the centurion servant in Matthew 8:5-13. He dined with Zacchaeus, a very rich tax collector (Luke 19:1-10). What then could be the reason for this?
In this gospel of Luke 16:19-31, Jesus tells us that this rich man feasts magnificently every day. He was indeed enjoying His luxury. He had no lack. Of course, he is enjoying His sweat. But the gist here is that there is someone around Him who is in a very sorry condition. This poor man was not only dying in hunger, but he was longing to feed even the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.
The longing indicates that they denied him the food. He was only longing and the rich man despite his wealth paid deaf attention to him. Not only that, the poor man Lazarus has sores all over his body that even the dogs come to lick his wounds. In essence, the poor man is not only hungry but needs serious medical attention.
In this sorry state, the poor man lies all day long at the gate of the rich man. The implication is that the rich man sees all these and pays deaf ears to Him. He neglected Him. The sin of the rich man is not that He committed any evil act but he neglected the good work he is supposed to do. He paid deaf ears to the tears of the suffering around Him. He may have faith in God but he neglected to show it.
Those Who have Faith in God.
Today, there is no single person who will tell you that He has no faith in God. Hardly do we find people who don’t go to church, but we also pay deaf ears to the needs and plights of the suffering around us. When God blesses you, He did not bless you to feed only yourself and your family. God blessed us to bless others.
When some read this, they may be thinking this write up is only for rich people and we are not involved. We all are in this. When we ignore a good thing you are supposed to do when you know you can, you are also in this. Hence, when you allow people to suffer and be intimidated even in your presence and you keep mute because you do not want to offend anyone, you are also in this.
When you allow a brother to continue to wander in sin and mistakes when you know you can draw Him back and we pay deaf ears, we are part of it.
When you see someone suffering and you know within yourself that you can save the soul but you want to wait until they come and kneel for you, you also belong to this.
Hence, when someone comes to you for help and you know you can but you set your terms and conditions to do it for him or her, maybe telling him/her to sacrifice his/her body, you also belong in this.
The sin of omission can also lead us to hell. You may say you have faith in God but live in wickedness, hatred and total neglect of the suffering around you.
You occupy political offices or any high position and receive communion every day, claiming a relationship with God, but you have refused to pay those working under you. Many of them are suffering before our eyes and you keep mute.
In James 2:25, James says, it is not only by believing that one is justified, but faith accompanied by deeds. If we say we have faith, we have to show it through the work we do.
We go to church and receive communion every day but you are intimidating the poor around you because of your position, we are also the rich man of this parable.
This gospel of Luke 16:19-31 is also telling us that there is an end to everything we acquire on earth and a reward or punishment is awaiting all of us, at the end of our earthly existence.
Riches Could Also Be Spiritual.
Ephesians 1:3 says that God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. As we consider the material gifts, let us also not forget the spiritual.
In Matthew 25:14-30, the servant who refused to use his talent was punished. When God blesses you with any gift, He expects you to use it to touch souls and build His kingdom.
Total neglect to this, despite however we feel we believe in God could lead us to eternal damnation.
In the Church, every one confesses His belief in God, but almost all of us who confess that we believe in God is living in hatred, discrimination, quarrelling, jealousy and backbiting.
We forget that our faith in God must be followed by good works. Let us use our spiritual and material wealth in building God’s kingdom. This is what God wants.
James 2:14-20 writes
“How does it help brothers when someone who has never done a single good act claims to have faith? Will that faith brings salvation?
If one of the brothers or one of the sisters needs clothes and has not enough food to live on and one of you says to them ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty,’ without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? In the same way, faith, if good deeds do not go with it, is quite dead.
But someone may say; You have faith, and I have good deeds? Show me this faith of yours without good deeds, then it is by the good deeds that I will show you my faith.
You believe in God, that is good enough, but even the demons have the same belief, and they tremble with fear. Fools would you not like to know that faith without good works is very useless?
May God have mercy on us and give us the grace to live by this word. May His blessings never forsake us. Amen.