“There was a rich man who . . . lived in luxury every day. At his gate was . . . Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.” — Luke 16:19-21
Like the prophets who brought God’s Word to the people, Jesus had sympathy for the poor and often rebuked rich people who were selfish and did nothing for the poor. In Jesus’ parable, the poor man Lazarus who died was carried by angels to Abraham’s side in heaven, and the rich man was sent to hell, where he was in torment.
The rich man had lived for his own pleasure and had ignored the message of Moses and the Prophets. Lazarus had had no comfort in life, but in death he received the blessings of life with God in heaven.
This parable was a comfort to many slaves in the American South in the 1800s. One of their spiritual songs speaks of God as the “Rock of my soul” in “the bosom of Abraham”—an expression referring to “Abraham’s side.” Where could those slaves find justice when their children were ripped from their arms and sold down the river, when the earthly powers-that-be were stacked against them? But the Lord saw their plight. And he will bring justice to the oppressor.
In Jesus’ parable, the rich man’s sin was not that he was rich; it was that he refused to care for a person in need. His stony heart ignored the call to share food with the hungry and to provide shelter and clothing for people in need (Isaiah 58:7).
Lord, instill in us your heart of compassion, and lead us to do some good with the earthly treasures you have given us. In the name of the One who has compassion on us, Amen.