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Gospel Reflections » International

The Rich Man And Lazarus

February 28, 2013

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Like the parable of the Crooked Steward, this parable also tackles the problem of money and moral behavior. In this case, money makes one blind to human need.


It’s addressed as a warning to the Pharisees who were fond of money, but who felt that a formal observance of the Law protected them. Jesus points out that external observance doesn’t help, if internal attitude is wrong. The internal attitude ought to be one of compassion. He illustrates it with the story of the rich man and the beggar.


As a story, this parable has no nuances. It’s all black and white: bad rich man, good poor man. Rich man enjoys good times on earth; poor man, bad times. Poor man in heaven, rich man in hell.


It’s also the only parable in which one of the characters has a name, Lazarus, which means ‘God helps’ in Hebrew. This may be an allusion to Lazarus of Bethany, whose resurrection from the dead failed to convince the Jewish leadership that Jesus was the messiah.


The crux of the parable is the insensitivity shown by the rich man to Lazarus the beggar Lazarus. This insensitivity meets its just retribution in the afterlife, when the tables are turned. Then the rich man begs for one little act of kindness, from someone whom he denied it to on earth.


The moral of the story is that if we do not act with justice and compassion towards our fellow men, here and now, we can expect a crushing retribution in the time to come. What blinds us is our fondness for riches. It blinds us not only to the observance of the Law, but even to a warning from the dead !


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