The parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man is one of the most famous parables in the gospels. But, where exactly are Lazarus and the Rich Man in the after they both die and what can we glean from this parable about what can lead us to eternal life versus eternal suffering/eternal dying. In this video on the narrative on Lazarus and the Rich Man, Dr. Pitre will discuss the meaning of the terms “sheol” and “hades” and what they meant in a Jewish context before the time of Christ and at the time of Christ. Lastly, Dr. Pitre will explore what this parable on Lazarus and the Rich man has to teach us about the sins of commission vs. the sins of omission.
Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.” Luke 16:19–21
One of the reasons this story is so powerful is because of the clear descriptive contrast between the rich man and Lazarus. The contrast is not only seen in the passage above, it is also seen in the final outcome of each of their lives.
In the first contrast, the rich man’s life seems much more desirable, at least on the surface. He is rich, has a home to live in, dresses in fine clothing and eats sumptuously every day. By contrast, Lazarus is poor, has no home, has no food, is covered with sores and even endures the humiliation of dogs licking his wounds. Which of these persons would you prefer to be?
Before you answer that question, consider the second contrast. When they both die, they experience very different eternal fates. When the poor man died, he was “carried away by angels.” And when the rich man died, he went to the netherworld, where there was ongoing torment. So again, which of these persons would you prefer to be?
One of the most seductive and deceptive realities in life is the lure of riches, luxury and the fine things in life. Though the material world is not bad in and of itself, there is great temptation that goes along with it. In fact, it is clear from this story and from the many other teachings of Jesus on this topic that the lure of riches and its effect on the soul cannot be ignored. Those who are rich in the things of this world are often tempted to live for themselves rather than living for others. When one has all the comforts this world has to offer, it’s easy to simply enjoy those comforts without concern for others. And that is clearly the unspoken contrast between these two men.
Though poor, it is clear that Lazarus is rich in the things that matter in life. This is evidenced by His eternal reward. It is clear that in his material poverty, he was rich in charity. The man who was rich in the things of this world was clearly poor in charity and, thus, upon losing his physical life, he had nothing to take with him. No eternal merit. No charity. Nothing.
My Lord of true riches, You chose to be poor in this world as a sign to us that true riches come not with material wealth but with love. Help me to love You, my God, with all my being and to love others as You love them. May I be wise enough to make spiritual riches my single goal in life so that these riches will be enjoyed for all eternity. Jesus, I trust in You.
Reflect, today, upon that which you desire in life. Too often, the deceptions of material wealth and worldly possessions dominate our desires. In fact, even those who have little can easily become consumed with these unhealthy desires. Seek, instead, to desire only that which is eternal. Desire love of God and love of neighbor. Make this your only goal in life and you, too, will be carried away by angels when your life is completed.