Lazarus and the Rich Man
19There was once a rich man who wore expensive clothes and every day ate the best food. 20But a poor beggar named Lazarus was brought to the gate of the rich man's house. 21He was happy just to eat the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. His body was covered with sores, and dogs kept coming up to lick them. 22 The poor man died, and angels took him to the place of honor next to Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried. 23 He went to hell and was suffering terribly. When he looked up and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side, 24he said to Abraham, “Have pity on me! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water and touch my tongue. I'm suffering terribly in this fire.”
25Abraham answered, “My friend, remember that while you lived, you had everything good, and Lazarus had everything bad. Now he is happy, and you are in pain. 26And besides, there is a deep ditch between us, and no one from either side can cross over.”
27But the rich man said, “Abraham, then please send Lazarus to my father's home. 28Let him warn my five brothers, so they won't come to this horrible place.”
29Abraham answered, “Your brothers can read what Moses and the prophets wrote. They should pay attention to that.”
30Then the rich man said, “No, that's not enough! If only someone from the dead would go to them, they would listen and turn to God.”
31So Abraham said, “If they won't pay attention to Moses and the prophets, they won't listen even to someone who comes back from the dead.”
Recently, I received a letter from a rather worried teenage girl. She told me that she was trying very hard to tell her non-Christian friends about Christ. But, her friends had still not become Christians. She asked me, what she was doing wrong. What if her friends ended up in hell because of her?
This parable warns us against placing all of the responsibility for someone else’s salvation onto the shoulders of the messenger. Jesus tells us that both the rich man and his brothers had the opportunities to find a meaningful relationship with God, but they overlooked them. The rich man tried to argue that the scriptures weren’t enough on their own, and obviously he hadn’t thought a sick beggar was someone he needed to pay attention to. Not so, says Jesus.
It’s a warning that cuts both ways. It’s a comfort to us when, like that teenager, we’re tempted to carry the responsibility for somebody else’s relationship with Christ. But it’s also a reminder to us not to blame our own spiritual failings on those who failed us. We have the scriptures, Jesus says. We have his resurrection. It is our responsibility to listen.
Dear Jesus, Thank you for all the people and things in my own life which remind me of your love for me. Help me to pay attention to what you’re trying to teach me and to be a faithful witness for you. Amen.