Thursday, March 8, 2012

It isn't simply our possessions, but what we do or fail to do with them that matters in the end. (Thurs. 2nd Week of Lent, Lk. 16:19-31)


The story of the rich man and Lazarus brings to mind the promise of justice that God will give his people at the end of time.

At first glance, it seems like a mere condemnation of the rich who will find torment in the afterlife and a kind of romanticizing of the poor who will be consoled and comforted in heaven when they die. While this is certainly one of the ideas the parable wishes to convey, there is a deeper meaning the story wishes to convey.


The rich man finds himself condemned not for simply being rich. Jesus never said being rich was a sin. Instead, he finds himself tormented in the afterlife because in this life he showed himself quite indifferent to the plight of the poor Lazarus lying at his door, eating the scraps that fell from his table.

It wasn’t his wealth that condemned the rich man, it was rather what that wealth made of him—a man completely insensitive and indifferent to the plight of those who needed his help. It is what wealth does to a person that either merits him heaven or throws him into the fire in the afterlife, not wealth itself.

We too have possessions. We may not be as wealthy as the man in the parable, but we certainly own things. These in themselves, however much they might be, are neither good nor bad. But it is the effect they have on us that will determine whether they turn out to be good for us, or otherwise. How we use our wealth and the things that we own in order to be of help to our neighbor is what will ultimately decide where it is we shall go.

"Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’

And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'

Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’

He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)