Luke 16: 19-31
There was once a rich man who wore expensive clothes and every day ate the best food. But a poor beggar named Lazarus was brought to the gate of the rich man’s house. He 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.
The poor man died, and angels took him to the place of honour next to Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. He went to hell and was suffering terribly.
When he looked up and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side, he 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.”
Abraham 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. And besides, there is a deep ditch between us, and no one from either side can cross over.”
But the rich man said, “Abraham, then please send Lazarus to my father’s home. Let him warn my five brothers, so they won’t come to this horrible place.”
Abraham answered, “Your brothers can read what Moses and the prophets wrote. They should pay attention to that.”
Then 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.”
So 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.”
Even in death, the Rich Man retains his misguided belief in his status. He cannot even bring himself to address Lazarus directly and talks to his father Abraham, as an equal. Tell Lazarus to look after me; tell Lazarus to go and warn my brothers as if he cannot believe or accept how Lazarus has come to be sitting in the lap of Abraham. His continued lack of humility means he cannot ask for forgiveness; he cannot see the need for forgiveness even now.
The gulf that the Rich Man cannot cross is the belief that he continues to be in charge; even to the point of changing the rules of life and death to allow Lazarus to go to his brothers. Just do this one more thing and I will believe you; I will be saved.
How much more do we want God to do?
It isn’t just about being rich; Jesus has rich friends but, it seems, he worries about them. Being rich in this world puts you in charge of your life and of others. The privilege of wealth should bring an awareness of the responsibility of having it. We get used to the idea that we can buy our way out of things and we can’t. And then, at the end, if we expect someone else to save us – why should they?
After all, what will we have done to deserve it?