The parable of poor Lazarus is a very dramatic narrative depicting the antitheses and injustices of life. A poor person, deprived of happiness and joy named Lazarus, feeds from the garbage leftover from the parties and celebrations of an un-named rich man. Lazarus’s only friends are the dogs licking his wounds and sores and keeping him company in his lonely state of existence. The day comes when both Lazarus and the rich man meet the inescapable fate of death. Lazarus elevates to the glorious Life eternal, embraced by Abraham and surrounded by the everlasting joy of Heaven.
The rich man dies and finds eternal punishment and suffering. He then asks Abraham to send Lazarus over to quench his thirst in that place of torment. But it is not possible for someone to cross into the abyss of eternal damnation from Heaven. He then implores Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers so that they may also be warned not to end up in this unimaginable torture. Abraham reminds that they have Moses and the prophets to guide them on the righteous path. The rich man insists that if someone comes from the dead to them, they will listen. Abraham points out that “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”
The parable of poor Lazarus can be mistakenly perceived as a didactic tool preaching against wealth. However, Abraham who receives the souls in the joy of the Heavenly abode used to be rich himself, like many other Saints and holy figures of the faith. Wealth is a tool that may be implemented for the stewardship of the faith and the ministries of love. The rich man was judged to eternal damnation, because he knew Lazarus but never gave him any care, love or assistance. It is evident that he knows him when he asks for him in the afterlife. Yet, in his earthly existence, he would perceive him as a parasite, cleaning up the trash left over from his constant partying. He was never compassionate or loving to a suffering human being, less humane than even the dogs, who showed more empathy and care than him.
The rich man asks for Lazarus to also go and warn his brothers who follow the same lifestyle he had. Abraham insists that they have Moses (the law) and the Prophets (the teaching) to inspire them and they choose not to follow either. Yet if someone were to come to them from the dead, the rich man says, they would change. Abraham disagrees. The conclusion of the parable points to Jesus, who came from the dead, Resurrected and glorified; some people chose to repent, others did not. The listeners even make a connection of the imaginary “poor Lazarus” with the real Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary and friend of Jesus, who rose from the dead and preached repentance.
There is no amount of money that can buy our way to Heaven. The price of salvation is unquestionable love and genuine faith. What would it take for us to interrupt our constant strive for personal satisfaction and be more empathetic to the human condition? It is hard to think of others when constantly thinking about ourselves. And in the age of self glorification and indulgence, thinking of others becomes even more difficult. Unless someone comes back from the dead and tells us otherwise…
Economos Nikiforos Fakinos