THE GREAT CHASM
Lord, focus our attention on the eternal.
Read LUKE 16:19–31
The Rich Man and Lazarus
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, honorable, compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived well.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803–82)
This story of the rich man and Lazarus the beggar has put fear into the hearts of many a hearer – there is a terrible finality to the chasm between the rich man in the torment of Hades and Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom. We will leave it to others to explore the eschatological implications of this story and what it may be teaching about the afterlife: that isn’t Jesus’ primary point.
When we read this story in the context of previous stories about what was lost being found and about the right use of wealth and resources, the real meaning of this story becomes clearer. The issue is the great chasm in this life – and that in the afterlife is its result. The wealthy man lived in luxury and passed the beggar at his gate constantly, yet he never helped him or even acknowledged him. The Pharisees would have considered wealth to be proof of a person’s righteousness, so a story in which a rich man is punished and a diseased beggar is rewarded would have been very startling. The rich man is not suffering in Hades because of his wealth, but because of how he used it – or how he failed to use it. The problem is his selfishness and hardheartedness, despite his riches.
I have often observed that wealthy people tend to be on average the least generous, while poorer people are generally more giving. The amount of money we have is not nearly as important as the way we use it. The message here connects with previous parables and is a challenge about how our faith, our humanity, and our wealth all give us responsibilities towards others and opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives.
What is your attitude towards money and possessions, and towards those less fortunate than you? Do you hoard your money as a possession to be guarded, or do you use it freely as a gift to help others? How could you notice others and even bridge some great chasms today?
Lord, thank You for disclosing to us what lies on the other side, information which we believe because You said it.