[Jesus said,] “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.”
At first it’s easy to separate identity from success. Over time, a person can become radically unaware of themselves apart from any type of success — professional, financial, social, or otherwise.
The rich man in Jesus’ story has no name because his financial success became his identity. Jesus paints a picture of a man who has everything. Although he has done exceptionally well in business and lives in comfort, he soon finds himself in Hades. The parable is careful to note that he is not cast there.
Hades is exactly what the rich man wanted — he structured his life to separate himself from the poor, the meek, and the last.
In the end he discovers what Jesus promises; it is the poor in spirit who receive the Kingdom of Heaven, the meek who inherit the earth, the last who become first.
The rich man’s problem isn’t his success. His disconnection from God and his neighbor in eternity is the result of intentionally withdrawing from them while on earth.
“Hell is the greatest monument in the history of the world to human freedom,” C.S. Lewis says In The Problem of Pain. “What do you want God to do? Forgive them? But they won’t be forgiven,” Lewis continues. “What do you want him to do? Leave them alone? Alas, that’s exactly what he’s going to do.”
Jesus calls his followers to examine their lives. The parable ends without exhortation or summary. (It clearly isn’t a quaint tale to encourage tithing or a concrete description of the afterlife.) As he does time and again, Jesus challenges his followers to use their best time and energy to pursue things far more worthy than worldly success.
One day you’ll get everything you want.
Father, root our identity in you. Let us hunger and thirst for your love, truth, and peace in our lives. Open our eyes to the marginalized, the poor, and the meek. Give us wisdom and courage to invite them in from the outside. Show your love for them through us, your Church.
Images of Faith
Part 1 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org