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Rich Man, Poor Man

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Dives and Lazarus

The parable of Dives and Lazarus falls under the set of themes that Jesus deals with beginning from Luke 15:1. In short, it is about handling people and wealth. The section began with Jesus’ reply to the reaction of the Pharisees to the way he handles people, especially the sinners and the publicans. The Pharisees also reacted to Jesus’ teaching about wealth. Before Luke goes on into chapter 17 with the theme of trustworthiness and faith, he squeezes in this parable that also deals with the acceptance of Jesus’ (the Risen One’s) authority vis-a-vis the Law. It is a fitting conclusion to Jesus’ replies to the Pharisees who thought that (a) wealth is linked to some measure of righteousness, (b) the Law of Moses as they interpret it leads to righteousness

It is to be noted that when Abraham answers Dives’ question about his and Lazarus’ condition in Sheol, he simply pointed out a theme that was already announced in Mary’s Magnificat: the reversal of fortunes. He does not say that Dives has been bad and indifferent to Lazarus, he simply says that Dives has had his consolation. In this Abraham is echoing one of the woes of Jesus: “Woe to you rich, for you have received your consolation now”. The reversal of fortunes is assumed and simply taken as it is, as an element in the universe that God Himself is guiding to its fulfillment: the fortunes of the rich and the poor NOW will be reversed LATER.

When the parable is seen from the perspective of Jesus’ statements regarding how wealth is to be handled, and how those who host parties should prepare their guest list, then we realize that Dives falls short of all that Jesus has been teaching. He does not invite Lazarus into his banquets; he allows the miserable man to go hungry. The Sunday liturgy strengthens this judgment on Dives by associating Amos oracles against the rich who are indifferent to the plight of the needy

Woe to the complacent in Zion
lying upon beds of ivory
stretched comfortably on their couches
they eat lambs taken from the flock
and calves from the stall
Improvising to the music of the harp
like David they devise their own accompaniment.
They drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with best oils
Yet they are not made ill at the collapse of Joseph!

“The collapse of Joseph” is the fall of the Norther Kingdom and its attendant harsh results to the lives of the Northern Israelites. The “complacent in Zion” are the nobility who like gods remain indifferent to human suffering.

This “liturgical association” of the parable of Dives and Lazarus makes the rich and purpled Dives numbered among the “complacent in Zion” who will get their just recompense LATER

If we are going to take the theme of the reversal of fortunes seriously, as it is found especially in the Gospel of Luke one question that we should ponder on is this: if we are confronted by someone like the miserable Lazarus now, what are we going to do FOR him?

Originally posted 2007-09-27 22:11:41. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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