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Sermon : Sodom and Gomorrah

The Rich Man and Lazarus - Luke 16:9-31

Lazarus may have been a test for the rich man, to see if the rich man had a heart. The beggar was in need of everything as he lay at this 'ornate portico into a palatial estate' (DeLashmutt). Yet, Lazarus remained ignored. The rich man would most definately have noticed him with his comings and goings. The rich man shows no mercy at all, and does not help the poor lame man, which only proves his selfishness. (Hendriksen 784)

So, the rich man is living in luxury, as the poor man is living in misery. Some rabbis would not even consider this man to have a life. According to them, there are three things in order to have no life: one, a dependance on food from another person's table; two, being ruled by one's life; and three, one's body being covered in sores. (DeLashmutt) Lazarus fits in to two of the three scenarios. This is not uncommon in modern times. DeLashmutt informs in his article that the United States, being 6% of the world's population, consumes approximately 60% of its resources. The 'non-compassionate use of accumulated wealth' is the cause of the word's suffering and makes many question God. (DeLashmutt) However, the answer to these questions of whether God cares and if He'll do anything are posed in this parable. God will do something. If not in this world, then in the next.

So then Lazarus dies and the angels come and take him away to Abraham's bosom, or side. Two things here show of the honour that Lazarus is recieving. First of all, angels are known as:

  1. attendants of Christians

  2. bringers of good tiding

  3. choristors in heaven

  4. defenders of God's children

  5. examples in obedience

  6. friends of the redeemed; watching over us, interested in our salvation and rendering their service to us.

Secondly, Lazarus is taken by these kind beings to Abraham's bosom. Reclining at an ancient banquet would have one's head almost on their neighbour's chest, thus, putting Lazarus in a place of great honour: right next to Abraham. Both of these show that Lazarus had great favour from God. (Hendriksen 784)

Then the rich man dies. Here the comparison of the two men continue. The rich man is given a burial, and Jesus does not neglect to mention this. This only leads one to speculate, and obviously the rich man did not have an ordinary burial. The Romans and Jews highly valued a proper burial. The Romans would participate in 'funerary societies,' wich would guarantee the proper burial of its members. The Jews believed that if one did not have an appropriate burial, it was like carrying God's curse. The rich man, then, would most likely have been honoured until death, having been given an amazing funeral. On the other hand, there is no mention of what happens to Lazarus' physical remains. It is quite possible that he had no burial of any kind. (Green 607)

We are then taken to the afterlife, where the rich man is evidently in hell, or in Greek, Hades, which is the place of the dead. The Jews believe that this is the intermediate stage of the dead before the final judgement (Wilson) and that it is the universal destiny for all (Green 607). Sometimes the outcome of judgement would already be made, and thus, the souls were seperated into categories of 'wicked and righteous' (Green 607). The rich man's torment is important in showing the reversal of the two men's positions. However, the rich man is not humbled. Upon looking up and seeing Abraham, he calls him 'Father Abraham.' To legitamately call Abraham father, one must reflect Abraham's Godly lifestyle, and have repented of sinful ways. However, the rich man did not do this, and what makes him even more outrageous is the fact that some people see Abraham as a model of hospitality to strangers - something the rich man definitely did not imitate. (Green 608) The rich man then requests pity. A pity he never showed himself when he so easily could have. (Hendriksen 785) Here it is shown that, although it is never mentioned that the rich man and Lazarus ever actually intereacted, and despite the fact that the poor man was ignored, the rich man may actually have noticed him. After all, he calls the beggar by name. The rich man carries his selfishness with him into the afterlife as well, requesting Lazarus to ease his suffering in hell. The rich man still sees, despite the fact that he must look up to him, Lazarus as below himself: a slave to do his bidding. He is not ashamed to ask a favour of one whom he never gave favour to. He actuallly expects Abraham to send Lazarus, even though he didn't try to imitate Abraham's faith on earth (Hendriksen 786). Abraham, after being referred to as 'Father,' replies kindly with 'Son,' telling him that he can do nothing for him and giving him two reasons. One, that it is inappropriate. Abraham reminds the rich man of the reversal of situations: in life he had good things, so now he is receiving bad, and in life Lazarus received bad things and now he is comforted. In a subtle way, Abraham is telling him that helping Lazarus and living Godly was never his aim, and so is getting what he deserves. He also may be saying that what the rich man saw as good, God did not see as good. The rich man brought these apparent good things to himself, whereas Lazarus' bad things were not brought on himself, and so now, Lazarus is comforted while the rich man is in misery.