Amos 6: 1a, 4-7 1 Timothy 6: 11-16 Luke 16: 19-31
A good understanding of the story told by Jesus about the rich man and Lazarus comes from the message of Amos the prophet that we heard today: “Woe to the complacent.” One who is “complacent” is pleased with the status quo,” is focused on self and has no regard for others. This particular story is not unique to the Gospels/ Similar contrasts of the situation of the rich and poor are found in the Old Testament and in other ancient Middle East literature.
The rich man, as the story is told, is not seen as necessarily evil man. He did not treat Lazarus badly. He simply ignored him. He was only interested in his own good fortune and taking advantage of it. Like those addressed by the Prophet Amos, he was complacent, self-indulgent and not at all concerned with someone else.
Lazarus, on the other hand, was not necessarily a contrasting good person. He was willing to take advantage of the opportunities available to him. He ate the leftovers when they were available to him. Even the dogs licking his wounds was a type of health are for him, as dogs lick their own wounds in order to heal them.
It is not a story about putting ups with pain and suffering now because a reward will come later. What, then can be derived from this teaching of Jesus? As a matter of fact, Jesus added his own twist to this story. It is found in the second conversation between Abraham and the rich man. The rich man asks for an extraordinary sign to be gives: that Lazarus rise from the dead and go back to the rich man’s brothers to warn them. But this is not the solution. It will not change things. The means we need to live our lives properly are available to us now. But we must be aware of them, attentive to them and respond, rather than be complacent. That response must be genuine and com from within the person, not brought on by some extraordinary occurrence.
Seen in another way, the true wealth or poverty of an individual is not directly related to an amount of material possessions. It depends, rather, on how one recognizes and responds to the opportunities that are presented, no matter the context of one’s life as rich or poor.
What is available to us can be understood in what Saint Paul writes to his disciple and friend, Timothy. “Lay hold of unending life to which we are called.” Live life in a right manner, we are told, with devotion, faith, love and patience. We are to do this whatever one’s circumstance might happen top be/ It is not any easier whether one happens to be rich or poor.
We would do well to reflect on Jesus Christ when he was confronted with death. It was the source of his glory, not shame. As demeaning and defeating as the crucifixion was, Jesus acted. We ought not we ought not waiver but seek to live without stain or reproach. This is what proclaims the reality in which we believe and lives. It is not just words, it is action. Whatever the status of our lives, they are the opportunity give us daily to make known, to reveal, our good and gracious God.