OK, this one is troubling. It’s the story of a rich man and Lazarus, the poor man just outside the rich man’s gate. (Luke 16:19-31)
rich man “was dressed in purple and fine linen and . . . feasted
sumptuously every day.” On the other hand, there was Lazarus, “covered
with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the
rich man’s table.” It is quite the contrast.
died. The rich man also died and was buried. Only in his torment in
Hades does the rich man realize the chasm between him and God. He asks
Abraham to have Lazarus bring him water. Abraham refuses. “Child,
remember that during your lifetime you received your good things.” Then
he asked Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers so that they
would not meet a similar fate. Again, Abraham refuses. “They have
Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.”
rich man’s torment in Hades is not what is meant to catch our attention
or even scare us. What ought to scare us is the detail in the parable
that the poor man has a name, Lazarus, and the rich man does not.
Something about the rich man’s life leaves him nameless.
is not, I think, that the rich man was bad. We certainly have no
reason from the parable to think so. It is not, I think, that the rich
man had great wealth. I see no reason to think from the parable that
the rich man is punished for his wealth. It is not, I think, that the
rich man’s gain was ill gotten. Again, the parable gives us no reason
to think so.
point is that names are superfluous unless we are in relationship with
one another. I do not need to know the name of someone with whom I have
no contact. I do not need to know the name of someone who does not
affect my life. I do need to know the name of those I love. And
without love, I myself might as well have no name at all.
seems to me that the rich man’s failure is that he bypassed the
opportunity to love Lazarus because there can be no love without
sharing. His failure to share the scraps from his sumptuous table is
startling given the picture of the man just outside his gate, covered
with sores, starving, and fighting off the dogs. Sharing is what gives
us a name. It is what makes us who we are. Otherwise, we’re just
another rich man unknown to anyone who cares.