Thoughts for the Day

Thursday, 9th March 2023: The Rich man and Lazarus

Luke 16 Hell Love one another Lazarus Jesus Heaven

Reading : Verses from Luke, Chapter 16

Lazarus and the rich man

‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.”

(Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)


In parables often only part of the story applies to the meaning, but this is not so with 'The rich man and Lazarus'. The rich man (he has no name, but 'rich' is mentioned three times) wore 'purple'. It took 12,000 crushed murex snails to make the dye for one garment, which was reserved for Senators and the Emperor. However, if the dye was left in the sun it did change to a purple colour, which is perhaps how the rich man got round the law. He also wears 'fine linen' that is the sheer, almost translucent woven material worn by royalty, the wealthy and the priests from the Temple. Lastly he 'feasted sumptuously every day', meaning course after course carried in by a fleet of servants.

Lazarus on the other hand has nothing. He is possibly crippled, since he 'lay' at the rich man's gate, perhaps put there for someone so rich to offer him charity since the law of Moses was quite clear about this. He is also covered in sores, and his only respite is the dogs who lick them clean! He may not have leprosy but the law again is clear about what should happen to anyone suffering from a skin condition (Leviticus 13).

Finally, we should notice that Lazarus was 'carried away by the angels to be with Abraham' but the rich man 'died and was buried'. The latter is in 'Hades', which is the Greek word for the grave ('Sheol' in Hebrew). The story is a damning indictment of the rich man's lack of pity for Lazarus, and we should hold it up as a mirror to ourselves, particularly in Lent.


Heavenly Father,
let us not get so bound up
with our own concerns
that we cannot help someone
'at our gate' in whatever way we can.
May we realise it is not always
about giving money,
sometimes it is about giving time,
and listening to others,
or learning to walk in their footsteps.

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