Proper 21 – Year C
Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15; Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16; (or Amos 6:1a, 4-7; Psalm 146); 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31
“A word to the wise is sufficient” – Miguel de Cervantes
Don’t let this story freak us out about hell and damnation. It is not about the afterlife and its conditions. It is a parable, a made up fictional story told to make a point, a point on how to live this life here and now. The rich man ignores poor sore infested Lazarus who has been tossed (see Greek below) at the mansion gate. Both die. Lazarus goes to be with Abraham and comforted there. The rich man, after being buried, is tormented in flames. This is the only parable where Jesus gives a name of a person, Lazarus. Therefore, tradition has also given the rich man a name, Dives, which means rich man. Dives asks Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to warn his five brothers so that they do not end up in a similar torture for their sins (Luke 16:27). Abraham tells Dives that the brothers have Moses and the prophets. That should be enough. Even if someone should come back from the dead, they would not listen to that person if they do not listen to the scriptures. There are a lot of characters in this story: Dives, Lazarus, dogs, angels, Abraham and the five brothers. Who are we? Who do we relate to, and from whom can we learn? On one level we are each of the characters. We might, however, think we are not Dives because we are not rich. But for many of us, we are rich compared to the global world. If we have more than one pair of shoes, more than one pair of underwear, we are rich. If we have more than one meal a day, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, we are the rich person in the story. However, most poignantly, we are the five brothers (sisters). Notice that we are not told whether or not the brothers ever come around and change their ways. The story is left opened ended because it points to us. We are opened ended. Remember parables are always about this life. This story is asking us if we will come around and change our ways. Many people are not notoriously bad. Most people are basically good and decent and caring. But we all have some things we need to change. We have help to do that. We have the scriptures, a word to the wise. It should be sufficient for us. We can miss the sufficient word by ignoring it, or be taking it literally. Each extreme to the right or left misses the center heart of scripture. Let us be wise.
Most translations of Luke 16:20 give the impression that Lazarus was simply sitting at the manor gate. But the Greek literally says that he was cast, tossed or thrown there. By whom? Let’s make sure we do not cast people aside.
A word sufficient.
Hear the wisdom for our lives.
Lazarus, sit, eat.