The gulf that divides
The Parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19) deals with the gap between the rich and the inhumanly poor. The economics of the world can be deadly and it makes the rich live separately: in their housing, by transportation, recreation, and medical care. In the parable the wall the rich man willingly builds in this life, becomes after his death an abyss that no one will be able to bridge. We who live today in the richest parts of the world should be disturbed by this parable, for the one who is content with such a divide in this life may well find himself on the wrong side of the abyss in the life to come.
In the parable, the poor man is named Lazarus, but the rich man is not named, thus the world order is reversed. In the world today, the well to do man is treated with dignity; the anonymous poor man is not. This de-humanisation is at the root of the problem. We also see that on dying the man Lazarus finds many friends (angels, father Abraham) whereas the rich man finds neither friends nor lawyers to relieve his situation – hell is isolation.
We must remember that the table of the rich man is in fact God’s table not his. And God invites all to eat at His table. In Lent traditionally we are exhorted to practice almsgiving to remind us that we are to be detached from our wealth; not so much seeing it as our own wealth, but that which God wants us to use for His glory.
Perhaps most of all, this parable reminds us that we must not shut off our hearts from the needs of the poorest in the world. In the parable one of the most chilling aspects is that the rich man didn’t even notice Lazarus in his misery.