IT WAS HIS CHARACTER THAT WAS CONDEMNED
Sunday in the 26th Week of Ordinary Time ©
My dear encountered couples:
There’s one criticism I have about money. It doesn’t seem to care who has it. This rich man in the parable. He was loaded with wealth. It seems to have been coming out of his ears. But his use of his wealth was a disgrace. The finest clothes, the most succulent food, servants, comfort, prestige; I’ll bet he was honored and praised wherever he went, certainly envied. But to envy him for the kind of person he was, to make him our idol, our hero, put him on the cover of Time and People magazines would be a great travesty and an insult to the human race. This man was selfish. I think he was unconscious of what a self-absorbed, egotistical, uncaring, unsympathetic type of creature he was. I doubt that he ever noticed Lazarus begging at his gate. He doesn’t seem to have been aware that Lazarus existed.
It was not the man’s riches that got him condemned to an eternity in hell. It was his character, it was his blindness to anyone and anything but his own personal creature comforts. His thoughts and concern revolved entirely around himself. Sometimes in some ways, more often than we think, we all may be found so engrossed in our own little needs and wants that we don’t see or hear the frail little kitten at our feet meowing for one little spill of milk from our glass. How many people do we never see who are going without the basics of life they need to keep going for a little while longer!
This rich man was closed to others, which according to the teachings of Jesus is the same as being closed to God. What we do to others, we do to Jesus; you and I know that. What about the rich man’s remark to Abraham about someone returning from the dead with news about what lies beyond for those who live only for them-selves? Would that have saved his soul from hell?
After the rich man found himself in hell with no money, no comforts, no nothing but his own miserable self, not even a drop of water, he noticed Lazarus with Abraham. Probably the first time he ever noticed him. And after requesting a drop of water from Lazarus to cool his tongue, Abraham said, “My child, remember the good things you had during your lifetime while Lazarus had only bad? Now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.”
Abraham assured the rich man this was his permanent condition. “There is a great chasm between us that prevents anyone crossing from our side to yours or from your side to ours.” When that sank in, the rich man seems for the first time to have thought about somebody else. It was his brothers who apparently were leading the same kind of selfish life he had led. “Please,” he begged Abraham, “send Lazarus to my five brothers to warn them lest they come to this place of torment.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” replied Abraham, “they have the Scriptures. Let them listen to them.”
“Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.” “No,” said Abraham. “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.”
Are there people so concerned with themselves and their possessions that after they die their desires and concerns never change? They say we can’t take it with us, our possessions that is. But we can and do take our interests and concerns. And when our interests and concerns are all wrapped up in ourselves, that’s what we end up with in eternity. Our own miserable selves!
When we do not notice others and their needs, it means we are not noticing Christ in them. When we have no concern for the welfare of others in the here and now, we are showing we would have had no concern for Christ when he hanged in agony upon his cross long ago. Blindness to Christ in this world may continue with blindness to Christ in the next. I’m sure the rich man could have found plenty of volunteers willing to let him know what a jerk he was.
As children we begin surrounding ourselves with toys, and some are selfish with them. In our adult years many of us continue the practice. Only our toys are different, much more sophisticated and expensive. Are we selfish with them? We must always remember: Jesus does not condemn the rich man for his possessions and his money; it is for his selfishness and indifference towards others.
Wealth is not a sin, but to hoard it for selfish reasons and use it exclusively for our own personal desires, to live a life of ignoring the needs of others, that’s the sin. And apparently in the case of this rich man, it was grievous enough to send him where he would never again be dressed in “purple garments, fine linen, and dine sumptuously every day.” The rich man went to hell because of his ingrained, selfish nature. I wonder why Lazarus, the poor beggar, went to heaven. We aren’t really told.
But it was not just because he was poor. The poor who have no care for others have no more guarantee of heaven than the rich who are uncaring. Lazarus must have had a good heart. At least he was kind to the dogs. He let them lick him. Which for some reason or other dogs seem to like to do.
To sum up what I’ve said: Money doesn’t care who has it or how it is used. And God loves those with a lot of money as much as he loves those with none. But he sure cares how we use it. For it makes us who and what we become in the deepest recesses of our souls for all eternity.